Pamenos Ballantyne: “Everyone is a winner”

Vincentian long-distance runner Pamenos Ballantyne on discipline, success, and his plans for the future — as told to Kwame Laurence

Pamenos Ballantyne. Photograph by Robert Taylor

I was born on December 9, 1973, in Sandy Bay, St Vincent. My parents are Clement Ballantyne and Sylvina Ballantyne. My parents have been the most influential people in my life. I see them as my role models. They have a lot of children. My mom has 11 children. I see my parents as people who work very hard. The marathon is a very, very difficult sport. It’s a lot of discipline, because 26.2 miles is not an easy job to do. So when I look at my parents, I always tell myself that if I want to be successful, I have to be like them and work hard too.

I played football and cricket at primary school and in my community. And in 1990 I started running for my high school. That year I won an open 5,000-metre event at my school’s sports day. That was my first victory. From there on, I just kept running. At the inter-secondary schools sports, I dominated the 800, 1,500 and 5,000 [metres]. And I also ran the 4×4 relay. I went to school in California for a year, and people over there who take sport seriously kept telling me I have a lot of talent and I could reach places. After my school year was over, I came back to St Vincent and had nothing to do job-wise, so I continued to train hard and keep my dreams up. I concentrated on running only.

In 1994, my brother Benedict and I went to Antigua, where I won the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) half-marathon for the first time. After that victory, year after year I always look forward to that race. In 1995 I increased my mileage and started running the marathon. That year I ran the Trinidad and Tobago Marathon and the London Marathon. I met my manager Lennox Bowman in 1995. He was in England for some time, studying for his degree, I think. He is Vincentian, and knew a lot of other Vincentians living in England, people such as Aldwyn Lewis. They have a Vincentian Committee in England, and they raised funds for me and Benedict to participate in the London Marathon.

The first year I went, I did two hours and 23 minutes. But in 1996, I did two hours, 18 minutes, which gave me the qualifying standard for the Olympics. I ran at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Early in my career, I wasn’t thinking about the marathon, but as I got older I started mastering it. And today, I’m the Caribbean champion.

I have to give Lennox Bowman a lot of credit for my career. He’s been around since 1995, and up to today, he’s still my manager. But he’s not only my manager. He’s like a father to me. I have been living with my brother-in-law most of the time since finishing high school. My sister is Karen Veira and my brother-in-law is Lenford Veira. People know Lenford as “Confidence” because he drives a mini bus by the name of “Confidence”. Lennox and “Confidence” are part of my family. They not only look out for my athletic career, but they always talk to me and tell me how to budget my money and things like that. They always tell me the right things in life. So, it’s not like they’re just telling me about running, running, running, but off the field of athletics, they give me a lot of guidance.

There’s also Raymond Chin Asang from Trinidad, who has always been there for me since 1992. He’s a race director, and most times I go to Trinidad he makes sure everything goes down well for me. Anytime I’m in Trinidad, I’m always around Raymond, and he gives me a lot of support. I met another Trinidadian, Paul Voisin, a few years ago — I think it was 1997. And he started coaching me around ’99. He coaches me part-time, because most of the time I’m based here in St Vincent. However, once I’m in Trinidad, he always looks out for me. Other than that, I don’t really have a coach. I’m self-coached.

The Trinidad and Tobago Marathon is one of the most important marathons to me. It has given me some of the best times I’ve produced. I’ve run two hours and 15 minutes in Trinidad twice, two hours and 16 minutes, two hours and 18 minutes. The truth is, Trinidad is actually like my second home, and I get maximum respect and support from the people there. I think the people in Trinidad recognise me a little bit more than in any other Caribbean country. And that’s most of the reason I’ve been so successful at that marathon. I have a lot of fans there, and I have relatives in Trinidad as well. I even have a son in Trinidad, Pamenos Maurice Ballantyne, Jr.

The Trinidad Marathon is very, very rich in history. And to have the Caribbean champion dominate a marathon for seven years is part of history as well. Seven times I’ve won the Trinidad Marathon. My next major goal is to win a world-class marathon. When I say world class, I’m talking about marathons at the Olympics, World Championships, Commonwealth Games.

I think I have ten more years in running. And when my career is over, I plan to go into business. At high school, my best subject was actually business, and running the marathon is like a business to me, because that’s how I live. Running is how I make some money, so I have to think like a businessman — how to manage myself, and things like that. I think I could transfer the determination in my running into being a businessman.

Long-distance running, in particular, and running overall, is very difficult. It’s a very, very disciplined sport, and very lonely at times. It’s not like football or cricket, where you have a lot of people you can depend on. If you want to achieve, you have to keep working towards your goal. Sometimes you can be down. You may have bad races, so you have to keep focusing. Focus and work hard, and you will achieve your goal.

I don’t have a special role model in the marathon. I have many. In the marathon, everyone is a winner. Just crossing the finish line is an achievement.