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A life spent keeping things running

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Clinton Curtis with mementos from his two marathon runs in the United States (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

The 2007 Chicago Marathon coincided with a heat spell that sent 315 runners to the hospital, and killed at least one.

When the deadly race was cancelled halfway through, Bermudian runner Clinton Curtis decided to keep going. He was 57 at the time.

“People were flopping out all over the place,” the Warwick resident remembered. “I had trained for this race and I decided to keep going. I had the choice.”

But it was not an easy decision to follow through on.

“Because all the water stops were out of water, I had to take water offered by spectators on the side of the road,” he said. “I did not like to do that because you never knew what people had put in the water. But I was just so thirsty.”

But he finished the race in five hours, an hour longer than his first marathon in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2005. That race was a much more light-hearted affair.

“I enjoyed that race,” he said. “There were all kinds of people dressed up as Elvis Presley. There were a whole lot of clowns.

“The race started at 6am on the strip at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. It was still dark and they had fireworks going off before the race. That seemed special.”

He took up running late in life. At age 50, he told his wife Juanita he wanted to change his life.

“I was not in ill health, but I wanted to start taking better care of myself,” said Mr Curtis, now 72.

He started walking, and then took up a combination of walking and running. Then a friend introduced him to Swan’s Running Club.

“I had not really had any experience with running except for back in school when I did a bit of cross country,” he said. “I was never a runner, but I thought I would give it a go.”

A few months after joining the club, he did his first Bermuda Half Marathon Derby.

“I did not know what to expect,” he said. “I said I would do it just once. I ended up doing it about 15 times.

“It was a good experience, even though it was a long distance. When you are running, people along the route will sing out, and encourage you along the way.”

Clinton Curtis taking part in the Chicago Marathon in 2007 (Photograph supplied)

Over the years he took part in whatever running races were offered in Bermuda.

He only stopped at age 65, when the running started to impact his knees. Now he walks five or six miles, three times a week, with a group of friends.

“Lately it has been so hot, we walk on the railway trail, where there is shade,” he said.

Earlier in his life, he was involved with motocross, but as an organiser, not a racer.

“I had a friend who scrambled in the 1970s,” he said. “So I got into motocross. I was a founding member of the Bermuda Auto Cycle Union.

“I was in charge of the trophy committee. At first, they raced on the South Shore, Warwick by Horseshoe Bay.

“We got them down to the Biermann’s property (Ferry Reach, St George’s), and then we got Coney Island in St George’s. We had everything organised down there. We had some good races.

“We had racers like Burt Ingham, Cal Lynch and Joey Richardson. I never did any racing, but I was a pit marshal on Coney Island.

“We just kept people outside of the area and made sure the different classes of racers were ready to go.”

He grew up in Spanish Point, Pembroke, one of two sons of Winston and Edith Curtis.

His father drove a limousine for Bermuda Aviation Services, and worked as an architect, before the days when architects needed official certification.

His father was also well known for making kites, despite being bedridden for several years with an illness.

Mr Curtis has many happy memories of swimming at Spanish Point.

“My father taught me how to swim,” he said.

One of his first jobs was helping his uncle truck driver Charles Hudson. They would drive back and forth between the Ingham & Wilkinson store on Front Street and its warehouse in St George’s, dropping off and collecting goods.

He was also a relief bellman at the Grotto Bay Hotel, a job he enjoyed immensely.

“I made some really good friends,” he said. “Two of the friends I made back then are still my best friends today. And I liked working with the tourists. In that job I met some really nice people.”

Then in the 1970s he found a job as a storeman at Pearman Watlington.

“They sent me to Japan for training,” he said. “I would order auto parts. I used to order the parts for the government Daimler and auto parts for the hospital ambulance. That is when they had the Chevy. It is easier now to order parts because everything is computerised.”

He went with the company when the mechanics side of things moved to St John’s Road, Pembroke, and stayed when it was purchased by Holmes, Williams & Purvey. He continued to work there when Auto Solutions took over in 2013.

“I really enjoyed working for Auto Solutions,” he said. “They treat you like family.”

Mr Curtis retired from in 2020, and spent the days of lockdown painting the inside and outside of his house.

He enjoys keeping fish in an outdoor pond and spending time with his wife Juanita.

Last Thursday they celebrated 48 years of marriage together. They had a casual dinner at Speciality Inn in Smith’s, knowing they had some more upscale entertaining to do later in the month.

They were first introduced by Juanita’s sister. “I introduced her sister to my best friend,” Mr Curtis said.

One Sunday near Christmas, when he was 21 and Juanita 18, he was asked to drive her home from the bus stop. The rest is history.

“I really want to thank my wife for being here with me for all these years,” he said. “I would also like to also like to give God thanks.”

He and his wife have one son, Juan, who is an architect, like Mr Curtis’ father.

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens each week. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published August 17, 2022 at 7:31 am (Updated August 18, 2022 at 8:11 am)

A life spent keeping things running

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