It was a great weekend to take on the challenge and adventure that is the Round Norfolk Relay. It’s the third year North Herts Road Runners have taken part in the race which follows the county boundary over a distance of 198 miles, divided into 17 unequal stages. Unique in character and concept, the race presents not only a tough physical challenge, but also tests the club’s logistical abilities.
Run over 24 hours, without a break (and carrying a baton), the event requires careful planning and a dedicated support crew. Starting at 7.00am on Saturday our 17 runners successfully completed the race in 26 hours and 22 minutes. Supported by a crew of 15 people, including drivers, cyclists and timekeepers it was a fantastic team effort and a great accomplishment for the club.
Two Squirrels completed the Richmond Run fest Marathon, a mixed terrain course, starting in Kew Gardens and then out and back along the Thames to Hampton Court before finishing in the Old Deer Park. It was Matt Davies last race for North Herts Road Runners, as he is moving north. He finished 17th in 3:08 slower than his target time, but still a massive PB by 36 minutes from his first marathon in August last year.
It was David Weston’s first marathon and he was pleased to finish in 3:46. David said, ‘I didn’t really know what to expect and I was a bit nervous on the start line.’ Weston was running for the Royal Brompton Hospital raising around £1000 after both his parents had complicated surgery there this summer. ‘This certainly helped me round as I did begin to question what on earth I was doing at 18 miles.’ Monica Cullin ran the shorter 10k option in a time of 1:38:25.
Much closer to home North Herts Road Runners was well represented at the Harvest Trail quarter and half marathon at Royston Heath. The hilly course took runners across picturesque trails in the Hertfordshire countryside. Jillian Boys did the half marathon distance while Lucy O’Connor, Andrew Porter, Russ Hagen, Allison Blunt, Gladys Cheng, Helen Cromack, Anna Greetham, Jane Tyler, Brian Judkins, Sheila Leavy and Drew Norton all went for the quarter marathon distance.
Sue Foot ran the Ponton Plod, an undulating off road course run mainly over farmland and grassy trails. Foot finished the 28.4 miles in 6:08.
North Herts Road Runners turned out in force for Herts County 5k Championships with 36 Squirrels competing on the flat and fast course in Hatfield.
The star performers were the men’s team, who took the county title with superb performances from Tom Webb (15 mins 56 secs), Matthew Sayers (16.52), Stewart Overton (16.58) and Darren Matussa (17.38). Webb also won a silver medal in the individual county standings.
The Letchworth-based club’s ladies’ team almost matched the men with a set of silver medal winning performances from Jane Clarke (21.02), Ellie Webb (21.57) and Rhia Botha (21.59). Astrid McKeown was second female finisher and first in the F45 category in 18.55 and fast-improving Oliver Brady was among those recording new personal bests with a 17.52 finish. Chris Poole also recorded a new best with 21.35.
Further impressive performances came from Joy Stroud, whose new lifetime best of 31.00 was a new club record in the 70-plus age category, Lucy O’Connor with another best and a club record of 22.12 in the 55-plus group and Hayley Cocks, who knocked two minutes off her previous mark with 34.38. Cocks said she had been ‘worried about the two and a half laps course around an industrial estate but I really enjoyed it. I am already looking forward to the next race and looking to beat my time again – but possibly not by two minutes!’.
The inaugural Baldock Rat Run 5k provided a double triumph for the Squirrels, with Paula Holm first lady in 20.46 and Stewart Overton taking the men’s honours in 17.28. Jillian Boys ‘absolutely loved it’ as she finished 5th lady in a new best of 22.50. Boys reported ‘a wonderful, interesting off-road course consisting of multiple potential time-affecting obstacles, such as narrow tunnels, kissing gates and steps’.
North Herts runners had yet another good turnout at the Welwyn Garden City Half-marathon, with Lucy O’Connor 3rd W50 in 1.48.07, Vanessa Rolfe 3rd W60 in 2.23.20 and Andrew Porter 2nd M70 in 2.05.47. Other Squirrels finishing the 13.1 mile course were James Drew (1.43.00), Dervla Downing (1.51.25), Katrina Dixon (1.59.29), Cara Sutton in 2.11.30 and Allison Blunt (2.12.53).
John Auld continued his recovery from injury by running – and very much enjoying - the Great North Run in 1.31.27. ‘The atmosphere is great – fans on the street the whole way round’, he reported. Both John and sister Lucy were fundraising for Cancer Research UK. Chris Poole also completed the
course in 1.46.45 and Andrew Robson finished in 2.04, raising over £1,000 for Breast Cancer Now in the process.
Helen, Jo and Richard Harbon competed as a family in the Woburn team triathlon. In very challenging conditions they were delighted to finish 8th out of 17 teams in 2.47.10.
David Annetts competed in the Woodford Green 3000m Race Walk and was delighted to finish third in a new best of 13.54. Annetts has been travelling to Bury St Edmunds for specialist coaching and says he is starting to see the benefits: ‘As well as working on my own technique I’ve learned a lot from seeing others practising it’.
On a big weekend that demonstrated the strength, depth and breadth of the club’s membership, North Herts Road Runners took part in a large number of events across the region and brought back some fantastic results.
A group of Squirrels ran the Bedford Twilight 10k on Saturday evening. First home for the club was Astrid McKeown, who ran 40:15 and finished fourth woman. Also running were Lindsey Lucas and Jo Sopala, who ran together and spurred each other on to each achieve a PB, finishing in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Jillian Boys (51.55) and Ali Mottram (1:09:14) were among the club’s other participants. For Ali, it was her first 10k. “I’m pleased with my time,” she said, “and it was a lovely boost to have other club members there cheering me on.”
The following morning, saw even more North Herts Road Runners taking on the Bedford Half Marathon, described as a fast and flat course with scenic views across the river. First home for the club was Darren Sunter in 1:15.59, followed by Stewart Overton who ran a PB of 01:18.06. Also scoring PBs were sisters Linsey Ashley and Jennie Andrews, who ran together and finished together in a time of 2 hours and 19 minutes. Another of NHRR’s runners was Niccolo' Bassani, who finished in 01:36:26. He said that the last four miles proved really tough, and was not alone in commenting on the strength-sapping heat.
Back in Hertfordshire, six full and two honorary Squirrels joined forces to take part in the St Albans Stampede on Saturday. Sue Foot, James Drew, Gary and Lindsay Cook, Paula Holm, Linda Aird, Miranda Summers-Pritchard and Jo Summers made up a team of 8 to run as many of the 4 mile laps of Heartswood Forest/Nomansland Common as they could in 12 hours. Without wanting to waste a minute, they managed to strategically pick who to run when, and squeezed in 22 laps in 11 hours 55 minutes - winning the Team of 8 section by 3 laps.
It was also a busy weekend for the club’s multi-eventers. Eleven Squirrels swam and ran at the Freedom Tri-organised Duck N Dash event in Letchworth on Sunday. John Auld (30:28) was first home for the club, saying “it was the first aquathlon for a few of us, so we clubbed together and tried our best to copy what the tri club members did... I think we pulled it off, apart from looking down the line on transition- the only clothes in there were NHRR vests.” Other notable results include Katie Harbon and Sophie Thrussell, who finished second and fifth respectively in the female senior event; Lindsay Cook, who only the day before had been part of the St Albans Stampede team; and the two Squirrels who took part in the youth section: Eva McCabe was first in 30:08, and Oliver Brady was third in 30:11.
Tom Webb and Matt Sayers travelled to St Neots for the 2019 Standard Distance ETU (European) Triathlon Qualifying event. 450 competitors took part in the 1500m swim in the River Ouse, an undulating 45km bike course and 10km run. Tom Webb achieved a time of 2:11:22 for 12th place (6th in age group), while Matthew Sayers’ time was 2:23:23 (102nd place, 14th in age group).
Lucy Hurley and Naomi Parkinson ran the Dunstable Downs Challenge Marathon on Sunday morning in 5.15. “It was a hot day, but a stunning course (other than the 2 miles of uphill at the end)!” said Lucy, who described the event as friendly and well-organised.
Nick Malpeli ran the South Cheshire 20 on Sunday morning, coming first MV50 in 02:11:20. It was undulating with over 1000ft of elevation gain and warmer than expected towards the end. “Overall I’m very very happy,” said Malpeli. “I hadn't rested for this race as I was treating it more as a long training run.”
The weekend was also a milestone for Brian Judkins, who completed his 200th parkrun on Saturday. He ran at Wimpole and finished in around 33 minutes. “It’s a long haul from the first round a snow covered field in Basingstoke in Dec 2009,” said Brian. “There were only around a dozen in the country then and the finishing tokens were hand written on pieces of cardboard! I intend to keep going a while longer and get to those few local ones I haven't visited yet.”
Finally, the club hosted its regular First Saturday of the Month 5k run at Letchworth’s Norton Common on Saturday morning. Thanks to perfect weather, a convivial atmosphere, and friendly, supportive marshalling, the run proved as popular as ever, with 78 runners, including 23 Squirrels taking part. The next First Saturday of the Month will be on Saturday 6th October, followed the next day by the NHRR-organised Standalone 10k, one of the biggest events in the local running calendar.
Three Squirrels travelled up the A1M to compete in the Kimbolton Half Marathon on Sunday. The race also included the Eastern Masters Half Marathon Championships where Nick Malpeli enjoyed the cooler conditions and secured 1st MV50 in a season's best time of 01:20:45. Robert Harris came in second for the club in 01:29:14 and Caroline Thrussell finished the race in 01:50:55 to be 2nd FV55.
Further afield, Simon Poole gave his last performance for the club before moving to Bicester, a dramatic twist. While running the Riverside Half Marathon in Lancashire, he ended the race covered in blood with no memory of falling or of the last 3 miles at all, still finishing in a creditable 1:34:09! Simon is hoping for a less painful race next month when he, alongside club mates Jim McConnel and Katie Harbon are heading to Ibiza to represent Great Britain in the Duathlon European Championships.
Four Road Runners and a support crew made a worthwhile journey to the Thorney 5 mile race near Peterborough. Despite windy conditions, the fast and flat course made for some excellent performances. First home for the club and securing third place was Adam Bowller in a PB time of 27:28 closely followed by Mark Vaughan - in 4th and winning the MV45 category in 28:01. Pete Sibbett finished in 34:50 and Karen Dodsworth in 43:17.
Closer to home Sue Foot and Jo Summers ventured on their annual trip to Wheathampstead for the 'Leila's Run' Marathon. They both enjoyed 'the lovely undulating route, scenery and good company of other runners'. Jo completed the race in 4:12 and Sue in 4:41.
As always, Squirrels were out in force throughout the country at Parkruns; Ellie Scott (23:39) in Norwich. Chris Poole (23:48) at Clapham Common. Matthew Davies (19:13) and Jodie Brumhead (24:19) in Dulwich. Vincent Wright (21:40), James Dalton (21:58), Stephen Lummis (23:43), John Russell (24:39) and Adrian Sherwood (28:54) in Letchworth. Jillian Boys (25:03) at Great Denham . Chris Stokes (20:58) at Tamar Lakes. Steve Williamson (21:23) at Holkham. Ian Datlen (21:08) and Patrick Norris (31:05) in Stevenage.
Saturday saw a scurry of squirrels heading over to compete and support at the Milton Keynes for the MK5000 PB special. A night of 5000m track races graded by recent times & led by a pacer to 3000m made for some tight racing & excellent times with over 60% of participants achieving a PB. Supporters were allowed into lane 4, with plenty of food, an open bar & commentary on each race, there was a great atmosphere. First up for NHRR was Stewart Overton in Race G, finishing 3rd in a new PB of 16.53.13. In the next race Adam Bowller finished 2nd & another PB in 16:15.99. The action continued with Andrew Leach & Mark Vaughan finishing in 15:59.00 & 16.23.60 respectively.
Speaking to an elated Adam Bowller afterwards he proclaimed “It was a fantastic evening culminating in watching some fabulous racing in the mens & womens BMC races. I'd thoroughly recommend this for next year”.
Darren Sunter headed over to Newark for the Half marathon. Sunter finished in 6th place overall and 3rd V35 with a time of 1:17:28.
Five squirrels ran the St Albans 10k on Sunday morning. A fairly flat and fast course that followed the old railway line. “It was so nice to run in considerably cooler conditions” said Lucy O'Connor after finishing. This produced some great results. O'Connor was first home for the club, finishing in 50:27. Dervla Downing finished in 51:36. Russ Hagan finished with a new PB of 51:50. Andrew Porter was the 1st V70 finishing with 56:04. Sheila Leavy finished just over the 60 min mark with 1:00:06.
Matt Davies ran the Burnham Beeches Half Marathon on Sunday morning. The course was a two lap 'undulating' course through the Burnham Beeches Nature Reserve. Davies broke the 90 min mark for the first time and finished 27th with a new PB by over 5:30 of 1:26:22. Davies said afterwards “it was a lovely course. The trees provided lots of rain and wind protection and shade”.
16 Squirrels ran at 9 different Parkruns. Chris Poole (26:17) at Richmond. Jodie Brumhead (24:01) and Matthew Davies (24:01) at Cambridge. Michelle (27:11) and Andrew Grudzinski (29:11) at St Andrews. Cara Sutton (26:26) at Huddersfield. Stephen Lummis (22:45) and John Russell (30:18) Stevenage. Joanne Sopala (36:53) at Conwy. Andrew Underhill (22:47) at Holkham. Linda Aird (28:59) at Ludlow. Vincent Wright (21:57), James Dalton (22:24), Eva Mccabe (22:39), Jillian Boys (25:03) and Brian Judkins (32:58) at Letchworth
Seven Squirrels ran the St Neots Riverside Runners 10k. The race followed a stunning route, a mixture of tarmac paths, short road sections and lots of off-road. Linda Aird said, “It is quite ‘technical’, in that it twists and turns a lot and the constantly changing terrain underfoot meant you had to concentrate - add in the blistering heat and it made for quite a challenging morning's racing!” The team were very happy with the medals, t-shirts and the charity cake stand at the end which was very well stocked(!), in this well-organised race.
Linda Aird was first home for the club and 2nd in her age category in 53.35. Michelle Grudzinski was next home in 53:35, followed by Lucy O'Connor (57:34). Sue Foot then finished and was first in her age category in 57:45, winning a bottle of bubbly! Karen Dodsworth finished in 59:04, followed by Sheila Leavy (65:02) and Andy Grudzinski (65:48).
Tom Webb finished 6th overall in the Bewl Water Olympic Distance Triathlon in Kent on Sunday in 2 hours 10 minutes, just 1 minute off of the podium. It was a hilly bike and run course with a strong field including a couple of GB triathletes, and Tom had the fastest run leg of the day.
Elsewhere, on Saturday, it was the North Herts Road Runners First Saturday of the Month on Norton Common, Letchworth and among the many finishers were 19 Squirrels. First home for the club, in 5th place, was Matt Davies (19:29), with Sophie Thrussell finishing as first lady (22:11).
11 club members ran Parkruns. James Keogh (18:47) finished first at Poolbeg, followed by Clare Hooley (33:04). Pat Norris was at Gorleston Cliffs (35:47); Steve Lummis (25:15) and Chris Poole (26:57) travelled to Tring, while Brian Judkins (36:40) was at Wimpole Estate. Closer to home at Stevenage there were 4 Squirrels - Simon Poole (18:49); Pete Sibbett (22:00); Ellie Scott (24:01) and Jo Sherry (27:41), while at Letchworth Daniel Mallett finished in 24:02.
On Thursday night 50 squirrels battled the soaring temperatures to take on the annual Fairlands Valley Spartans Relays.
There were some excellent individual performances with PBS flying everywhere despite the sweltering heat and airless conditions, but the night was all about working together as a team. The lady squirrels won the women's event - Astrid McKeown, Helen Cairns and Sarah Mitcherson took the trophy and were crowned Herts County Champions!
NHRR's 'B' team of Kat Burr, Paula Holm and Jane Clarke secured the bronze for the FV35 category. The male squirrels, not to be outdone by the ladies, also took away medals with a 2nd in the open event - Mark Vaughan, Adam Bowller, Stewart Overton, Darren Sunter, and Tom Webb and NHRR's 'B' team won silver for the MV40 category with a team of Lee Hayes, Nick Malpelli, James Walsh, Darren Matussa and Ryan Smith.
On Wednesday night three Squirrels travelled up to Bedford for the annual Doug Anderson Memorial 5K. Darren Matussa was first home for the club in a course PB of 18:23 and was 16th overall. Michelle Grudzinski was delighted to clock a massive PB of 23:53, having been paced by fellow squirrel Adam Wilson who finished in 24:19, his second fastest time!
On Sunday three Squirrels enjoyed "more favourable conditions" at the Lee Valley 10 Festival 10 Mile event. Stewart Overton, not content with having secured victory on his first track race, taking on the 1500m distance at the Watford Open in 4:46 and a PB at the FVS Relays, he was "very pleased" to take 5th place and rack up his 3rd PB of the week in an impressive 60:33. Michelle and Andy Grudzinski also made their journey worthwhile by both scoring PBs of 1:31.23 and 1:42.36.
Home and holidaying squirrels were out in force throughout the UK - notably Richard and Jo Harbon tackled the Oban Parkrun and reflected that "it was a full blooded fell run with serious hills", but still managed to finish 7th male and 10th lady! Squirrel Stephen Lummis advised other Parkrun enthusiasts to check their Parkrun is on before travelling, having driven to Panshanger early Saturday morning to find it cancelled. Thankfully he had enough time to "drive like Lewis Hamilton" across to Ellenbrook Fields, arriving 3 minutes before the start and still ran a creditable 23:10!
Sunday saw Nick Malpeli and Astrid McKeown voyaged down to Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey for the Caterham Rotary Half Marathon, which incorporated the British Masters Half Marathon Championships.
Another warm one, with Nick Malpeli finding the undulating 2 lap course hard going the second time around. Malpeli finished with a seasons worst time of 01:23:41. This was 10 seconds slower than at the Hitchin Hard Half (so maybe it wasn't so hard after all). It was still good enough to secure him the British Masters MV50 Bronze. Astrid McKeown came 3rd FV45 in a time of 1:33:25 winning the British Masters FV45 Bronze.
Most of the racing started early this weekend with Five Squirrels taking on the tough but scenic off-road course at the Panshanger Park 5 Mile race on Thursday evening. This was the second race in the local Midsummer 5 Mile Series.
Unsurprisingly it was another warm evening, and the ladies team went into the race in 1st position after the first race in the series. There was a good turn-out and the bigger field meant the women would have to dig deep to maintain their winning position.
The Ladies team kept up their performance from the previous race to take first place in the series. Finishes were Naomi Parkinson 39:13, Jullian Boys 40:05, Lucy Hurley 42:23, Adam Wilson 43:38 and Alan Hazlehurst 43:51.
Six squirrels headed to Bedford on Friday night for the Beds AAA 10k. The fast, flat course produced some excellent times. Mark Vaughan finished 6th overall in 34:26 and was 1st M45, followed closely by Adam Bowller in 7th with a new PB by 32 seconds in a time of 34:29. Stewart Overton finished in 19th place in a time of 35:58, and Ryan Smith also ran a PB finishing in 36:49. Other Squirrels taking part were Ian Sutcliffe 54:42 and Sue Vaughan 55:28.
Taking the short trip north Andrew Robson competed in the Bedford Super Sprint Triathlon for the 11th time. In perfect racing conditions Robson set new PRs for all three sections clocking an overall time of 1:26:28, almost 4 minutes quicker than last year and finishing 11th in his age group.
Parkrun results as follows: Leamington parkrun John Russell 63rd 22:15, Stevenage parkrun Simon Poole 2nd 18:25, Miranda Mogran 150th 27:43, Helen Giffen 227th 31:16, Patrick Norris 255th 33:16, Naomi Parkinson 302nd 37:37, Wimpole Estate Brian Judkins 285th 35:04, Ellenbrook Fields Chris Pool 56th 23:13, Bakewll Jodie Brumhead 79th 23:52, and Letchworh Parkrun Vincent Wright 10th 21:40, James Dalton 13th 21:52, Jillian Boys 34th 24:54, and Bob Davis 60th 28:42.
North Herts Road Runners enjoy success on the roads and in the mountains
Wednesday saw the Midweek League’s ‘Mob Match’, which brings together all of the participating clubs across the divisions for a closing 10k event. Following up their success in Division 1, the North Herts Road Runners produced another show of strength, with the women’s team finishing first in both the open and the Vet categories. They were led home by Paula Adams who finished in 4th place overall with a time of 41:56. The men also produced a strong display with three men, Jim McConnel, Mark Vaughan and Tom Webb, finishing in the top 10. It capped an end to what has been a breakthrough season for the Squirrels in the league’s highly competitive top flight. At the awards presentation after the race, Team NHRR picked up prizes for the second team overall in Division 1, the first Vets’ team overall and the first Vets’ Men’s team. The Squirrels also bagged a clutch of individual trophies: Katie Harbon was first female overall, and Astrid McKeown was second. Sarah Mitcherson was first V35, while Paula Adams was first V45. For the men, Mark Vaughan won first V40, and Matt Sayers won second V40.
There was plenty more hard running to come for the Squirrels, and not just on the roads. Jim McConnel and Michelle Grudzinski both travelled to Snowdonia at the weekend. Michelle took part in the Trail Half Marathon, which included seven brutal miles up Snowden, and finished in 3.15.23. Jim took on the full marathon, and in his very first attempt at the distance, finished in 11th position out of 698 entrants. Despite battling some punishing climbs, the dreaded cramp, dehydration and hunger, Jim posted a time of 4 hours and 23 minutes, and even ended up with a smile on his face. “Appetite whetted, I might just try another,” he said after the race. “Maybe a flat road one next time!”
Sue Foot took on the Lulworth Cove Challenge, and enjoyed stunning scenery as well as a total elevation of no less than 2351 metres. Sue was one of 60 runners who ran along the coast from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door and back, crossing MOD land and taking in some amazing views, and she was very pleased to finish with a time of 8 hours 37.
In Northamptonshire, Jo Summers ran the Hannington Hike. This new, gently undulating route took in numerous beautiful villages. She completed the full distance, which turned out to be 28.5 miles in total, “even without making any mistakes,” in 5 hours 28.
Closer to home, Lucy Hurley and Naomi Parkinson ran the Fairlands Valley Challenge Ultra, a 50k event, which in fact was closer to 55k in length. On a blisteringly hot day, the temperatures topped 29 degrees. Their verdict of the race: “Definitely would recommend if you want a challenge!” Other Squirrels taking part on the day were Katherine Burr, Caroline Thrussell and Paul Bowel.
North Herts Road Runners have various training groups for different abilities and levels of experience. The Purple Group is billed as a good place to start if you’re new to running, and seven members of the group showed what massive strides they have made since joining the club, by running the British 10k in London. Kelly Hanlon, Jo Kenlin, Shani Fielding, Joanne Sopala, Hayley Cocks, Monica Cullin and Shirley Calcutt were joined by fellow Squirrel Stuart Cocks in posting fantastic times, and in doing so raised £1700 for MS Trust.
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