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Golden memories from the 80s bring former teacher back

Fond memories of Bermuda from 30 years ago are part of the reason England’s Jon Caswell is returning to compete in this year’s HSBC Bermuda Half-Marathon.

He once trained and raced with some of the Island’s finest during the running boom of the early 1980s. For three years he was a teacher at Bermuda’s Northlands primary school, and during that time ran with the Lopes brothers, Steve Petty, Peter Lever, Jeff Payne, Cal Bean, Olympians Jim Butterfield and Mike Watson, and others.

“It was a sporting paradise. I ran, cycled and swam. I remember going to work every day in Bermuda and thinking to myself ‘This is beautiful,’” he said.

Caswell, who hails from Tynemouth, near Newcastle in north-east England, took up running shortly after finishing university. He wanted to stay healthy and remembers that because he didn’t have much money he chose running which cost nothing other than a pair of shoes.

He was soon achieving impressive times and in 1981, while living in Bermuda, entered the New York City Marathon where he ran an impressive time of 2.42. Caswell shared a room in the city with Bermuda friends and fellow runners Joe Lopes and Ronnie Wong. When he returns for this Sunday’s race he will stay as a guest of Lopes having renewed their friendship last year. Caswell, who competed in the 2012 half-marathon, won the 50-59 age category in 1.29.54.

Although he loved Bermuda when he lived here, he realised after three years that he had to make a decision. “I was 25 or 26 and at the point where I said to myself ‘This is a fantastic place to be, but if I stay any longer I won’t ever leave.’”

So he packed his bags and returned to the UK, where he trained to be a child psychologist. He has now retired and is making a running pilgrimage back to the Island 30 years after he ran the international marathon. Last year was also the 30-year anniversary of another of his Bermuda race outings.

“Bermuda is a fantastic place and it has not changed one iota in terms of the friendly atmosphere and, if anything, the support for the race weekend has grown,” he said. “It’s a great competition in a beautiful place. And here I am banging out the miles in gales and rain on the seafront in the northeast of England — it has it’s own beauty but its not quite the same.

Caswell is enjoying reconnecting with people and places from earlier in his life. “I look back on life and realise that 30 years have gone by in the twinkling of an eye.”

Last year he chalked up an impressive time of 1.25 in the Great North Run half-marathon in Newcastle. Running has remained a constant throughout, and he continues to enjoy the sport and the benefits it brings. “You have to do something to give you your own inner-space. It’s therapeutic and I find it refreshing and renewing.”

Jon Caswell, middle row third from the right wearing a black jersey, with a group of Bermuda runners in the early 1980s.

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Published January 15, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm)

Golden memories from the 80s bring former teacher back

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