A Transcona man gave an old friend from Italy a tour of Winnipeg’s streets.
Frank Favoni hosted Bruno Bianchi during his first trip to Canada — and Bianchi then proceeded to win the Manitoba Marathon’s men’s 70-74 division over three other competitors, finishing with a time of 4:34:29.4 on June 16.
The connection to Favoni brought Bianchi to this year’s marathon — his 19th 26.2-mile run since he switched from being a cyclist to a runner at the age of 57. Since then, Bianchi has run marathons in locales such as New York, Stockholm, Sweden and Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The pair attended six years of primary school together in Italy before Favoni moved to Canada after his Grade 5 year in 1952. He has lived in his Horton Avenue West home since 1967.
Before Bianchi, a 72-year-old native of Travedona-Monate in northern Italy, decided to run the Manitoba Marathon this year, he and Favoni had only seen each other three times since Favoni left Europe — in 1972, in 1997, and in 2011.
"He was surfing the ‘net, and he discovered that there was a marathon happening in Winnipeg," said Favoni, 71. "He says to himself ‘This is Gianfranco’s (Frank’s) city.
"We made arrangements, and here he is."
With Favoni translating, Bianchi described renewing acquaintances with his old friend as "emotional" yet "easy".
Bianchi was inspired to start running after he saw the New York City Marathon, and was glad he took up the sport, noting "I am well when I run."
Bianchi said the marathon was one of the best he’s run, and weather conditions were ideal on the day of the race.
"It was very good because I see very nice roads, very nice scenery," said Bianchi, noting he appreciated the trees and musical entertainment along the route.
Favoni hopes to bring his friend back for another go at the University of Manitoba’s starting lines, but the long flight might be prohibitive in the future.
"We’re trying to convince him to come back and do his 20th," said Favoni.
"But it’s a little far," noted Bianchi.
Bianchi arrived in Manitoba on June 13 and left on June 19 to tend to his vineyard of approximately 1,600 vines.
"He has two sins — espresso and wine," said Favoni. "That’s what he calls them."