Inspirational athletes meet British marathon champion ahead of Great East Run challenge

The novice runners are preparing to take on the 13.1 mile race in September. From L-R: Nick Partridg

The novice runners are preparing to take on the 13.1 mile race in September. From L-R: Nick Partridge, Joanne Porter, Alison Beech, Lily Partridge, Leah Ambrose, Amanda Cook Picture: JADE GIDDENS - Credit: JADE GIDDENS

A group of inspiring runners from across the county met with elite marathon runner Lily Partridge yesterday to kickstart their journey from couch to Great East Run.

The runners will be coached by Ipswich Jaffa Running Club ahead of the half marathon Picture: JADE G

The runners will be coached by Ipswich Jaffa Running Club ahead of the half marathon Picture: JADE GIDDENS - Credit: JADE GIDDENS

The four novice runners, who won the opportunity to train for their very first half marathon with Ipswich Jaffa Running Club, were joined by Ms Partridge at Northgate Sports Centre Athletics Track – where they set their sights on September’s race.

The runners will receive specialist training from the club’s coaches, complete with tailored personal plans and diet advice.

One of the first to the track was Nick Partridge, 40, from Saxmundham, who hopes to increase his distance from short local runs after losing an incredible 13 stone in one year.

Mr Partridge said: “I was 27 stone six years ago and in a year I lost 13 and a half stone. I went to the doctors and he told me I needed to lose weight – and he could offer me weight watchers but I wouldn’t succeed. I went to see him a year later and I was about 11 stone then.

Lily Partridge, 27, was the quickest female Brit at the London Marathon in April Picture: JADE GIDDE

Lily Partridge, 27, was the quickest female Brit at the London Marathon in April Picture: JADE GIDDENS - Credit: JADE GIDDENS


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“I started in the gym and then I started to run a little bit, and I really liked it. I did do quite a few 10ks and things like that up until a couple of years ago when I broke my shoulder and ended up with pneumonia – so illness was quite hard to overcome, it put me back quite a way.”

Also present to kickstart her training was Leah Ambrose, 42, from Ipswich, who was fit and active before suffering a stroke five years ago – when she was just 37. Ms Ambrose has battled back physically and mentally and wants to tackle 13.1 miles to show how far she’s come.

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Ms Ambrose said: “Strokes in the young are still significantly uncommon – they don’t really happen, it’s quite an unusual thing. I was at home – I’d actually just arrived back in the UK after several months away travelling in South East Asia. I had gone for a lie down in my parents’ house and I woke up and realised I couldn’t move at all. It was a real, real shock – you just don’t expect it to happen. My neurologist called it a significant stroke, so it did cause a lot of damage to the brain.

“It left me paralysed – I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk – I had to have quite a lot of therapy to help me rebuild my body. I was a keen runner before the stroke and I have tried many times since but always struggled to get back to a certain level because of the ongoing issues that the stroke caused. I recently joined a Couch to 5k group with the Rushmere Runners and managed to complete that, and for the first time I’ve started to see quite significant improvements in my running – hence applying for this, so I can try to take it to the next level.

The runners will be coached by Ipswich Jaffa Running Club, which has 300 adult and 90 junior members

The runners will be coached by Ipswich Jaffa Running Club, which has 300 adult and 90 junior members. Pictured are some of the youngsters enjoying a training session with Lily Picture: JADE GIDDENS - Credit: JADE GIDDENS

“To do a half marathon would be quite something. If I crawl through the end – if I can just make it – I think I’ll be really pleased.”

Joanne Porter, 39, also from Ipswich, used to be a sprinter when she was at school and hated long distance running. She decided to take on the challenge to raise money for two causes.

Ms Porter said: “My story’s shifted a little bit from when I first applied to do Great East. One of my really close friends had a traumatic birth, so I’m raising funds for her child’s school so that they can get new equipment so he can progress. And the other side is cancer – that affects every single person, whether that’s their friends or relatives. I’m doing half and half so that it can involve everyone.”

The third Ipswich local, Amanda Cook, 44, suffers from Lupus and hopes that running can improve her mental and physical health. She was registered for the challenge by her husband, Steve, and said she never would have had the courage to take the leap herself.

Lily Partridge, who came eighth in this year's London Marathon, started running professionally while

Lily Partridge, who came eighth in this year's London Marathon, started running professionally while studying for a degree in education Picture: JADE GIDDENS - Credit: JADE GIDDENS

Mrs Cook said: “I didn’t know about it until literally last week so it’s a little bit of a shock for me. I had no desire to run half a marathon – I’m not the fittest of people about. Unfortunately I’ve been on steroids for about 25 years and it has affected my bones, so I’ve broken a lot of my bones – I broke my back in 2011 and I wasn’t able to walk. So for me to do this would be an amazing achievement.

“To think I’ve come this far – I’m a very dedicated person so I would put everything into it. It’s like trying to achieve something that isn’t achieveable, but I will give it my best shot and I will do it some way or another.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing my two girls and husband at the finish line.”

Alison Beech, Chair of Ipswich Jaffa Running Club, said she was looking forward to working with the novices to build up their strength.

Ipswich Jaffa has 300 adult and 90 junior members, with a range of different abilities. With an age range of eight to 80, and one member who has won the Brighton Marathon for the past two years, the club has something for everyone.

When asked what advice she would give to the runners, Ms Beech said: “Break it down into chunks. No one can eat an elephant in one go. Take your mind off the bigger picture.”

Ms Partridge, 27, who came eighth in the women’s race at the London Marathon last month, began running professionally in 2015 while she was working on her degree in education. She said she would recommend getting into a habit of running reguarly.

“The more you get out, the more natural it becomes – and the distance will come to you,” she said.

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