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History of the club

Our club history, kindly written by lifetime member Jan Dempsey. 

The beginning.

About 1970 / 71 – Keith Scott, Paul Dempsey and a couple of others used to meet in Pukekura Park for a run together. They began running Marathons, but several went overseas and that group faded for a couple of years.

In 1975 – Keith and Paul started running together again this time joined by Jan and John Dempsey, Owen Walsh, Maurice Clegg, Barry White, Mary and Rod Calver, Bruce Goldsworthy, Stu Berry  and a few others (15- 20 of us)  started running regularly in the Park. In May 1976 we became an official Club and joined the NZ  Joggers  Association. Owen Walsh was the first Club Captain – he had been a member of the Roturua Joggers Club. Keith Scott was Secretary in1976 and I took over in 1977. We decided as a committee to advertise in the paper each week and each family took turns in paying for this. After a year or so, we decided we got more members by word of mouth and stopped advertising. John designed a yellow covered booklet about our club and running generally, that we handed out. We also had a ‘donations box’ out each Sunday. As many of us had young families we decided to run at 9am on Sunday mornings – this proved very popular, with big turnouts. Sometimes we would have a small ‘creche’ with a couple of people looking after the children – feeding the ducks, play area etc.

Auckland  Joggers Club had been formed by Arthur Lydiard and Colin Kaye in 1962. Their members, plus Rotorua  Joggers Club, were very helpful  to us, in establishing our club. We were told to treat new members ‘ like delicate china’, so initially we had a roster of both front and back leaders. We would run together as a group up to the big old Puriri tree in Brooklands Park and divide into ability groups up there. We would meet back at the pavilion at 10am and often have a cup of tea or coffee upstairs in the pavilion. It was decided that if runners wanted to do a longer run, they should do it on a Saturday, or after Joggers so that it didn’t put off new members and family groups. For a while – in the late 70’s and 80’s we had a big group of 20 – 30 runners training on Saturdays for Marathons. We would meet at different people’s places each week and they would organise the run – and afternoon tea afterwards!! We had yellow singlets and T shirts made and the footprints up the back were designed by Peter Quinn of ScreenArt. When running a Marathon they were regularly commented on, as they were so easily recognisable. We later had caps made as well. Back in the 70’s there was concern over runners not being visible at night and we encouraged members to wear reflective clothing.

As Secretary I used to book a motel  and restaurant, for us all when we went up to Rotorua for the Fletcher Marathon. I gave up when the numbers got into the 30’s!! One memorable one however, was when we had a bit of a party in one unit, after the event. The owner told us next morning that there had been complaints  from around the neighbourhood.  We had two Detectives with us, who were very annoyed and knocked on every door surrounding the motel and not one had either heard the noise, nor complained! The owner was not happy and told us she would ‘blacken’ the name of the NP Joggers Club in Rotorua!! Needless to say, we did not return there but had no trouble getting other motels the following years!!

Aims of the Club.

We aimed to keep the formalities to a minimum, and the first committee (of those listed above) established the aims of the club as :

Run for exercise and health

Entice others to do likewise

The New Zealand Joggers Association.

The NZ Joggers Association had an AGM in different parts of the country to which many of us took part – Auckland, Rotorua, Pukekohe, Masterton, Massey, Christchurch (to name a few) plus couple of them held in New Plymouth in the 1980’s. Arthur Lydiard also came down to our club twice in the 1980’s  and ran training weekends, where about 60 of us would take part in warm up exercises, be shown running techniques and styles, listen to his theories, go on runs with him, socialize, and then he would of course attend our Sunday morning Joggers session. He also had a booklet he put out on ‘Jogging the Lydiard way’ as well as a book written with Garth Gilmore – ‘ Run for your Life’, plus a couple of his own books he’d written. Arthur also arranged for guest speakers to visit  us in New Plymouth– Dr Joan Ullyot –an American Physician who wrote ‘Running Free –  a guide for women runners and their friends’ and Alison Roe  who had also just published a book, and spoke about her running successes all over the world.

Our first Half Marathon.

In 1980 it was suggested that we should organise an Half Marathon as there wasn’t one in New Plymouth.  Graham Cochrane was President at the time. We consulted with the local Harrier Club about suitable dates for their runners, and in October 1981 we held our first Half Marathon. It was run under the auspices  of the AAA’s rules and we had to give ¼ of our fees to the NZ Athletic Association. Of the $8.00 fee $2.00 per person was given to them – for nothing! Also we finished with the runners coming down through Pukekura Park, to the cricket oval, but found that too hard to police, so the following year we made a few alterations to our initial event. The first was, that to avoid AAA’s rules we would make it a ‘fun run’ and not announce places such as 1st , 2nd etc  but make sure that the top male and female runners,  were prize winners (of ‘spot’ prizes), and announce that they were 1st male home etc. then. The second change was to come around the streets – down Brooklands Road and back into Liardet Street and into the park that way.

Our ½  Marathon became very popular and I  (as Secretary) fielded many calls from out of town runners  about the course. I coined a phrase that I used for years – “ It is undulating, but scenic!!”  (I felt that I wasn’t lying saying that!)

We’ve  always had, a great rapport with the Harrier Club. From the start we ‘manned’  (and still do)  the 25 and 30 km drink stations in their  Mt  to Surf Marathon. They had prizes for the ‘best dressed’  drink station which we won regularly – from ‘tarts’ to ‘Nuns’ to many others. We donated money to the Harrier Club for equipment that we could share. Also, we always put a ‘Joggers’ team in the locally organized, ‘Round the Mt Relay’ with the Dempsey van being used every time. That too was a lot of fun.

As a Club we have always been  very social – fancy dress parties were the norm- one special one was the ‘Bad Taste’ Xmas party we held at the Tea Kiosk – a group of us went as a wedding party- and laughed when a young boy yelled out – “Look Mum, there’s a wedding!!.(If only he could have seen see us , close up!!)  We also took a bus  up to the Mountain House for a mid year Xmas dinner and we had a bus trip to Whangamomona for a tramp and a dinner there. We walked from Back Beach to Oakura several times – Jogger’s families were invited to join us both on the walk and for the BBQ afterwards. We  also walked the White Cliffs Walkway several times as a Club as well.

In 1996 we decided that we needed to change our name to include walkers in our title, so we became known as the ‘New Plymouth Joggers and Walkers Club’, from then on.

Jan Dempsey
One of the founding members of the club.
Secretary from 1977 – 2011
Life member of the club.