Video: Inspirational runner James Kelly, 82, completes 100th parkrun in Ipswich
With a rich sporting history in this country across hundreds of disciplines, Suffolk has produced its fair share of sporting heroes.
But having completed his 100th parkrun at the age of 82, James Kelly, of Woodbridge, is perhaps more inspirational than most.
A regular at the popular Ipswich parkrun, Mr Kelly, of Deben Road, has joined hundreds of other enthusiastic athletes since its launch in September 2012, and celebrated reaching the milestone appearance in Chantry Park on Saturday with a handful of other 100-finishers.
And as he crossed the line to mark the special occasion, more than 300 other runners flanked his entry onto the finish line to greet the veteran runner with a rousing round of applause.
“The celebrations were fantastic,” Mr Kelly enthused. “It couldn’t have been a nicer party, and when I got to the finish line there were lots of people taking photos and clapping me – people were so kind.”
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Event organisers and parkrun regulars celebrated with Mr Kelly afterwards, with a specially-baked cake, celebratory card and tea party.
Having become a favourite at the events, the energetic octogenarian is well known for keeping motivation and spirits up, and become something of a stirring figure for many who take part.
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Linda Young, volunteer co-ordinator for parkrun, said: “He is just such a gentleman about everything, and he is very good with the youngsters and quite an inspiration to them.”
Mr Kelly added: “It’s quite humbling to think I might be an inspiration to other people – so many middle-aged people say ‘I hope I am doing what you are doing when I am 80,’ which is very flattering.”
Now, while he intends to continue taking part in the 5km runs when he can, the extraordinary runner is now aiming to spend more time volunteering for the event.
“Like so many things, nothing works without volunteers,” he added. “So I will certainly carry on being there, encouraging people to get round and keep active.
“I have been running a long time but I think I would have given up three or four years ago if it hadn’t been for parkrun - without it there wouldn’t be the fellowship and support and friendship for people that run.”
And for parkrun itself, the organisers couldn’t be more proud of Mr Kelly’s continuing legacy.
Director Rory Marriott, said: “James has been such an inspiration that even if he was the only one to turn up, we would still consider Park Run to be a great success.”