Profile of Ipswich Jaffa Running Club

Ipswich Jaffa Running Club is one of the highest profile sporting institutions in the town and has inspired scores of people to take up running and follow the path to fitness and good health.

Ipswich Jaffa Running Club is one of the highest profile sporting institutions in the town and has inspired scores of people to take up running and follow the path to fitness and good health. Here, Jaffa PR secretary KATE WOOLDRIDGE talks about the benefits of being a part of the club and reveals some of the inspirational stories of members.

“THE club fosters a team spirit not only amongst its members but within, the coaches, the parents and the wider community.”

These were the words of Ipswich Borough Council's sports development team, Team Ipswich, when presenting Ipswich Jaffa Running Club the Club of the Year award at the 2009 Annual Sports Awards.

It is this spirit that keeps the club going, attracting new members, organising local events and even producing international athletes.

From juniors to veterans, beginners to the elite, the club has something for anyone and everyone who is either already a keen runner or indeed, just wants to start running with like-minded individuals and enjoy the more social side of this sport.

Anyone who just turns up and wishes to just run is welcomed. A friendly, sociable club with members of all abilities its aim is a simple one - Jogging and Fitness For All.

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The club's history dates back to 1977 when following the success of the council's jogging in the park (held in Chantry Park) a handful of people got together and discussed the possibility of forming a local running club.

Thirty-three years later the club is stronger than ever as result of the hard work, dedication, enthusiasm of the members and committee, which has seen many changes but remains committed to providing a friendly, supportive and motivating environment.

Several members have remained associated with the club since those early days, including the current President, David Smith, who was fondly known as simply 'Mr Jaffa'. His passion for the club cascades through the current chairman, Terry Back, its committee and of course, its approximate 260 members who all contribute in some way to keeping the club spirit alive and thriving.

Running in itself has grown in huge popularity over the years, helped by the boom in the 80s with the inaugural London Marathon, which now attracts over 35,000 runners every year all taking on the challenge in finishing one of the world's most popular marathons. Who can fail to be inspired by the runners crossing the finish line, whether they are running to achieve a PB (personal best), raise money for a charity close to their heart or simply to tick the 'done that' box. Other events such as the BUPA Great North Run and the high profile of British athletes such as Paula Radcliffe and Dame Kelly Holmes have all helped grow the popularity of the sport of running.

But it's for many reasons that people get out and running. JAFFA's members have so many stories about why they run, why they joined this friendly, local club and what keeps them running from losing weight, to staying fit, to being competitive with themselves as well as others, the social side of the club or just simply just running because they can.

Here are just a few of some of the member's stories.

“I joined Ipswich Jaffa ten years ago whilst training to run the London Marathon for The Neuroblastoma Society, a children's cancer charity. Whilst out training I met some club members, also training for the marathon - who ten years on, are still very good friends in and out of the running circuit.

My young son Robert, now 23, also joined Ipswich Jaffa at the age of 14. We have trained and raced together and both enjoy the competition and friendly banter within the club. Robert has gone on, with the help of the club and some of the past stars, to become one of the top runners in the club.

The club offers us all the opportunity to run at our own level - be it racing, training or purely social with the added benefit of being that bit healthier too!” - Duncan Chenery, member since 1998.

“Approaching 40 and finding it more difficult to keep up with the kids, I decided to challenge myself. As a person who prefers solo sports I decided to give running a try and entered the Great Bentley Friday 5. I was very nervous as race conditions can be a little intimidating but was massively surprised - I knew a few people! I had no idea they ran, including two of my cousins, also JAFFA members. (Becky and Lou Staunton). Everyone was so supportive along those five long miles and gave me a great push when I was flagging. After talking to some of the Ipswich JAFFA members who told me how I could really improve I joined and by regularly training with others it has helped my running no end. Track sessions and very helpful tips from the club members and coaches, not to mention the bright orange kit has given me an excellent kick and in less than two years I have massively improved across all distances, right up to the marathon. Jaffa is great for all abilities and even gives rewards for achievement - I won Runner of the Month for my marathon time and as I hurtle towards 40, at least I can celebrate it by being fit.” - Simon Meecham, member since 2008.

I joined in 2003 as a way of meeting people in Ipswich and also to help get fit for London Marathon in 2004. I got the bug big time and have now run 6 more marathons including Paris and New York. JAFFA is a great club to help encourage and motivate people! - Alistair Dick, member since 2003

“I run because I enjoy the competitive challenge and it is a great way of unwinding. I have run more as I have played less football so it helps me maintain fitness too. I joined Jaffa in the hope that I would find the discipline and the inspiration to improve my performances. It didn't let me down!” -Simon Harrison, member since 2004

“I joined up so I had the best possible opportunity to improve my running performance and to be able to complete a marathon. The second goal was to keep the dreaded middle age spread/beer belly in check!” - Robin Belsom, member since 1989

Robin is a true inspiration, in that in 2010 he aims to complete 50 races in 50 weeks as he celebrates both his 50th birthday this year and more significantly, recently recovered from 2 major operations during treatment for bowel cancer. Robin also is the Race Director of the extremely successful Ekiden relay event (details later on).

Very poignantly, from member Bridget Goldstone, who having gone through a major kidney transplant operation ten years ago simply runs to “celebrate the gift of life.” Having completed numerous marathons and half marathons both in the UK and around the world, Bridget and her husband Barry, also an avid runner, are on the club committee and help with the day to day running (excuse the pun) of the club.

It is these members stories and many, many more, which encourage new members and keep the club friendly, social and fun as well as providing a safe and motivating environment.

With its 260 members of all abilities and differing reasons for being there, the club is proud to have Helen Decker as a member. Having been a social runner she was spotted by one of the club members at a local race when she came 3rd lady, surprising others but mostly herself! Several years on, she has now toed the start line at the London Marathon with the elite female athletes, represented England in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, not once, but twice (the only athlete from England to do so) and will be on the elite start line yet again at this year's London Marathon - hoping to improve on her already impressive personal best of 2.41.08, with a time that could see her qualifying for a Commonwealth Games team place. Helen is ranked 9th lady in the UK over the marathon distance, something she never would have imagined 6 years ago when, in her own words, she put on a tatty pair of trainers, jogging bottoms and a t-shirt and stepped out for her first run since her high school days. Despite all her success and achievements, and whatever others think, she still runs simply because she loves to and will continue to do so for as long as she can!

JAFFA hosts a number of key events in the local running scene calendar, most which have become 'must dos' for local club runners, but more importantly attract newer runners, and social runners taking part for their own personal reasons.

Firstly there is the Friday 5, part of the Friday 5 series hosted by several of the local running clubs through the early summer, where both club, social and fun runners alike take on the 5 mile distance round some of the beautiful Suffolk and Essex countryside. These regular fixtures have become a great social occasion with beer tents and BBQ's all part of the fun.

The Ekiden Relay, which sees over 60 teams of 6 runners compete in a relay over the full marathon distance of 26.2 miles, is now one of the most popular events in the region - with local clubs, social and business teams all competing, all raising money for local charities at the same time.

And in 2009, JAFFA was instrumental in bringing back the Half Marathon to the streets of Ipswich. With local sponsors such as Larking Gowen, Heart FM and the Evening Star, the race attracted over 800 runners from all over the country and brought out support all along the 13.1 mile course, forging links with both local and national companies such as Asda, Lucozade, the Co-operative, Ipswich Building Society, John Grose and Clarice House to name a few. The event will take place again in August 2010 with JAFFA hoping again to produce an event for the town to be proud of, encouraging runners, supporters, and volunteers alike to get involved.

Add to these the track races, the 5m handicap race plus the summer series of 'Trio' races which brings together the female, male and junior races

Jaffa offers its members a regular club night, where members of all abilities meet and have time to chat and share running stories and experiences or simply catch up with friends. Announcements are given by the club secretary, such as recent race results, major achievements, forthcoming social events etc - before heading out with one of the experienced 'team leaders' on a group road run - from beginner pace and distance to those who are more advanced, from hill sessions to speed sessions on the track with one of the clubs many coaches, whatever your ability and whatever your reason to run, you can find something to suit you, all in the company of others. For many members who wish to continue training through the dark winter evenings this is an invaluable part of what the club offers.

But it can't all be running, running, running! The club is keen to keeps its social side and fun element strong too - there is an annual quiz, a dinner dance where the club's annual awards are presented, a summer camping / BBQ event as well as coaches organised running related events throughout the regional and further afield.

The club benefits from Sports Massage Therapy available on a weekly basis at Jaffa club nights. This is offered by Gillian Shemming who has been with the club for 5 years and has her own private practice and John Clarke who joined last year. Sports massage aims to reduce the risk of injury, rehabilitate after injury and maintain the optimal condition of muscles and joints. Anyone who will be starting their training for the London Marathon in the New Year should consider having regular massage in order to help them complete the 26.2 miles. More recently Gillian has introduced the Bowen Technique to the runners and this is showing very beneficial results with regard to recovery from injury and improving performance. For further details contact Gillian or John via the Jaffa website.

For more information on Ipswich JAFFA Running Club, its events, its members and how to join, please visit the website at

Or simply come along to one of the club nights, held at Northgate Sports Centre, from 7pm, every Monday night (excluding Bank Holidays).