Jones celebrates Bermuda Day Half-Marathon 40-year streak
Spectators at the Bermuda Day Half-Marathon this Friday should keep an eye out for bib number 76, because it will be worn by a runner who has competed in the race every year since 1973.
George Jones celebrated his 76th birthday last week and has been given a race bib that reflects his age. It is a special honour for Mr Jones, who is eager to chalk up another Derby finish and continue a remarkable, unbroken record that now stretches across 40 years.
He has worked all his life in the hospitality industry and, as a doorman at the Elbow Beach Hotel, continues to welcome guests to the Island. Staying active and lifting suitcases and bags at his job have helped to keep him in shape, and so has his passion for running.
During the past five decades Mr Jones believes he has competed in every regular road race on the Island at least once, though often many times more. He has also competed overseas, running marathons in places as far apart as Las Vegas, Washington DC, Chicago and the New York City Marathon a total of 11 times.
But it is the Island’s May 24 race, now known as the Appleby Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby, that he regards as the most special occasion of all. The annual race, being held for the 104th time this year, was the one that sparked his desire to put on a pair of sneakers and have a go himself.
“I’d watch all those guys like the Virgil twins, Ed Sherlock, Calvin (Baldy) Hansey, Cal Bean. I’d see them running and enjoying it, and I thought ‘George, let’s try it’,” said Mr Jones.
He was soon running 12 miles once a week and decided to enter the Derby race in 1973. After that he was hooked and he has run and raced regularly ever since. He joined the Swan’s Running Club when it was formed around 30 years ago.
There are three big loves in Mr Jones’ life, firstly his wife and family who are also his biggest supporters on the road, travelling to cheer him on. There is his job in the hotel industry, a career that has spanned 55 years and taken in establishments including the former Castle Harbour Hotel, Belmont Hotel and currently Elbow Beach.
“I enjoy meeting and greeting people, and I see so many of them return over the years and ask how I am doing. I love doing what I do,” he said.
And then there is running. Mr Jones may be 76, but he sees no reason not to continue running and competing in the May 24 race. His 40 years unbroken record in the race is impressive, although still someway short of legendary May 24 champion ‘Sir’ Stanley Burgess’ feat of 56 Derby finishes. The late Mr Burgess continued running into his 80s, and Mr Jones has ever intention of running for as long as he is able.
“Running is the thing that keeps me fit,” he said. “And the spectators on May 24 cheer me on and help me all the way from Somerset to Bernard Park.” He thanked race timers Stephen and Christine DeSilva for issuing him with his special ‘76’ number.
Mr Jones has two favourite spots in the race, both within the final few miles. “Hamilton is the spot not to walk. I like Front Street with people on either side waving and cheering, and the other spot I like is going past the Leopards Club [on Cedar Avenue],” he said.
Once he has finished the race, Mr Jones said his routine is to relax, walk around the parade route and then enjoy a well-earned Corona beer.
The Appleby Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby race starts in Somerset at 9am this Friday.