James Kelly, 86, all set for his 200th parkrun, at Ipswich parkrun
James Kelly, an 86-year-old from Woodbridge, is poised to complete his 200th parkrun tomorrow, at Ipswich. Carl Marston caught up with him
It is a notable achievement to run 200 parkruns, but it’s all the more remarkable when you happen to be aged 86!
James Kelly, of Woodbridge, will be celebrating his 200th parkrun tomorrow, at his regular haunt of the Ipswich parkrun, in Christchurch Park.
And it promises to be a grand event for Kelly who, although keen to keep his landmark appearance as low-key as possible, will be joined by several club-mates from Framlingham Flyers to mark the occasion.
“I’ve really enjoyed taking part in parkruns, over the years, and I certainly think that it has elongated my participation in running,” explained Kelly.
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“I very nearly gave up running a few years ago, but then the Ipswich parkrun came along and I have been a regular ever since.
“parkrun is all embracing. It’s for all ages and for all abilities, for all shapes and sizes.
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“I haven’t missed many, since I first started taking part. I just keep plugging away.
“It’s always a nice achievement to get out of bed on a Saturday morning and run a parkrun, or offer to volunteer,” added Kelly, who began running more than 40 years ago.
The Ipswich parkrun was born in the autumn of 2012, with the inaugural event, which was staged at Chantry Park on September 8, 2012, attracting a small field of 95 runners and walkers, supported by eight volunteers.
Kelly was one of those 95 starters, at the age of 79, and has since gone on to rattle up 199 parkruns over the last six-and-a-bit years.
These have included 169 at Ipswich and 16 at Kesgrave, while he has also visited parkruns at the likes of Bicester, Great Cornard, Old Deer Park (Richmond-on-Thames), Eastbourne, Tonbridge, Wimpole Estate, Rosliston (South Derbyshire), Oxford and even in Kirkcaldy in Scotland.
He chalked up his 100th parkrun, at the age of 82, in June, 2015, when he was flanked by 300 runners on his approach to the finish at his local Ipswich event.
The celebrations that particular Saturday morning included a specially-baked cake, tea party and a card.
It is likely to be another big day for Kelly tomorrow – the Ipswich parkrun is currently being held at its temporary venue of Christchurch Park, to allow the normal route at Chantry Park yo recover due to saturated conditions.
“I started running after I gave up smoking and playing other sports, like squash,” recalled Kelly.
“I was looking around for something to do and found running. That was back in the late 1970s, before the marathon boom of the eighties really took off.
“In those days one of the biggest events was ‘The Sunday Times Fun Run’ in Hyde Park, which I ran a few times.
“I was based in Wales, when I first started running. I’ve always liked to be a member of a club, and in those early days I ran for Swansea Harriers.
“I’ve been a member of Framlingham Flyers since the mid-1980s, and I’ve always found them to be a very friendly club, and very supportive.
“Over the years, I have done 30 marathons, and about 150 half-marathons. My last full marathon was about eight to 10 years ago.
“I’ve run the Dublin Marathon, Edinburgh Marathon and Cardiff Marathon, and also a marathon in Malta,” added Kelly, who clocked a fastest time of 3hrs 24mins for the 26.2-mile distance.
The parkrun distance is a more manageable five kilometres, and Kelly will be completing his 200th such event tomorrow despite currently suffering from asthma.
“My doctor told me not to run, but I can still turn up and walk most of it,” said Kelly.
“It’s about getting around, and enjoying the experience. It’s always a wonderful feeling.
“I think its terrific the way that ‘parkrun’ has grown over the years. It’s been amazing.
“The first-ever one, at Bushy Park in London, now attracts more than 1,000 runners and more than 80 volunteers. Even my age group (male veteran over-85) is very competitive!
“I’ve also volunteered 28 times, which is just as good. You feel a part of it. I’m looking forward to this weekend and taking part with some of my Framingham Flyers club-mates,” added Kelly.