Helen Nuttall ran the Reading half marathon on Sunday. She said “There was loads of support on the course, a couple of steep climbs, but a nice race, well marshalled and well organised (with free massages at the end!). I was very apprehensive and a little scared about trying to race after all my time off with surgery etc, but once I started was so happy to be out actually racing and trying to push the pace. I was 10 mins off my PB, but it's all relative and with the circumstances I'm immensely happy with a 1:36:17. More than anything it has given me a confidence boost that I will get back to where I was (and hopefully faster!!).”
Slightly closer to home Elwyn Howell ran a very muddy Welwyn half marathon, taking fully 10 minutes of his PB, finishing in 2:10:26.
Adam Bowler was first across the line for the club on Sunday in the Fleet half marathon, an England qualifying race. He finished in 14th place in 1:12:36, a PB. In perfect weather conditions Caroline Thrussell was thrilled to also run a 2 minute PB, finishing in 1:36:28, a new club record in her age category, but not quite fast enough for an England vest. Other finishers were Edward Price (1:17:58), Darren Matussa (1:25:14), Katie Harbon (1:28:56), Astrid McKeown (1:29:43), Paula Adams (1:30:48), Helen Cairns (1:41:10) and Jane Clarke (1:50:07).
Several North Herts Road Runners ran in the Milton Keynes Festival of Running. In the 10k race, Lorna Chambers was really pleased with her effort resulting in a time of 1.01.30, a 6.5 minute improvement on her debut 10K at Sandy last week. James Keogh said “Between the howling winds on Saturday and the hail storms after the race it definitely caught the best of the weekend weather. Not to say that there weren’t some blustery headwinds at points” James fininshed the half in 1:33:41. He continued “Owing to injury I’m only just getting back to this kind of distance so was pretty pleased with my time all things considered.” Other finishers were (10K) Clare Hooley (1:11:34). Half marathon, John Rayner was 11th in 1:21:28, Sophie Thrussell finished in 1:40:23, Ali Mottram in 2:35:24 and Jim Marvell in 2:35:25. Jim said, “It was my first half and I’m absolutely chuffed with my time of 2:35:24. (I’d been hoping for 2:45 or so!). The course was more scenic and a little more undulating than I’d expected. The last couple of miles were particularly tough but I found a small reserve of energy for the all-important sprint finish.” One brave Squirrel tackled the 20 mile course - Adam Wilson finished in 3:25:05.
Three runners completed the Ashridge Boundary Run in the Chiltern Hills. Linda Aird said “the 40+mph winds and miles of thick mud at Ashridge made it a very challenging run - going over Ivinghoe Beacon there were moments when I was afraid I would be blown off my feet!”. Linda completed the race in 3:12:46. Lindsay Cook added “it was just my kind of run. At least half of it was pretty muddy underfoot, it was fairly hilly and extremely windy”. Lindsay crossed the line in 3:40:04. Completing the trio of Squirrel ladies was Miranda Morgan who finished in 3:22:11
David Annetts continued his impressive race-walking form taking part in two races in a fortnight. In the Molly Barnett / England Athletics 10k Race Walk Championship at Warwick University David was happy to finish 8th in a high quality field in a PB of 49:17. On 16th March he travelled to Sussex for the opportunity to get a longer track race. Though it was wet and windy the conditions were less of a hindrance than he had anticipated. To cap it all, David said “I kept my concentration to continue to the finish knowing that I'd been given the bell a lap early!” David won the race in another PB of 48:29.3
Saturday saw the club run of the month at Letchworth parkrun. Battling 45 mph and ‘carnage corner’ the following club members battled Strom Hannah to record finish times: Peter Clarke (22:38), Richard Harbon (22:55), Phil Hunt (23:52), Pete Sibbett (25:12), Ian Datlen (25:31), James Walsh, Mat Ankers (27:20), Angeliki Shearstone (27:49), Jegan Simon (28:16), Lucy O’Connor (31:31), Rhiannon Botha (31:54), Jennie Fraser (31:54), Carl Goodrum (33:01), Andrew Underhill (33:34) and Carol Goodrum (41:05).
In other parkruns, Brian Judkins ran at Cambridge (33:31), Jillian Boys ran at Wimpole (23:56), Chris Poole ran at Jersey Farm (25:07) and 4 squirrels made the short trip to Stevenage. Ellie Scott was first home for the club (23:15) followed by Naomi Parkinson (24:42), Jane Clarke (29:51) and Pat Norris (34:56).
Squirrels raced up and down the country this weekend battling gale force winds, hills and mud.
Tom Webb, Jim McConnel and Matt Sayers competed for Hertfordshire in the GB Intercounties Cross Country Championship on an undulating and windswept 6.5 mile course at Prestwold Hall, Loughborough where there was a strong field and fantastic support including the loyal cow-bell ringing squirrels on tour. The squirrels finished: Tom Webb – 194th, 38:22 Jim McConnell – 213th, 38:44 and Matt Sayers – 263rd, 40:37. Not to be outdone by the men, North Herts’ youngest squirrel Eva McCabe also gained selection and finished in 198th place. She described the race as “cold, windy, hail and mud. Perfect cross country conditions!”
Having been diagnosed with lung cancer last year, Lisa Laundy travelled to London to complete her first Half Marathon this alongside club mate Ally Blunt while raising money for Macmillan. They crossed the line together in an inspiring 2:23:59. Stewart Overton, Darren Sunter and Lee Hayes took the first train of the morning to compete in the Big Half in London. Stewart, describing the course that takes in a lot of the London Marathon, said that despite it being wet and extremely windy beforehand, they all fared well and enjoyed the support, the fast finish and a well earned beer afterwards! Sunter was first home in 1:13:46, followed by Overton 1:17:30 and Hayes 1:26:45.
Pete Sibbett travelled up North to run the Chester 10km and finished 8th in his age category. Unfortunately the cold, wind and rain combined to make this quite a tough run and Sibbett who said he was unpleasantly surprised at the amount of long uphills finished in 40:26.
In her first return to racing since a prolonged period of illness, Helen Nuttall ran the Hillingdon 20 miles. Speaking after the race Helen said she was delighted to finish in 2:44:17 considering both the hail and the uphills into gale force winds!
Eight Squirrels ran the RSPB Race for Wildlife 10K at the Sandy Lodge reserve, a two-lapper taking in heathland and wooded areas and featuring a couple of tough uphills. They were concerned about the weather, but they picked the right place to race as the blustery winds were not too bad apart from on a couple of exposed bits of the course and the sun even made a brief appearance at one point! Dave Braybrook made his debut performance in a North Herts Road Runners vest and finished the course in a superb 58:02. Leading the squirrels home was Linda Aird: 56:42 followed by Lucy O’Connor 58:28, Andrew Porter 59:43, Ian Sutcliffe 1:00:57, Lorna Chambers 1:07, Brian Judkins 1:10 and Carly Bedwell 1:19:55.
Jillian Boys completed the Harpenden Half Marathon in extremely tough conditions exclaiming that it was not just cold, windy and hilly but VERY muddy too and was pleased to finish in 1:51:08.
Marathon runner Jo Summers ran the Cambridge Boundary race for the 5th time and immediately questioned why, as it is not a course she enjoys and was struggling with a cold. Despite the wind, cold symptoms and feelings of regret, Jo was “relieved to have finished in 4:35”.
Parkruns: Letchworth, James Dalton: 22:26, Richard Harbon 22:57, Chloe Lucas (first lady) 24:52. Stevenage Ian Datlen: 21:16, Helen Cairns: 22:23, Dervla Downing: 23:00, Matt Ankers: 26:21, Rhiannon Botha: 26:27, Jane Clarke 36:27. Ellenbrook Fields, Chris Poole: 24:22. Poolsbrook Stephen Lummis: 23:59. Exmouth, Andrew Underhill: 21:42. Colney Lane, Ellie Scott: 24:47. Wimpole, Brian Judkins 36:11. Old Deer Park, Christian Allen: 23:46. Swansea, Mark Robinson: 19:54.
Despite the damp conditions and it being the morning after the club’s annual awards night, there were a few personal best performances at the Cambridge Half Marathon.
Lindsay Cook admitted to feeling the impact of the awards night, ‘I felt the late night and ceilidh dancing in my legs over the first few miles so I was pleased to finish in 2:18:45.’ Lindsay wasn’t the only one happy with their efforts. It was Jillian Boys second time running at this event and she was delighted to finish in 1:47:38 an impressive 6 minutes quicker than the year before and a new personal best by over 2 minutes. Angeliki Shearstone also ran a personal best of 1:53:42.
Five Squirrels went to Trent Park to take part in the Herts County Vets Cross Country Championships on Sunday. There was much mud, but sadly no medals on this occasion.
Lee Hayes was running in the V50 category and finished the tough, challenging race in 44:32. Then competing over a shorter but no less muddy course of 7.2km, were our V60 and V70 men Ian Sutcliffe, Geoff Murray-Rochard and Brian Judkins, along with Linda Aird competing in the Vet women's race.
Ian Sutcliffe crossed the line in 47:16 to finish 4th V70, with Geoff Murray-Rochard just behind in 47:17. Brian Judkins completed the distance in 55:24. In the women's race, Linda Aird finished in 44:16.
Miranda Morgan, Andrew Porter and Sue Foot took part in the Chiltern Kanter. A map reading event where you make your own route with over 30 grid references to find along the way. This was to be Andrew’s first marathon but in the end the trio did just over 29 miles. The route took them to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon, Ashridge and parts of the Ridgeway and was made all the tougher by the mud, wind and rain.
Parkrun results: Cambridge Brian Judkins 37:08, Mile End Helen Cairns 22:06, Dulwich Georgina Quayle 26:51, Ellenbrook Fields Chris Poole 23:10, Letchworth James Dalton 21:45, Naomi Parkinson 25:24, Damon Cleveley 26:09, Great Denham Pete Sibbett 19:20, Pocket Joseph Sherry 25:38.
There was double success for North Herts Road Runners as their ladies and men won both team competitions at the Baldock Beast Half-marathon.
Men’s team member David Weston credited his part in the Squirrels’ success to the ‘lovely course and atmosphere’ on the rolling route through the villages east of Baldock. Despite unorthodox race preparation involving some ‘liquid carbs’ over a weekend of rugby-watching, Weston was ‘very happy and surprised’ to knock a remarkable six minutes off his previous best time for the 13.1 mile distance as he crossed the line in 1.36.23.
Weston was joined on the winners’ podium by Peter Clarke (1.29.49), Niccolo Bassani (1.35.35) and James Dalton (1.37.47).
Bassani admitted to treating the first half of the race as an ‘easy training run’, but then decided ‘it felt quite a waste of time and I sped up for the second half’. He ‘thoroughly enjoyed it’ – and the event t-shirt above all!’
A personal best time of 1.46.44 from Dervla Downing saw her complete the winning ladies’ line-up alongside Natalie Lawrence, who finished as second lady in the race in 1.26.56, and Caroline Thrussell, , who won the F55 category in 1.40.27.
Hailey Batson was another Squirrel to tame the Baldock Beast – a tough one to pick for her first half-marathon. She was spurred around what she described as a ‘relentless’ course by seeing ‘so many familiar faces’ among the marshals and supporters. She finished in 2.24.17.
Other Squirrels competing in Baldock were Lee Hayes (1:30:23), Ian Datlen (1:38:47), Chris Stokes (1:39:28), Andrew Underhill (1:43:42), Drew Norton (1:44:26), Phil Hunt (1:45:15) Jennie Fraser (1:54:15), Alice Noakes (1:55:33), Adam Wilson (1:59:47), Sue Foot (2:06:15), Andrew Porter (2:11:21), Helen Govey (2:15:49), Cara Sutton (2:15:25) and Miranda Morgan (2:16:47).
Stuart Cocks overcame ‘hot weather – in February!’ to secure a new half-marathon best of 1 hour 42.1 and 1,298th out of 15,00 runners at the Brighton Half-marathon. Hayley Cocks overcame a virus to smash an impressive 19 minutes off her pervious Brighton time to finish in 2.46.58 and Shani Fielding was another happy Squirrel with a new personal best time of 2.50.14.
Despite encountering a ‘very hilly course at the Frickley Country Park Parkrun in South Yorkshire, Andrew Robson recorded a new Parkrun best time of 25.01. Other NHRR Parkrunners at the weekend included Joe Sherry in Bedford (26:40, Steve Williams in Kettering (21:18), Pat Norris (33:32) and Jane Clarke (37:45) in Stevenage, Steve Lummis (24:36) at Linford Wood, Brian Judkins (33:50) in Northallerton, Linda Aird (29:35) in Ludlow and Adam Bowller (16:30 and first finisher) and Stewart Overton (17:02) at Great Denham.
Parkrunning on home ground in Letchworth were James Dalton (21:52), Steve Brenton (24:34), Jennie Fraser (27:46), Brian Bailey (29:45) and Naomi Parkinson (47:26).
North Herts Road Runners enjoyed some great results in much improved conditions over the last week.
Just a week after taking part in a tough race at the British Indoor Athletics Championships, David Annetts was back in action at the Enfield Race Walking League 5-mile race. Despite trailing an under-20 athlete for the first four miles, the veteran race walker managed to take the lead in the final mile and won the race in a time of 38 minutes and 53 seconds, gaining a one-second Personal Best time in the process.
David wasn’t the only Squirrel to roll back the years, as Linda Aird went back to her roots to take part in the Harrow Hill 10k. “I've done this one a few times,” said Linda, “the hills don't get any easier.” The race starts in Harrow School's own sports ground, and goes over the hill, taking in some of the beautiful historic buildings - many of them belonging to Harrow School itself. Sadly, Linda didn't have much time to admire these, as she was working so hard just to keep moving forwards at times. However, in beautiful spring conditions, she finished in 55:36, and was the second W55 runner.
Warm weather also played a big part in Paula Holm’s road running at the weekend, when she travelled to South Africa to take part in the Cape Peninsula Half Marathon. Paula wasn’t sure if the purpose of the trip was to enjoy a holiday, to celebrate her impending 40th birthday or to run away from the fact that the birthday was happening at all! The race started in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and following the coast towards Cape Point, taking in beautiful bays and ending in the naval base at Simon's Town. “It was an awesome experience,” said Paula, “and the most beautifully scenic run ever.” Paula was worried about the heat as it was 24 degrees at the 7am start time, but was reassured that the head winds the whole way would be more of an issue, “and they really were; I found myself running on the spot at times.” Despite this Paula ran her race in 1:45:21 and was 184th of 2772 entrants. She even found time for a bit of unscheduled sunbathing at the finish before hitching a lift back to the start with a local running club. Unfortunately they had to wait for the last runner to finish, leaving Paula with plenty of time to get burnt to a crisp.
The North Herts Road Runners were immensely proud to see one of their members represent the club in the 5000m Walking Final at the British Indoor Athletics Championship on Sunday which was aired on the BBC. David Annetts who has been representing the club in walking races the length and breadth of the country lined up in Birmingham alongside the best in the country including the eventual winner Tom Bosworth. After an excellent start the pressure resulted in many of the competitors being disqualified including a disappointed David at the 4km mark. Having trained since January for the difficult race the standard was set extremely high with the km splits being sub 4 with Tom Bosworth’s eventual finishing time being 19:22. A remarkable time given it is a walking race.
Despite the wet and windy conditions a number of ‘Personal Bests’ were set at the Love Welwyn 10k race on Sunday including two members receiving medals. Rob Harris was pleased to finish in a superb time of 37:46 earning him 4th place overall and 1st in the MV40 category. Monica Cullin also won a medal for coming first in the FV70 category with her time of 1:33:13. The popular local event also attracted 9 other squirrels of which 6 managed to beat their previous 10k time. Jennie Andrews showed a huge improvement in this event by smashing her previous time by 11 minutes to finish in 53:41. Other PBs included Helen Marson-Smith with 1:03:45, Jim Marvell in 1:03:29, Hayley Cocks in 1:06:43, Ali Mottram in 1:06:08 and Jo Sopala in 1:07:50.
Elsewhere Sue Foot continued to rack up her impressive mileage by taking part in the Stopsley Challenge. The challenge was to run as many laps as you could or wanted to within six hours. The long lap was 5.1 miles along country roads around Offley. The first half was mostly downhill but the second half took the runners up some very long and challenging hills. The shorter lap was just under a mile. Sue managed five laps of the five mile route and one lap of the shorter route making it 26.4 miles in total!
Sue remarked, “The weather was pretty brutal throughout and the puddles got gradually bigger and the hills seemed to get tougher, but despite walking up some of the hills and trying to avoid some car drivers who thought it might be fun to spray me with the muddy puddles when they drove past at speed, I finished in 4.49!”
Stewart Overton continued his fine form whilst preparing for the London Marathon. He competed in the Worthing Half Marathon which was challenging in the wind and rain. Despite the conditions Stewart targeted a sub 80 race which he managed by finishing in a fine 1:19:01. An excellent time and good preparation for his next race The Big Half in London on the 10th March. Another squirrel, Elwyn Russell Howell also ran a half marathon at the weekend in the Olympic Park finishing in 2 hours 32.
We are looking forward to this year's Comet Sports Awards after three NHRR entries made it onto the final shortlists.
Nick Malpeli is among the four-strong list of contenders for the 'Veteran Achievement' prize in recognition of his exploits over the marathon distance. Nick enjoyed an outstanding year in 2018, winning his second England vest, twice improving his already very impressive best time to a superb 2.43.16 and being selected for an elite-level England Athletics training camp.
Nick is joined on the shortlist by an entry for the NHRR veterans teams, which highlights our success in wining both ladies' and men's Hertfordshire Veterans' Championships over the 5k distance.
The NHRR list of contenders is completed by joint publicity officer James Walsh, whose photo of team-mate Jim McConnel at the County Cross-country Championships is shortlisted for 'Sports Photograph of the Year'.
The awards evening takes place at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre on 1st March.
Jillian Boys ran two PBs this weekend. The first was at North Herts Road Runners’ First Saturday of the Month on Norton Common in Letchworth, and the second at the Cancer Research UK London Winter 10K on Sunday. Jillian loved both races, saying,“the First Saturday race was a lovely snowy morning and I ran with my dog Poppy – we got a new course PB of 22.55 (including an unplanned ‘dog business’ stop!). On Sunday around 20,000 runners raced with me through central London, starting at Trafalgar Square and finishing at the Cenotaph memorial along Whitehall. It was a beautiful blue sky day, nice and cold and dry: perfect running conditions. I was really hoping to achieve my first sub 47min 10k – and I was so pleased to find out my chip time was 46.57!”
On Saturday, also in London, John Rayner travelled to the home of the 2012 Olympics for a 10k race around Queen Elizabeth Park. John said,“This is a monthly race which I also did at the start of February last year. It is a flat 3 lap course, I went for a warm up lap to discover that the route had changed to avoid a footpath closure. I'm pleased I did this or I would have been in for a shock during the race! With my family watching I set off too fast and soon found myself in the lead. At the end of the first mile I was overtaken and wasn't able to keep up as we hit a head wind along the canal under the Olympic stadium. From this point on I held on to second place. With half a mile to go 3rd place briefly caught up with me but I had enough left to push on.” John finished in a time of 36:30, which, although it was a minute slower than last year felt like a positive result given all his injuries in between.
Ed Price ran the Chichester 10k on Sunday morning which was also the Sussex 10k Championship and a qualifying event for England Masters (the first three in each age category qualify to run for England at a future 10k race). On a flat and fast course, and in perfect running conditions, Ed managed to finish in 34:10, one second slower than his PB. Ed lamented “I was the 9th MV40, so no chance of an England vest, but I enjoyed the race and loved running amongst (and behind) so many quality runners.”
4 Squirrels ran in ParkRuns (Ian Datlen, Steve Brenton, Joe Sherry and Chris Poole) and 23 Squirrels turned out alongside Jillian at the First Saturday of the Month in a field of 86 runners.
Sunday was the final race in the Three Counties Cross-country league. After some superb performances in the previous races, North Herts Road Runners were in a great position. The ladies team championship was really tight and it was down to a last race shoot-out with Wellingborough and District. Whoever won this race would win the league overall.
On the day, the ladies' performance was heroic. They stormed round Delapre Estate to take the victory on the day and overall title. In total, a scurry of 29 Squirrels headed to Wootton and came back with the overall combined team champions plus the ladies team champions, while the men’s team finished as runners up. Ladies team captain, Katie Harbon described the feat as “a season long effort supporting each other and backed up by the rest of the team who may not have scored directly but helped us score points. Everybody ran strong and gave it everything they had. The dedication and passion is what makes us the best team in the league.”
Andrew Porter was the first 70-year-old in the league after 5 races. Speaking to Andrew afterwards, he described the event as a “fantastic run - the course was demanding but there was plenty of support from NHRR and others.” He also said that he “was surprised to receive the age category award” and thanked the organisers for an excellent race series.
Andrew's wasn't the only individual championship title won by a North Herts Road Runner. Natalie Lawrence was the winner of the ladies open and Astrid Mckeown was the first V45. Amongst the men, the first in the 30-35 category was Tom Webb while Matt Sayers was the first V40.
On Saturday, five squirrels made the trip to Parliament Hill in London for the South of England Cross-country championships. Over 1100 runners start at the bottom of the hill and charge up to the top before completing three laps of a challenging course. Adam Bowller had a great run and was delighted to finish 92nd. Not too far behind was Darren Sunter finishing in 197th and Matt Sayers in 281st. Matt Sayers was running the infamously tough course for the first time and was pleased with his run. Speaking with Adam afterwards he said it was humbling to run in the 125th edition of the prestigious championships, adding: "I'm delighted to finish in the top 100. Fifteen kilometres of challenging terrain can feel daunting but the great support on the course helps inspire you to push on."
Chris Poole ran his 250th parkrun at Severn Bridge near Newport, the only parkrun in the world that is completely on a bridge. The race starts in England before heading into Wales and then returning. Chris' first parkrun was in July 2013 at Heaton Park, Manchester. Reflecting on the run, Chris said: “With a belly full of vodka red bull I trotted round the course and was instantly hooked”. Chris has now run 250 parkruns at 164 different venues around the world in five different countries. His time has improved from 32 minutes to 21 minutes. A group of friends from all over Hertfordshire made the journey over to South Wales the night before, completing the incredibly friendly and windy parkrun at the Severn Bridge. “An excellent setting with cracking views across the estuary”. It’s an out and back course, where Chris and friends got blasted by the wind in both directions.
Freezing temperatures made for chilly racing conditions for Road Runners in forest, farmland or rural hills this weekend.
Six squirrels braved the cold of the Fred Hughes 10 mile event in St Albans. First home for the club and 4th lady overall was Astrid McKeown in a fantastic 1:08:16. Speaking after the race she described the morning as ‘freezing, but beautiful’ and had thoroughly enjoyed the ‘very undulating, rural course’. She said that “the race entry was a Christmas present from her husband as I have not raced much recently and he took over the child care for the morning so I could do something I love”. The second Road Runner was Helen Cairns 01:19:20, followed by Drew Norton 01:20:23, Naomi Parkinson and Lucy Hurley 1:27:24 and Adam Wilson 1:28:48.
Four (self described!) ‘completely bonkers’, hardy squirrels made their annual pilgrimage to Wales for the Buff Winter Trail Wales half marathon held at Coed y Brenin, despite weather warnings of freezing temperatures and snow. Racing conditions could not have been more different for Michelle and Andy Grudzinski who last week raced in temperatures of 27 degrees! All four relished the undulating, but scenic, race through the Coed y Brenin forest. Andy was first home for the club in 2.37.31 (just 4 minutes off his personal best), Paul Bowal was next in with 2.56.29 and Michelle and Ashley Murray-Richard in a very respectable 2.59.05.
Marathon runners Miranda Morgan and Sue Foot completed the Boggle Marathon. The challenging route covered 27 miles along hard packed-track trails, grassy tracks and plenty of fields across farmland picking up a nice lot of mud along the way. Sue said “apart from two or three wrong turnings we managed to keep pretty much to the route and finished in 5.58”.
North Herts Road Runners were out in force at Parkruns throughout the country this weekend, while others rested from racing with all eyes on next Sunday’s fifth and final Cross Country league race, with the Squirrels currently top of the table!
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