Bermuda’s Chris Estwanik. *File photo by Ras Mykkal
Bermuda’s Chris Estwanik. *File photo by Ras Mykkal

FRIDAY, JAN. 18: Chris Estwanik is revelling in the continued success of his second coming — and promised to give his half-marathon challengers a stern test on Sunday.

The Bermuda runner is a former Nike Farm Team professional and part of the Oregon training group that now has  Great Britain
Olympic hero Mo Farah in its stable.

These days, Estwanik balances family and working life with his undimmed passion for running — and he couldn’t be happier.

It means his participation in Bermuda Marathon Weekend will be a highly-enjoyable test for the defending champion, who will use the race as a key part of his training for the Boston marathon in April.

He said: “The calibre of guys coming here is fun for me. It’s fun going back into the mindset when my running was the be all and end all before kids and the stress of a work career.

“For these guys from the likes of Kenya and Ethiopia, these guys who love their sport, it’s a great opportunity to race and see the world.

“I love the fact I’m able to lock horns with guys that are some of the best runners in the world.”

Don’t be fooled, though, by his good nature, Estwanik is not turning up just to get some miles in his legs. He’s out to win, although he knows he will have to keep up with the early pace from the likes of former champion Shadrack Biwott, of Kenya, and American Stephen Pifer.

Estwanik, whose wife Ashley competes in the women’s race, said: “My expectation is to defend the title to the best of  my ability and put up the best fight I can.

“My plan is to keep the pressure on these guys as long as I can. That’s the goal. I will know more when I see the pace they go out at. A lot of them come from a short-distance background whereas I’ve been doing a lot more strength training, so it’ll be interesting to see the pace.

“My attitude is this is my second time around to compete at a high level.

“And for me it’s a great opportunity to continue a passion I have had since I was 16 years old.

“When I retired or quit the professional ranks I was quite jaded by the lack of opportunities for athletes.

“I was having to work a full-time job as well as trying to live with the world’s best.

“This time I can have an incredible balance, you can work hard and raise a family and still get an opportunity to do something you love, and with the support you get from people in the country when you compete in marathons and things like the Carifta Games, it’s unbelievable.

“The support you get is a great feeling – it’s gets you out of bed in the morning when you’re aching or feeling a little fatigued.”

Biwott and Pifer are the two men Estwanik will keep the closest eye on — and he knows exactly what he’s up against.

He said: “Shadrack won all three in 2010 so he has serious pedigree.

“Plus, his brother Duncan Kibet is one of the fastest marathon runners of all time.

“It will be fun to go up against someone of his calibre.

“Steve Pifer trains with the same group I used to train with in Oregon. We were a few years apart but he is going to be top notch.

“But there are other guys who can win on the right day. You could run it 10 times and have 10 different winners.”

His strict marathon training requirements mean the mile — Estwanik’s specialist distance — is off limits this year, something he admits will be gnawing away at his competitive juices when it takes place tonight.

He said: “Definitely the mile is still my passion.

“That was my bread and butter, the raw adrenaline and big crowds.

“I will miss it but I have to be realistic, if I tried it, it would probably be too much and wouldn’t be beneficial to the marathon training. Maybe next year, who knows?”