Back in Iten, Kenya, after carting off the $5,000 top prize at The Bahamas Half Marathon, Bahamian distance runner O’Neil Williams said he’s now beginning preparation for next season.
He hopes to have another breakthrough year in the men’s marathon, breaking more records and qualifying for national teams. His long-term goal in distance running is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, and retire thereafter. He possesses an aggressive, ambitious two-year plan for his career, but he feels it is quite achievable and will work hard toward it.
“I’m looking forward to making international teams and just continuing to represent The Bahamas in 2019, whether it’s world champs, or Pan Am Games, or wherever,” he said. “Whether the federation (Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations — BAAA) decides, or not, to let me be a part of an international team, it will be okay. I’ll be there to represent the country; but in the meantime, I will take the opportunity to plan my own trips.
“I am 100 percent certain that I will retire in 2020 after the Olympics. I want to represent my country at the Olympics before I call it quits. I know there is a good chance that I will be able to qualify for 2020 — that’s my goal. I had a few hiccups this season and I wasn’t able to train like I wanted to, but I feel confident of my ability going into 2019 and into the Olympics.”
Williams has been training in Kenya for the past six years, but just delved into marathon running about a year and a half ago. He broke The Bahamas’ national record at the 35th Ameris Bank Jacksonville Marathon in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, at the end of 2017, running 2:30:35. That time erased Delroy Boothe’s 18-year national record of 2:34:47.
He was on pace to break his own record at the Kaunas Marathon in Kaunas, Lithuania, earlier this year, but it turns out that nearly three days of traveling from his training base in Iten to Kaunas, took a toll on his body, and he was unable to complete the 26.2-mile race. Williams crashed out at mile 14, after getting out early and setting a very quick pace. Hometown favorite Andrej Jegorov went on to win in 2:32.43, about two minutes slower than Williams’ national record.
Williams will be home in about three weeks to run the half marathon at Marathon Bahamas, and then will have his sights set on the Miami Marathon at the end of January; the Hamburg Marathon in late April/early May in Hamburg, Germany; and then he wants to return to Lithuania for the Kaunas Marathon.
“I’m aiming to win the Miami Marathon, because it is an international race and historically Bahamians haven’t done really well in a marathon in terms of winning. I want to represent my country and also to win, and just move forward from there,” he said. “The Hamburg Marathon is a big race where runners run very fast times. I want to run there to be able to improve on my national record; something in the 2-teens would be ideal — 2:16 or even up to 2:19 I would take. If I could do that, I would be close to qualifying for the Olympics, so that’s my goal. Also, I want to go back to Lithuania. Due to circumstances, I was unable to run well there, so I want to go back and atone for myself. This time, I am going to prepare better — maybe fly in a week early and get myself acclimatized. Hopefully, I could run a fast time there and qualify for the 2019 World Championships in the process.”
The 2019 Pan Am Games is set for July 26 to August 11, 2019, in Lima, Peru, and the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships will be held late next year — set for September 27 to October 6, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. The qualifying time for the 2019 worlds in the men’s marathon is 2:16. It’s usually around the same time for the Olympics.
“With God’s guidance I am going to get there,” said Williams. “I just want to give him thanks and praise first and foremost. Thanks to all of the people who helped me among this journey thus far, and those who continue to help me – my aunt; my adopted father, [Minister of Tourism] Dionisio D’Aguilar, for his assistance; my coach Wilson Bain, Glen Dean — I thank all of them and all those who came on board to support me. I appreciate everyone who helped me so far and I want them to continue to support me through 2020.”
Williams, who suffered food poisoning at the beginning of last season and was out for five weeks, bounced back to have a respectable season. He ended the season by winning the $5,000 top prize at The Bahamas Half, and said he used the cash prize toward his training. In Kaunas, the Bahamian multinational record-holder said that he felt he was on pace to run a 2:18 marathon, which would have shattered the national victory and given him his first major victory in marathon running. It would have also been the first victory for a Bahamian in a European marathon.
Williams said that he just wants to continue to get better and continue to run faster times. Ultimately, he wants to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and he feels that he is on target to do so. If successful, he would become the first Bahamian to qualify in marathon running for either the Olympics or the world championships.