Staying the course with life’s adventures
He has clocked up hundreds of miles running more than 50 marathons, but a simple walk almost did Giorgio Zanol in.
Three years ago the well-known grocer was carrying a 20lb pack in preparation for a 500-mile trek across northwestern Spain when he sat on a low wall on South Road in Devonshire. As he attempted to get up, the weight pulled him down and he fell backwards eight feet.
A passing motorist called an ambulance. At King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, Mr Zanol was scanned for brain injuries and found to be clear, but in the days that followed his neck grew more painful and he held his head at a funny angle.
Doctors then discovered he’d broken his second vertebrae.
“When the specialist came in and interviewed me my first question was could I be paralysed?” Mr Zanol said.
He was greatly relieved when they said no.
Three months later he was in Spain, where he spent 28 days walking the Camino de Santiago trail with his brother ,Tullio. Doctors were amazed by his recovery, and attributed it to his high level of fitness.
He wasn’t always in shape.
Mr Zanol discovered running in his thirties after his son, Marco, asked him to help train for a school sports day.
“I didn’t know anything about running,” the president of Lindo’s Group of Companies said. “We ran two miles around Vesey Street in Devonshire. I thought, ‘OK I am going to teach you a lesson.’ I took off like a rocket.”
Halfway there he heard a tapping sound, and his ten-year-old son zipped past him.
Recognising he was out of shape, he started running regularly.
He completed his first race, a two-mile fun run around the Botanical Gardens, in an hour and 26 minutes. He was pleased as punch until avid runner Jim Butterfield told him he should have done better.
“I was almost dead!” the 78-year-old said.
Determined, he started rising at 5am to train before his day started at Lindo’s, the Devonshire grocery store he ran for his in-laws, Harry and Marion Lindo.
He went on to run more than 50 marathons including the London Marathon and the Boston Marathon. At age 70 he tackled the Everest Marathon, considered one of the most difficult in the world.
For that one he had to get special permission and undergo a battery of medical tests. The Nepal race had been limited to people under the age of 65 but, after he was accepted, organisers allowed in older people who were physically fit.
“They gave you 12 hours to do it,” Mr Zanol said. “I did it in nine — and we got lost and went the wrong way. By the time we found our way back we’d lost an hour.”
What makes him most proud is that he’s raised more than $300,000 for charities while running. He counts his appointment as an MBE in 2011 as a thank-you for his efforts as “one of the highlights of my life”.
He had to put his running on hold ten months ago when his appendix ruptured. For six weeks he wasn’t allowed to do more than a gentle walk. Although he is now back to ten-mile runs, he didn’t feel ready for the Bermuda Half Marathon Derby, a race he has run many times before.
He hopes to run it at least once more before he turns 80.
Mr Zanol was born in Cavalese, Italy, near the Austrian border.
His parents, Giuseppe and Giustina Zanol, couldn’t afford to send him to college so he went to hotel school for six months, then worked in a hotel and then went back to school for another six months.
In his early twenties, wanting to learn different languages, he worked as a waiter in Germany, France and England. One day, a friend asked him to write a letter for him as he was interested in a job as a waiter at Carlton Beach Hotel, a resort that was then in Southampton.
“His English wasn’t so good,” Mr Zanol said. “So I said I’d write a letter for the both of us, even though I didn’t really know where Bermuda was.”
He got the job in April of 1964 but his family wasn’t pleased. They’d never heard of the island; his uncle warned there would be snakes.
“I said if I don’t like it, I’ll be back in three months,” Mr Zanol said.
As it turned out, he stayed put for five years during which time he married and had a son, Marco.
He and his wife Marilyn were introduced by a friend over coffee at Manny’s Cafe on Reid Street.
They married on September 1, 1966, as the island was buffeted by the outer bands of Hurricane Faith, a category 2 storm.
“We got married at St Michael’s,” Mr Zanol said. “Here comes the bride and ... poof! The electricity went out. It was still daylight so we could see, but it was windy. We’d ordered a horse and carriage but couldn’t take it. We had to take a broken down taxi instead.”
The couple will celebrate their 53rd anniversary this year.
Mr Zanol now runs Lindo’s with his two sons, Marco and Andre, and 17 extended family members.
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or email@example.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them