My Suffolk - Stephen Cole

Stephen Cole, headmaster of Woodbridge School, has run 21 consecutive London Marathons and raised more than £120,000 for charity. He tells Anne Gould about his life in Suffolk

What are your connections with Suffolk?

Well we moved here when I became head at the school but there are family connections with the area. My mother and father were born in Colchester and my grandfather and relatives way, way back were in the Mill at Dedham. I think there must be a lot of Cole DNA at the churchyard in Dedham. Now someone pointed out to me that it’s the wrong side of the river but having been born in south London it’s close enough to Suffolk for me. I spent a lot of holidays with my grandparents up here as a child and love the area.

Do you like to walk?

Well I do like walking but most of the time I run. I am a member of Woodbridge Shufflers and have just done my 21st consecutive London Marathon. Every year I’ve run for a different charity and in total have raised over £120,000 – and this year I’m running for an Alzhiemers charity. I started because a great friend of mine, the chaplain at Gresham’s, died from asthma and every charity that I have chosen has had a personal connection to me, or someone at the school in some way. This will be my last marathon because, well it’s Olympic year and I don’t think my body will take all the training any longer. My fastest time was just under 3hrs 30mins but this year I’ll be looking to do 4hrs and 30mins. Of course I also do the Woodbridge 10k every year – it’s a great event and I thoroughly enjoy it and I cannot run that anonymously because on every pavement and street corner I see someone I know shouting support, which is rather nice in a way.

Where are your favourite places to run?

Well I’m never sure – I leave through my back garden and never know where I’m going. My favourite places are down Martlesham Creek and out on the river in the summer. In the winter it’s up over the top of Sutton Hoo and that’s a very special place. In the early morning when there’s frost on the ground and the mist is rising you can sometimes imagine what it was like in the time of Rewald. It’s feels quite a spiritual place.

So do you ever walk?

I do like to walk but have very little time to do so. My favourite walk is on New Year’s Day – we go down to the Coastguard Cottages at Dunwich but progress is slower now than it was because my two granddaughters love to dive into puddles and explore bushes as we go.

Where do you like to eat out?

We don’t eat out very often because as headmaster here there are lots of commitments in the evening – it can be six or seven evenings a week with concerts and plays etc. So I really enjoy an evening in. In the school holidays though we do eat out and our favourite places are The Crown here in Woodbridge or the Maybush in Waldringfield.

If you had visitors who had never been to Suffolk before where would you take them?

Well we’d go to Sutton Hoo, Kyson Point and Snape Maltings then we’d choose either Aldeburgh, Walberswick or Southwold. I’d want to show them the big skies and two views in particular – early morning at Sutton Hoo and early morning from Snape Maltings looking over the reeds. If the weather is right it’s like heaven on earth.

What about theatre and the arts?

We are really lucky to have some incredibly talented performers in school and I try to go to every single performance. Outside school we sometimes go to Snape, we love Eastern Angles and their post Christmas show is one of the highlights of the year. I love the cinema in Woodbridge and am a very keen supporter of Dance East.

Are you a football supporter?

Well my first love was Colchester United and Ray Crawford – who was of course an Ipswich Town legend. Of course these days I support Ipswich but I’m like the kiss of death –every time I go to Portman Road they lose.

Are there any other charities you get involved with?

As headmaster of Woodbridge School I am also one of two executive officers for the Seckford Foundation. Through that I have been involved with two free schools which are being set up in Beccles and Saxmundham which are opening in September 2012. We’ve also got the almshouses which provide homes for over 60 people and the foundation also has an apprenticeship scheme for young people that’s starting in the autumn. This scheme will offer training opportunities in decorating, IT, gardening and care in the almshouses.

As headmaster do you still find time to teach?

I think it’s an absolute privilege to be able to work with young people and I love teaching which is why I take two sets for physics every year.