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On the run: Martin Tilley plans to celebrate 80th birthday at the Bury St Edmunds parkrun

PUBLISHED: 10:42 13 February 2019

Martin Tilley, who plans to celebrate his 80th birthday at the Bury St Edmunds parkrun this weekend, shows off his original Saint Edmund Pacers running vest. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Martin Tilley, who plans to celebrate his 80th birthday at the Bury St Edmunds parkrun this weekend, shows off his original Saint Edmund Pacers running vest. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Martin Tilley turns 80 this weekend, and he plans to celebrate by running the Bury St Edmunds parkrun!

Martin Tilley, proudly holding up his original Saint Edmund Pacers running vest. Picture: CARL MARSTONMartin Tilley, proudly holding up his original Saint Edmund Pacers running vest. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The sport/pastime of long-distance running his come a long way in Bury St Edmunds, since the foundation of local club Saint Edmunds Pacers back in 1979.

Martin was one of the founder members of the Pacers, a new-wave running club which had its roots in the early years of the marathon boom.

The quartet of Tilley, Rod McAlpine, Robert Price (current vice-chairman) and Alan Lloyd effectively founded the club, following a meeting at Southgate Community Centre, with many of the early runs taking place after keep-fit sessions overseen by Bert Tarpley at Bury Sports Centre.

Forty years on and Martin is planning to mark his 80th birthday, which is on Sunday, with a celebration at the 288th staging of his local parkrun on Saturday.

Runners disappear into the distance down the promenade of trees in Nowton Park, during the weekly Bury St Edmunds parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners disappear into the distance down the promenade of trees in Nowton Park, during the weekly Bury St Edmunds parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

“I hope to get family, friends and a few club-mates together for this Saturday’s parkrun,” said Martin.

“My three children, daughter Jenny from Northampton, and sons John and Michael, are planning to come along, with my four grandchildren.

“parkrun has been absolutely amazing. It’s encouraged so many people to start running who otherwise would never have even thought about it.

“I was at the Bury event from its outset, when I vaguely helped to get it going. I visited the Ipswich parkrun at Chantry Park to get some feedback on how to host a parkrun. But it was Steve Pretty who was the driving force – he was the dynamic driving force.

Runners, walkers and dogs set off at the start of the weekly Bury St Edmunds parkrun, which is held at Nowton Park every Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners, walkers and dogs set off at the start of the weekly Bury St Edmunds parkrun, which is held at Nowton Park every Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTON

“The Bury parkrun is now getting so popular that it regularly attracts fields of more than 200 and often more than 300.

“These days I tend to volunteer more than run,” added Martin.

Recalling the early days of Saint Edmund Pacers, Martin said: “The club started up in a vague way, with Bert Tarpley suggesting that we go out for runs after his circuit training sessions down at the Sports Centre on a Thursday evening. That’s how I got involved. Road running was just taking off.

“I had always run, though not to a very high standard. I remember as a child going out for runs on my own around the village.

“I ran school cross country events in Surrey, and also while at university in Bristol, but running was not so popular during those days, and I was never involved in a town-based athletics club.

“But the start of the Pacers spurred me on, and other runners as well. I have never been heavily involved, and never been on the committee or anything like that, but I’ve always enjoyed being a member and running with people.

“I had to stop running for a while, after having a hip operation in the late 1990s, but I’ve managed to come back from that. In fact, the hip operation gave me a new lease of life! I’m staggered.”

Martin does not have not very happy memories of his first marathon.

“I remember deciding to run a marathon, with Rob McAlpine and Mike Sibley. I think it was the Birmingham Peoples Marathon,” continued Martin.

“But we didn’t have a clue how to train for it. People just told us that if we could run 12 miles, then we could run a marathon, but it didn’t turn out that way.

“I didn’t actually complete my first marathon. I stopped after about 17 miles, having started far too fast. I guess you could say that I learnt the hard way.

“In those days, it was run a marathon, or nothing – there weren’t many half-marathons, and I have never liked to walk during a race. However, that first marathon didn’t put me off. I completed my first one at Harlow, and also ran a marathon in Guilford, Surrey, which included going up the Hog’s Back Ridge, as well as running the Ipswich Marathon a few times.

My last half-marathon was at the Eden Project, in Cornwall (in 2011). I had wanted to do that one, ever since visiting the Eden Project. It was very up and down.

“I’ve also enjoyed running the Coastal 10 at Felixstowe a few times, and I guess that’s my target now, to run another 10-mile race after turning 80.

“I’d just like to keep going. I have always been near the back of races – now I am right at the back!

“I try to get out for a run three times a week, at Bannatyne Spa (formerly Clarice House), on Hardwick Heath, along the river (Linnet) or on a five-mile route.

“And I make sure that I go to the Bury track every Wednesday evening to join in with the track sessions. It’s very popular and I’m usually on my own at the back, unless there is a new member who is just starting out,” added Martin, who has lived in Bury St Edmunds for the last 45 years.

As a former long-standing member of the Pacers, I too would like to wish Martin a very happy 80th birthday!

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