#By RENALDO DORSETT
#Tribune Sports Reporter
#VETERAN distance runner O’Neil Williams will have another opportunity to add to his résumé of accolades when he competes in the elite field of one of the most highly regarded events on the international marathon circuit.
#Williams is set to compete in the elite flight of the BMW Berlin Marathon on Sunday, September 25 in Berlin, Germany.
#As the Bahamian national record holder in the marathon, event organisers granted Williams complimentary entry into the field.
#“It’s a great step in the right direction. It’s the first time a Bahamian will run in the elite field and I’ll be the first to compete,” he said.
#“It’s a surreal feeling because I’ve seen these other great athletes compete in this event. I’ve lived in Kenya for 10 years but just started running marathons in 2017 so the progression has been great.”
#The Berlin Marathon began in 1974 and is reputed as the fastest marathon in the world as six of the latest consecutive men’s world records has been set here. Three of the women world records have also been set there.
#Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge holds the men’s course record of 2:01:39, while his country woman Gladys Cherono holds the women’s course record of 2:18:11.
#After he broke into the sport with events in Stockholm, Sweden and Jacksonville, Florida in 2017, Williams went on to set the Bahamian national record for the first time at 2:29.26 on October 20, 2019 at the Amsterdam Marathon in the Netherlands.
#This year, he lowered that record to 2:25.10 at the fourth edition of the Eldoret City Marathon in Kenya to finish 56th out of a field of 193 competitors. “In 2020 I couldn’t run because of the pandemic and in 2021 I had an Achilles injury that prevented me from running. I ran one race, but I couldn’t finish,” he said. “But coming back from all that, this year I ended up breaking a national record again, by four minutes, so it is coming along pretty well. You know, as long as I have like a support I’ll be able to continue my progression.”
#Despite his recent success, Williams said distance running continues to be overlooked by the Bahamian track and field community at large.
#“I get no support from the BAAAs and I barely get any support from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. To be an elite athlete at this level is very expensive. Sometimes I get $1,500, sometimes I get $3,000,” Williams said.
#“They come up with a lot of excuses. So most of the times I try to find sponsors outside of the BAAAs and the ministry to help with my training and also to represent my country.”
#While chasing his Olympic dream has become uncertain due to a lack of funding, Williams said he has been thankful for the network of friends, family and private sponsors that have been the catalyst of his success.
#“Without those people taking an interest trust me, I was not going to be running today,” he said. “Distance running gets no support, I would say it’s disrespected.
#Despite the setbacks, Williams said he is pleased to see the popularity of distance running continue to rise in the Bahamas due in large part to the growth of groups like the Bahamas Roadmasters who he looks forward to seeing at the Berlin Marathon.
#At a crossroads in his career, Berlin will be a probing ground moving forward for the 39-year-old Williams.
#“I’m not saying at this point I’m going to try for the Olympics because like I said, I have a family now and training and running is difficult. Especially when you have no support,” he said. “So I was thinking of making this my last year, but if I do well in Berlin, then I’ll see if I’ll go forward. If don’t do well, then I’ll just quit and try to focus on my family because they come first and running comes after that.”