Meet the 70+ brigade
Age is proving to be no barrier for a growing band of competitors who have reached their 70th birthday (and beyond) and continue to enjoy racing.
This year the ranks of the ‘70+ brigade’ taking part in the Bermuda Marathon Weekend have swollen in number again. Here are some of athletes who just keep on running.
GEORGE JONES, 75 (BERMUDA)
It was 1976 when George Jones first pulled on an old pair of tennis shoes and took part in a road race. He was inspired to compete in Bermuda’s annual Bermuda Day Half-Marathon (which is now in its 104th year).
A popular figure at Island road races for the past four decades, the former hotel bellman and doorman at the old Belmont Hotel, and latterly the Elbow Beach Hotel, has raced overseas including many appearances in the New York City Marathon and as far afield as the Las Vegas Marathon.
Jones has been one of the ever-present competitors of the Bermuda Marathon Weekend since its earliest days. When asked a few years ago why he continues to run, Jones said: “It is something I could never stop. If I miss one day of running I feel I have lost something. It has kept me healthy.”
SID HOWARD, 73 (USA)This will be the 34th time former 800m world age record holder Sid Howard has participated in the Bermuda Marathon Weekend. He was a latecomer to the sport, taking part in a high school ‘old man’s race’ in 1978 when he was 39. He surprised himself with a 5.05 mile and followed that with an appearance in the New York City Marathon.
In 1979 Howard took part in the Bermuda Marathon and he has been coming back just about every January since both to compete and help out at the registration desk. His long association with the Island’s running scene has made Howard in many people’s eyes an ‘honorary Bermudian’. Running in a distinctive racing cap, he has become instantly recognisable to race spectators.
Howard still holds a number of US age records at 800m. These days he limits his maximum racing distance to 10Ks and half-marathons and trains mostly off-road to avoid injuries. Last year he ran the 10K in 51.50.
GIORGIO ZANOL, 71 (BERMUDA)
In December 2011, aged 70, Zanol became the oldest person to run and complete the Everest Marathon. It was an achievement that outshone even the stunning feats of endurance the supermarket boss had raked up in the previous few years, which included multi-day trans-Alpine ultra-marathons.
Born in Italy, Zanol’s love of the mountains came to the fore with his long-distance exploits. A runner since the late 1970s, he has helped raise $250,000 for charity through the sport, with much of that going to the Bermuda Diabetes Association.
Zanol has lived most of his life in Bermuda and is a hugely popular and familiar face on the local running scene. He has a date with Royalty this year, having been awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by the Queen in her New Year Honours List in recognition of his contributions to charity and the community.
FRANCO SFARRO, 79 (ITALY)
Almost always smiling as he runs, Sfarro is a resident of L’Aquila, in Italy. He has competed in the Bermuda Marathon Weekend every year for the past quarter of a century. Although he speaks no English that doesn’t stop him enjoying the races or the Island that he loves to visit.
Sfarro made friends with staff at the Portofino restaurant, on Bermudiana Road, when he first came as a race competitor in the 1980s. The restaurant staff took a liking to him and agreed to sponsor him so he could return to race again. That arrangement has continued now for 26 years. Sfarro sometimes extends his stay in Bermuda to compete in other local races.
When an earthquake in 2009 destroyed much of his hometown, including his own home, Sfarro ended up sleeping on the streets. However, he was still able to come to compete in Bermuda the following year thanks to his friends at Portofino. Antonio Esposido, or Portofino said in 2010: “He has become part of the family to the guys at Portofino. He is like an engine. Even though he has never won anything he always finishes his races.”
Hugh Mahoney, 70 (USA) runs in the half-marathon.
Ernie Heinz, 71 (USA) runs in the Triangle Half Challenge.
Michael Rickards, 71, (Bermuda) runs in the half-marathon.
Margaret Burgess-Howie, 72 (Bermuda) runs in the half-marathon.
Art Dowell, 71 (USA) entrant in the 10K walk.
Marian Lines, 72 (Bermuda) runs in the 10K.
Roland Lines, 73 (Bermuda) runs in the 10K.
Mary Dowell, 73 (USA) runs in the Triangle Half Challenge.
Justin Wickens, 74 (USA) runs in the Triangle Challenge.
Helen Barber, 78 (USA) entrant in the 10K walk.
Marilyn Olsen, 78 (USA) runs in the 10K.