History of the Club

The Tale of the Bungay Black Dog Running Club

The market town of Bungay, with a population of 5,500, is situated on the River Waveney in North East Suffolk midway between Harleston and Beccles. In 1165 Hugh Bigod, as feudal lord, built a massive Norman keep; a second castle being built by Roger Bigod in 1294.

A weekly Thursday market has been held on the site of the Butter Cross since 1382 which was rebuilt following the Great Fire of Bungay in 1688. St Mary’s Church dominates the local landscape and dates from the 12th Century.

It is famous for a visit by Black Shuck, the “Black Dog of Bungay” whose fateful appearance is well documented. On 4th August 1577 at nine o’clock in the morning “in a certain town called Bungay in the midst of an exceeding great and terrible tempest, not simply of rain but also of lightening and thunder flashing so rare and vehement”, there appeared in St Mary’s Church during the course of the service “a most horrible similitude to a dog, black in colour. This dog running down the body of the church with great swiftness, and incredible haste among the people. Passing between two people kneeling upon their knees and occupied in prayer it wrung the necks of them both in one instant.” Before this frightful beast took its leave another member of the congregation was bitten on the back and turned into a shrivelled wreck while the Clerk was knocked to the ground.

The Church itself was said to have quaked and staggered during the double assault of raging tempest and rabid beast. The wires and wheels of the clock were “wrung in sunder and broken in pieces”. The legend has continued to fascinate generations of townsfolk ever since and at the time of writing at least three local businesses have “Black Dog” in their trading names. Bungay Town Football Club has been nicknamed “The Black Dogs” since the 1930s.

In 2014 many towns, large and small, throughout the country have a running club and, depending upon how far one wishes to travel, one could run in an organised race almost every week of the year. Thirty years ago however things were very different.

There were very few running clubs and only a limited number of races organised by these clubs. In the main it was companies and other organisations that held races. It is interesting to note that of the 800 adult competitors listed in the 1982 Bungay Marathon and Half Marathon programme only 174 (i.e. 21.75%) were members of a running club or an athletics club. By comparison, in 2006, 247 of the 500 runners (49.4%) listed in the programme were attached to a club.

The first London Marathon in 1981 sparked an upsurge of interest in the sport and groups of friends began to meet informally for runs which eventually led to clubs being formed. In the case of our club the founder members were Jim Jervis, Chris Hand, Peter Morrow and Roger Mawer who met mostly on Sunday afternoons to run the Bath Hills and Mettingham routes often accompanied by their dogs. In October 1981 the first five miler around the Mettingham area was staged officially.

Once the decision had been taken to formalise matters the choice of name was obvious and the resulting club was named after the Black Dog history. More members were recruited by word of mouth and local newspaper articles.

The Bungay Marathon was run for the first time on Easter Sunday 11th April 1982 although it has always been organised by a separate committee. The Marathon Committee had been formed in 1981, prior to the BBDRC with Chris Hand as its first chairman. The marathon has been an annual event ever since, except for 1996 when it lapsed due to a shortage of committee members. The vacancies were filled the following year by BBDRC members serving on the Marathon Committee.

In 1982 the BBDRC set about getting itself affiliated, using its links with the Marathon Committee whose permits were issued by the SEAA. The process proved very bureaucratic and there were lots of rules to be adhered to. The first BBDRC committee was formed, again with Chris Hand as chairman, a position which he held until 1990. Subsequent chairpersons have been Jim Jervis (1990-1999), Roger Wing (1999-2004) and Terry Harrison (2004-2006). Margaret Burton took on the role in mid 2006.

Membership of the club increased dramatically during the 1980s with an all time high of four hundred members. More than eighty people attended the club training nights on Thursdays which were held at Bungay Sports Hall. A fair number of these members were non-runners and attended for circuit training and aerobics. The facilities at the Sports Hall were extended in the early 1990s to include a Fitness Suite which was welcomed by the members, some of whom used it after training.

By the late 1980s the initial running “boom” had diminished and Bungay Swimming Pool had opened. Many people’s interest waned and some members had suffered injuries. Others had joined new running clubs or the many aerobic classes which had sprung up in the late 1980s in various locations closer to where members lived. Originally the BBDRC had a very wide catchment area as it was the only local running and fitness club apart from Norwich Olympiads and Ipswich Jaffas. All of this led to decline for the BBDRC and membership eventually dropped to just forty active members. This in turn led to a serious drop in funds and the club almost folded with a balance of just £51.37. However there was life in the old dog still and closure was averted thanks to the election of additional keen committee members. The present day membership hovers around the one hundred mark.

Races and other events have always been important club activities. The “Groggy Doggy”, which is still run on Boxing Day morning, first appeared in 1984 involving five miles of cross country running around Bungay Common. Prior to this there was a Boxing Day five mile (one lap) or ten mile (two lap) road race in 1982 and 1983.

The mid 1980s saw the introduction of the Great East Run as a half marathon and a six miler around Mettingham and Ilketshall St Andrew.  The “Summer Series 10K” forms an important part of the race calendar and also dates from the mid 1980s. Originally based at Bungay Middle School, the race headquarters was a large tent on the playing field. In latter years the facilities at Mettingham Village Hall were utilised, and now the new training facilty near The Maltings Pavilion, on Pernhow Street, Ditchingham.

Having outgrown these, the headquarters was changed to Broome Village Hall in 2005. The new course is routed via Ellingham and Litchmere Lane. An Easter Charity 10K was added in the late 1980s along with a January 10K although the latter was dropped in 2005 as it was deemed to be too close to the Great East Run. A November 10K Handicap was run for the first time in 1998. The early 1990s saw the introduction of a track night, originally shared with Godrics Cycling Club. In latter years this has developed into a BBDRC only event usually held on Sunday morning/early afternoon.

Training nights, which have been held on Thursday evenings since 1982, were extended in the mid 1990s to include a second session on Sunday mornings. Tuesday evenings were added in the early 2000s. To publicise the Black Dog legend a new event named the “Chariots of Fire” was launched in 2004 centred on St Mary’s Church. Although the event was a success, various factors prevented repeat performances in 2005 and 2006. In addition to organising its own races, the BBDRC began entering prestigious events staged by other clubs from the mid 1990s including the Hereward Relay and the Mutford Relay.

Club outings to races have proved popular and from the late 1990s members have competed in the Great North Run. Similarly an outing has been arranged in the past few years to the Woodhall Spa 10K, held in early June. Many BBDRC members regularly enter other races throughout East Anglia and beyond, thus ensuring that the club is publicised far and wide. Whilst out running one is “in the thick of it” no matter where one trains.

If your home is in a large town or city there are often busy main roads to run along, dozens of side roads to cross, traffic to negotiate and every obstruction imaginable on, often very narrow, pavements. The public’s reaction to a lone runner can be many and varied. Some behave as if they have never seen anyone running before! Rural areas can present other problems.

One evening, whilst on a Thursday evening training run across Bungay Common, one member suddenly announced that he had dropped his car keys. Much time was then spent searching through the long grass and vegetation before they were eventually found. On another Thursday evening, in the height of summer, Terry Harrison decided that he would plaster himself with Vaseline to help the sweat run off of him. On the approach to the road junction at Clarkes Lane, Ilketshall St Andrew, a swarm of aphids suddenly appeared from a large pond, right in his path, having just hatched. There was no alternative but to run through them. Upon emerging on the other side literally hundreds of them had stuck to the Vaseline making Terry resemble something out of a horror movie! Terry tells me that he still has a pair of socks stained green to prove it. They had been white when he had set out!

Like Terry I also have a very high metabolic rate and even in temperatures of minus one degree Celsius I will return from a run literally dripping with sweat much to the amazement of other club members. To combat this, one hot evening in August 2005, I decided to shower, not to dry myself, and then to run soaking wet. The idea was that the evening sun would dry me off and stop me from sweating so much. This seemed to work and by the time the group had reached Ilketshall St Margaret I was quite dry for once. I announced this gleefully to those running alongside me whereupon without any warning, Nigel Gilham suddenly emptied the contents of his water bottle all over me much to everyone’s amusement.

Whilst attending a race, one of our members, thinking that he had recognised a famous athlete, approached him and introduced himself. Having been asked whether he was indeed the athlete in question, the man replied, somewhat bemused, “No, I’m [Bill Rice] from Norwich!” One Boxing Day morning in the early 1990s, Nigel Gilham was marshalling the bridge for the Groggy Doggy on Bungay Common. As he was jogging across the common alongside the river the temperature must have been minus three degrees Celsius. All of the trees were covered in white frost as was the huddled figure of a fisherman.

Nigel was a bit concerned so he stopped and asked him how the fishing was going. The man responded and Nigel felt relieved knowing that he had not frozen to death! Nigel told him that he was marshalling a cross country run to which the fisherman retorted “Runners? Are you joking? They must be mad running in this weather!”

Some years ago, when the route of the 20k race traversed the Great Common at Ilketshall St Andrew, unbeknown to the Race Director, some travellers had tethered their ponies on the Common and were a bit spooked when more than one hundred runners came hurtling past. One traveller complained to the Race Director for not advising him prior to the race. This seemed a bit much considering that he had camped there illegally!

Members who have attended the Hereward Relay will know the system for dropping off and collecting runners at each changeover point. Much of the route is off road and as our minibus was en route to the next stage of the race it came upon a female participant a long way off course and obviously lost. She accepted a lift to the changeover point joking that her team would be last anyway. However within about one mile of the changeover she suddenly became agitated and asked if she could be dropped there rather than taken right up to the finish.

Our members mused over whether she ran the last mile but claimed to her team that she had completed the whole stage on foot! If so, she would have probably achieved a “personal best”. It is embarrassing enough to loose one’s way whilst running but even worse to accidentally send runners the wrong way whilst acting as marshals. Until the event was stopped by police on safety grounds the Cross Suffolk Relay ran from Newmarket to Lowestoft with various club members acting as marshals whilst the runners were in their section of the county.

It is quite easy to take a wrong turn in The Saints and unfortunately some runners bound for St James South Elmham during the 1992 event were pointed in the wrong direction. They ended up at Linstead Parva Crossroads on the B1123 three miles west of Halesworth with their team mates waiting in vain some distance away for the incoming runners! A selection of photographs now follows showing BBDRC members throughout the club’s illustrious twenty five year history. The cover photograph, supplied by the Morton family, brings our story fully up to date. It was taken immediately prior to the Groggy Doggy on Boxing Day 2005.

Thanks go to Jim Jervis and Terry Harrison for providing much of the information regarding the Club’s history, to Brian Hindle and Ian Ash for the provision of the photographs and to Nigel Gilham for scanning them.

Preparing for the first Bungay Marathon on 11th April 1982.

From left to right: Brian Hindle, Jim Jervis, Paul Hindle, Joy Hindle, Mel Smith and Joan Green, Marathon Committee Chair.

In the collage of photographs of Ian Ash we can see him at the halfway point of the first Bungay Marathon in St Johns Road. This was the only time that the race was run in the clockwise direction. In the second photograph he is shown relaxing with Colin Cooke and Dermot Wesley-Smith before the start of the Norwich Brewery Half Marathon on 30th May 1982, whilst the next photograph shows him as runner 040 during the event. The last photograph shows Ian and Graham Sampson in a rain soaked Regent Street in March 1982 approaching the finish of the first Great Yarmouth Half Marathon


The Beccles and Bungay Journal has followed the fortunes of the Club throughout its history. In the back row we can see Jim Jervis, Brain Hindle, Pete Morrow, Graham Sampson, Betty, Jim Kerr. Ian Ash, Joy Hindle and Mel Smith.


Glenda Raven (1196), Christine Eccleston (145), Betty Philips (138), Joy Hindle (1282), Mary Smith (80) and with no number visible Leanne Kapp in Bungay Sports Hall around 1982/83


Joy Hindle, Mary Smith and Leanne Kapp in Bungay Sports Hall. All three ladies ran the Half Marathon several times in the mid 1980s


Taken prior to the second Bungay Marathon in 1983 in the back row (third left) Jim Kerr, (fourth left) Roger Mawer, (eighth left) Chris Hand, (eleventh) Terry Harrison and (thirteenth) Ian Ash. On the far left of the picture is Brian Hindle.


During the Norfolk Marathon 1983, Brian Hindle can be seen in the centre with gloves on, with Ian Ash to his right. Graham Sampson is wearing the red T shirt with number 9 visible. Bob Barber has the red vest over a white T-shirt.

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