George wants to keep on running
George Jones collapsed in the middle of his first race. He blames the limited water stations in the 1973 Bermuda Day half-marathon. However, it’s likely the beer didn’t help.
“I had trained a lot and I felt good,” the 82-year-old said. “I had a good run going out of [National] Stadium, coming down Black Watch Pass, down the North Shore.”
Things went wrong somewhere around Shelly Bay.
“In those days, there were strict rules about when you could drink water during a running race. You almost had to drink all your water before you started. And there weren’t many water stations, the way there are today.”
He ran on to a sidewalk and collapsed. His wife, Elynn, waiting at the finish line in St David’s with their young children, eventually found him in a corner, vomiting.
“Someone had decided to give him a beer,” Mrs Jones said. “My daughter was hollering, ‘What’s wrong with daddy?’”
Less than impressed, she refused to watch him run for several years. Her husband started training with Swan’s Running Club.
“After I got going, they just couldn’t stop me,” Mr Jones said. “I used to train three times a week, then have a longer run on Fridays — 12 or 13 miles.”
Asked if he ever won a race he joked: “All of them.”
He believes that everyone becomes a winner just by participating.
In the 47 years since, he has competed in almost every running race in Bermuda. In 2013, the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby committee awarded him the bib number 76, in honour of his age that year. He went on to do the race four more times.
Three years ago, organisers of the annual Goslings to Fairmont Southampton acknowledged him for being the only runner to have participated in every race since it started 40 years earlier. In between that, he raced in many marathons overseas.
“I did the New York marathon 11 times,” Mr Jones said. “When I first started, the New York Marathon was something new for me but I got used to it.”
He grew up in Jones Village, Warwick. His mother, Artemezanes, looked after Mr Jones and his eight siblings; his father Edmund was a mason and fisherman.
Mr Jones got his first job at 15, working as a bus boy at the Castle Harbour Hotel. It jump-started his career in the tourism industry; his longest stint was at the Belmont Hotel, where he spent 42 years.
“I started working in the elevator for a while until I went to the front and was bellman,” he said. “Then I got to lieutenant. I worked sometimes on the door. I was in charge of the other bellman.”
When Castle Harbour was sold in 1999, he moved to Elbow Beach Hotel where he stayed for 19 years before retiring in 2017.
Guests and staff knew him as “Smiler” because of his wide grin. His sunny personality was so appreciated that the hotel had artist Jane Masojada paint a picture of him, which hangs in the lobby today.
He and his wife met at a football game at Somerset Cricket Club. She was just coming out of Sunday School and he had a new mobylette that he let her ride. They did not see each other for a few years but eventually met up again and married in 1966.
“He is seven years older than me,” Mrs Jones said. “I didn’t even know how old he was until we went to sign the paperwork for the wedding. He always looked young and I guess he kept his age quiet.”
The couple had three children: George Jr, Nicole Simons and Lorrie Outerbridge. None of them inherited his passion for the road.
Mr Jones was running right up until a year ago when he had a pacemaker put in to correct a slow heart beat.
“He has bounced back and has started to walk again,” Mrs Jones said. “Now he wants to get back out and do the big races again. I told him I am not quite ready for that.”
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them
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