Saturday saw seven hardy squirrels take part in the Ashridge Boundary Run a challenging trail race. It’s a 16.3 mile circuit of the Ashridge National Trust estate near Tring with over 1400ft of climbing and a spectacular run along the ridge of Ivinghoe Beacon in the early part of the race.
The Beast from the East made an unwelcome return on race day adding snow and bitter wind conditions for runners, but the real challenge was the mud. Lots of it.
Despite the harsh conditions our Vet Women did really well, Suzy Trott finished 1st in the FV40 category, in 2:29:02 with only 5 senior women ahead of her. Caroline Thrussell running well again after injury was 2nd FV50 in 2:48:16 and Miranda Morgan was first home in the FV60 category in 3:12:01.
Other finishes completing the challenge were Martyn Annetts 2:29:02, Barbara Sayers 2:44:45, Linda Aird 3:04:38 and Carina Quayle 3:31:24.
With a lot of running events cancelled on Sunday due to the extreme weather conditions most squirrels had an unexpected day off from racing. Andrew Drew did make the trip to Hastings for the half marathon finishing in a time of 1:39:29 and Jo Summers tested herself at the BoxFit 5 hour Endurance event, running 27.5 miles in 4 hours and 42 minutes.
Out at parkruns in Letchworh Eva McCabe was first lady in 23:31, James Dalton 9th 23:32, Chris Poole 16th 25:14 and Lewis Green 23rd 26:06. Stevenage results saw Naomi Parkinson 61st 26:16, Ellie Scott 62nd 26:19 and Brian Judkins 134th 34:06. Lucy Hurley finished Gedling parkrun 98th in 32:13, Joseph Sherry was 50th in Luton in 25:39 and Matt Davies finished 4th at Keswick parkrun in 20:06
On Saturday John Auld travelled to Yorkshire to race in the Silkstone Shuffle Series. The course was wet and muddy throughout and the stiles along the course were very slippery but Auld finished 2nd in a time of 28:30.
Husband and wife team Andy and Michelle Grudzinski took to the Thames to run the Meander. Andy opted for the half marathon option whilst Michelle, despite still suffering from a long term injury, opted to run the marathon distance. Even though the pain returned Michelle continued to the finish, even 'taking on all puddles and mud piles as going around them was too much effort' and finished just under 5 hours in 4:54:54.
Several squirrels travelled to Milton Keynes to take part in the Festival of Running on Sunday. Ben Ryan ran the 20 mile race in 3:07:11. Four opted for the half marathon; James Keogh 1:29:18, Katherine Burr 1:38:57; Helen Govey 2:12:02 and Brian Bailey 2:12:27. A further three chose the 10K race: Dave Frampton 43:41; Helen Ferguson 1:05:41 and Clare Hooley 1:20:13. Dave Frampton said after the race "I found the course unexpectedly hilly, running up ''Mount'' Campbell Park at the end seemed very hard work. I was quite pleased though as I was the first vet 60."
Now that the snow has gone Parkruns were being held again. Bedford saw two NHRR runners finish first and second place - Adam Bowller 16:53; and Stewart Overton 17:29. Joy Stroud ran in Poole in 30:53. Mile End saw Chris Poole finish in 23:38; Steve Lummis ran at Canons Park in 23:45; Joe Sherry, Ellenbrook Fields 26:19; whilst Letchworth Parkrun had Eva McCabe 24:24; Lewis Green 26:23 and Patrick Norris 43:01.
With so many Saturday morning parkruns cancelled due to the icy conditions, North Herts Road Runners’ First Saturday of the Month on Norton Common, Letchworth, shone like a beacon in the wilderness. 80 hardy runners and around 20 marshalls and helpers turned out in the snow to put on this renowned local event. Paula Holm, one of the brave runners said, “Thank you so much for making this amazing run happen! The absolute best way to start a Saturday off work! Superb atmosphere and that snowman that appeared from nowhere on our second lap was immense - I love snow and I love running - so this morning was a winning combination!”. Caroline Thrussell, added “thank you to the marshalls , hot chocolate maker and snowman builder. A lovely morning.”. Race Director Richard Harbon commented “A big hand to all those that turned out on the common to marshal, run, cheer and throw snowballs. We had 80 runners, so well done to all.” He continued “It was great fun. One of life's pleasures is running in the snow and we did so in great company this morning.” In terms of the results, the Squirrels had 5 of the first 6 finishers, as well as the first lady finisher. Jim McConnel won the race (18:03), followed by Stuart Overton Stuart 2nd (18:45), in 4th place Matt Sayers (19:21), with Paul Jackson 5th (19:36), Oliver Brady (Jnr) 7th (20:11), Matthew Davies 8th (20:32), Chris Stokes 14th (22:31), Eva McCabe (Jnr) 1st lady and 16th overall (22:39), John Cooper 19th (23:00), James Keogh 20th (23:01), Richard Harbon 23rd (24:00), Lucy O'Connor 33rd (26:19) NHRR, Caroline Thrussel 36th (26:46), Paul Holm 39th (27:25), Linda Aird 45th (28:28), Paul Bowal 48th (29:11), Geoff Murray-Rochard 49th (29:14), Karen Dodsworth §50th (29:24), Sheena Cook 51st (29:31), Andrew Porter 54th (30:15), Katrina Dixon 56th (30:36), Carina Quayle 57th (31:13), Gladys Cheng 58th (31:14), Helen Cromack 61st (32:08), Dan Martin 62nd (32:19), Joy Stroud 69th (33:57), Ali Mottram 71st (34:43), Brian Judkins 75th (35:29), Jo Sopala 79th (42:08) and Helen Govey 80th (42:08 )
London’s newest race, The Big Half, saw several Squirrels taking on the likes of Sir Mo Farah and Charlotte Purdue in a half-marathon around the capital. There were some supreme performances with Darren Sunter (having warmed up with Sir Mo) finishing in 1:15.04, John Auld achieving a Personal Best time of 1:16:40, David Weston, in his first half-marathon finishing in an impressive 1:42 minutes and Lindsay Cook in 2hr 25. John said, “I was planning on getting the sub-78 minutes that I narrowly missed last year. The second half was tough, but then it dawned on me that I was going to be close to sub 77. Towards the end I dug deep and pushed on again and was suddenly in the last 2 miles. Knowing I would be good in the last mile I started pushing. Seeing the clock at the end, I really put the hammer down and sailed under 77 minutes. Mission accomplished!”
Four plucky Squirrels also ran in this year’s Cambridge Half-Marathon with two personal best times clocked-up. Matt Sayers finished in 1:17:16 (PB), Sophie Thrussell, one of the club’s growing number of new members, crossed the line in 1:38:58. Chris Poole ran a PB with 1:40:12 and Sarah Mitcherson finished close on Chris’ heels in 1:41:27. Chris also ran Panshanger Parkrun (the only Squirrel park runner on Saturday) the day before, finishing in 66th place (24:42).
“Beast from the East hits Baldock, however the runners didn't freeze!” was Darren Matussa's summary of Sunday morning's Baldock Beast Half Marathon - referring to the results rather than the conditions. The race is a tough hilly local, multi terrain course. The wind was up and the temperature was down. Squirrels wore a range of clothing from vest and shorts to full length base layers, buff and hats. NHRR carried home a bunch of trophies. The club won both the men and women team trophies. The men's team was Jim McConnel, John Auld, Darren Matussa and Olly Garbis and the ladies were Astrid McKeown, Paula Holm and Sarah Mitcherson. Other silverware won was 3rd place for Jim McConnel. Astrid Mckeown was 3rd lady. On her Birthday weekend, Paula Holm was 1st FV35. Paula said afterwards that her weekend “couldn't get any better”. Sarah Mitcherson was 3rd FV35 and Lucy O'Connor was 1st FV55. Joy Stroud also set a new club FV70 half marathon record, finishing in 2:24:49. Jim said afterwards that it was “a top effort from all who battled today and tamed the beast” - he added “I couldn't wait to get past half way and have the strong wind blow me back down the hill”. NHRR were also had huge support on route from fellow runners either on the cheer squad or as official race marshals.
A scurry of Squirrels travelled to Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath for the National XC Championships. The start of the race is epic. Adam Bowller said afterwards “the start is like nothing I've experienced, big wide start with 2500 runners charging up a hill that narrows, you have to go hard or you'll lose so much ground”. Adam continues to describe “brutal, sapping mud in places” and “you wonder why your putting yourself through it”.
Christian Allen was in the junior men's race, but unfortunately jared his back and had to pull out of the race. Next was the ladies race which featured four flying feisty female squirrels making up a team which finished 101st. First home was Sarah Mitcherson (432nd) followed by Paula Adams (608th), Lindsay Cook (1079th) and Jane Tyler (1095th). Last on the course were the men who didn't have a team due to injuries, but had five men braving the terrain churned up by the 9 races before hand. First home was Andrew Leech (239th) followed by Adam Bowller (323rd), Darren Sunter (475th), Mark Vaughan (792nd) and Johnny Spinks (2153rd).
Three Squirrels ran the Brighton Half Marathon. Colin Calcutt finished in 2:28. Hayley Cocks and Shani Fielding both finished in 3:06. The pair were running their first half marathon and raising money for the Garden City Hospice after completing the clubs Couch to 5km last June.
Saturday morning was rather chilly too, but it didn’t deter the Parkrunners too much. Two Squirrels headed to Bedford and came away with a couple of Parkrun PBs and an NHRR first and second in the race. John Auld finished in 17:16 and Stewart Overton finished in 17:23. Chris Poole ran his 199th Parkrun on a course named after him, Poole, (may be a co-incidence) and finished in 22:27. At Stevenage Sarah Milhouse finished in 25:43, Coach Karen Dodsworth finished in 26:33 and Helen Giffin finished in 29:32. In Letchworth, 5 Squirells ran. Darren Matussa was first home for the club in 22:58. Other finishers were Naomi Parkinson (24:43), Ellie Scott (24:48), Jo Sherry (26:23) and Brian Judkins (33:33).
David Annetts continued his increasingly successful conversion to race walking by winning the London Vets AC title over the 3000m indoor distance.
Annetts took up race-walking after injuries curtailed his running and he has been getting to grips with the demanding technical requirements of the event.
His latest race, held at the Picketts Lock athletics centre in north London and doubling as the Southern Masters Championships, was an ‘A’-graded event where judging is applied strictly and Annetts received two yellow and two red ‘paddles’ for technique infringements. Forced to ease off in the last 800 metres to avoid a third red and instant disqualification, he was delighted to cross the line first in 14.44 – comfortably inside his 15-minute target time.
Annetts said ‘I’ve not had a red in any previous race, but I am at the point in my walking where you really are treading a fine line to satisfy the judges. From that point of view it was a valuable experience to learn from - which I will!’
Meanwhile Darren Sunter sliced a second off the course record for the new Letchworth Parkrun, crossing the line first in in 19.04.
Stewart Overton took a trip to the seaside to race the Worthing Half Marathon as part of his training for the Rotterdam Marathon in April. The flat course produced some fast times and training obviously paid off as Overton finished 25th with a new PB of 80:05. Overton said ‘I was really pleased as I felt strong throughout but I am disappointed to have missed out on sub 80’.
Naomi Parkinson and Lucy Hurley travelled to Stamford for the St. Valentines 30k. It was the 25th year of the event organised by Stamford Striders. Mixed weather conditions meant they ran through sunshine, wind and hail. The hills made for a challenging but scenic course and provided no protection from the bitter wind. However, they finished strongly in 3:16:48. What better way can there be to show your love of running than to run 18 miles through Lincolnshire and Rutland on a freezing February morning?
Seven squirrels opted for a shorter race at the Love Welwyn Garden City 10k. First in for the club was Dervla Downing in 52:29, followed by Hannah Keeble in 53:07. Sam Martin in her first race since joining the club finished in a new PB by more than 3 minutes of 56:19. Other finishes included Chris Poole 1:00:21, Jennie Andrews 1:04:14, Linsey Ashley 1:04:14 and Monica Cullin who finished 2nd FV70 in 1:33.03.
A few took part in Parkruns: At Letchworth finishing 11th was Matthew Davies in 22:47, 67th Sarah Millhouse 28:55, 109th Joy Stroud 33:59 and 128th Lindsey Lucas 39:24. At Stevenage Parkrun Joseph Sherry was 104th in 27:47 and Helen Giffin finished 124th in 28:36. Chris Poole was at Ellenbrook Fields and finished 54th in 25:39.
Two NHRR members, John Rayner and John Auld travelled to London to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park First Saturday of the Month 10K. Both had a fantastic race with Rayner finishing in fifth position in a new PB of 35:24 and Auld in sixth. Auld said after the event "I finished 6th in 35:54, 8 seconds over my PB, but I was 11th with 2km to go. I was very happy to give the guys in front of me a lesson in finishing strongly"
Three squirrels travelled to Watford to run the rather hilly Half Marathon. Niccolo Bassani finished in 1:35:06, Tom Brownlee in 1:58:19 and Vanessa Rolfe in 2:34:12.
Closer to home the club held their own First Saturday of the Month event as usual at Norton Common. The popular 5K run had 87 people running the full event with one junior taking the option of one lap instead of both laps. It was won by Darren Purchase who finished in 20:01. First lady to finish was squirrel Paula Holm in 21:45. The next free event will be on Saturday 3rd March at 9am and is open to everyone.
Parkruns were run by Helen Cairns (Stevenage) first lady finisher, 22:35; Steve Williamson (Kettering) 20:50; Chris Poole (Barking) 22:31 and Lewis Green (Letchworth) 25:08.
Pat Norris competed in the Harpenden 10k race on Sunday. Pat was running with his eldest son who had bought entry to the race as a Christmas present and finished in 77 minutes, 6 minutes after his son. He said,“This was a four lap course on a very damp, hilly and muddy park which I found quite difficult!”
North Herts Road Runners were out in force at Parkruns across the South-East of England this week, with 26 Squirrels taking to the green and pleasant spaces that this amazing movement seems to have opened up for many.
Amongst the results were 3 first places, with Andrew Leech finishing first in the Bedford Parkrun (17:11), Jane Clarke finishing first lady in Stevenage (21:05) and Eva McCabe first lady (23:43) at the inaugural Letchworth Parkrun. The club has been a big supporter of the new Letchworth Parkrun; 17 other Squirrels took to the muddy course to complete its first running which took place at the Grange Recreation Ground. Rob Milburn (24:32); James Walsh (24:42); Matthew Davies (24:43); Naomi Parkinson (25:53); Lewis Green (26:42); Christian Allen (27:19); Lucy Hurley (28:15); Linda Aird (28:50); Paul Bowal (30:48); Paul Phasey (31:50); Helen Giffin (32:48); Ellie Scott (32:58); Jon Stow (32:59); Hannah Keeble (33:17); Sheila Leavy (33:56); Helen Cromack (34:11) and Joy Stroud (36:31)
In other locations, Darren Matussa was 21st (18:22) at Hackney Marshes, James Laing was 104th (22:59) at Brockwell Park, Phil Hunt was also 104th (23:15) at St. Albans, Steve Williamson was 11th (21:05) at Kettering and Chris Poole was 88th (21:43) at Burgess Parkrun.
Squirrels Andy Grudzinski and Paul Bowal probably had the toughest event of the weekend as they took part in Buff Winter Trail Half Marathon, for the fourth time. That’s 13.2 miles with an impressive 608 m height gain in the hills and woodlands of Coed Y Brenin about one hour south of Mount Snowdon. The theme appears to have lots of mud as well as lots of hills. Running, fueled by plentiful Welsh Rabbit the day before, the going was tough to start with until the 680 runners spread out, and continued to be tough with the sleet turning to snow and the final Sting of a 100m climb up a mud and rock trail over a horizontal distance of 0.6 miles just after the 11-mile marker. Paul ran home in 02:40:58 in 363rd place pipping Andy who had still managed to achieve a personal best time of 02:41:47 in 372nd place.
Seven squirrels made it to St Albans for the Fred Hughes 10miler huddling around the start line in the driving snow. The course was undulating which meant there were loads of hills that no one mentioned, with a healthy number of puddles to be negotiated. Nonetheless our runners thought it was a great race with 759 runners and marshals with drums and tambourines. The after-race cups of water were topped up and decorate with more snow
135 Chris Stokes 01:09:54, 254 David Weston 01:17:14.,374 Naomi Parkinson 01:24:59, 380 Caroline Thrussell 01:25:18, 513 Tom Brownlee 01:32:26, 603 Paul Phasey 01:39:12, 681 Lindsay Cook 01:48:31
David Annetts went to the QE2 Track In Enfield on Saturday morning for the Enfield Race Walking League 5 mile race. He had a good race with no warnings for technique, working his way through a competitive field and taking the lead in the last 1/2 mile. Coming home first in a personal best time of 40:34.
Letchworth Parkrun test event saw a number of Squirrels taking to a muddy course at the Grange to help test the setup of the newest park run in the area.
In Parkruns elsewhere. At Luton Wardown Park Phil Hunt came in 20th in 23:19. Roding Valley, Redbridge saw Darren Matussa come a very creditable second in 21 mins dead. Rickmansworth saw Chris Pooke come in 41st (37th male) home. The Stevenage event was the most popular established race with Eva McCabe the first Squirrel and first woman home in 26th place overall in just 21:57. Lewis Green was 20 places behind in 23:48 but still with Eva as the only female finisher at that stage. The third squirrel home was Helen Griffin in 30:01. Wimple Estate Parkrun saw Vincent Wright running and finishing in 11th place in 20:54
Sunday was the 5th and final race in the Three Counties XC league. Going into the last race, NHRR had some great positions to hold onto - leading the combined, 2nd in the mens and 3rd in the ladies. The combined competition was tight at the top and there was effectively a last race shoot out for the title.
With great spirit and confidence, a scurry of 49 heroic squirrels made the trip to Bedford to battle it out in the mud for the league title. Other squirrels turned out in support too. The course had been shortened earlier in the week due to part of Priory County Park being under water with all the recent rain. Although the weather was mild on the day, the terrain was flat and there was no wind, it was slippy in the mud and tufty grass. There was a few large puddles to get through and indeed a lovely ford to negotiate too. Everybody got wet feet. Being shorter too it meant the pace was higher. Every squirrel gave it their all. Coach Karen gave out some last minute advise on the start line - “its not where you are after mile one, its where you are at the finish line that counts!”.
The scoring team of 8 men all came in the first 22 of the race, giving their lowest score this season. The ladies did fantastic too, producing their 2nd best score this season. The produced NHRR's best combined score this season and also produced a combined team victory. The men also won on the day and the ladies were 2nd.
This maintained the status quo. NHRR Squirrels came home grinning from ear to ear with the combined team league title - NHRR are the league Champions! Runners up in the men and 3rd in the ladies. This is the first time NHRR have won the combined title in 6 years.
Scoring for the men were Jim McConnell (5th), Ed Price (9th), Darren Sunter (10th), Adam Bowller (14th), John Rayner (15th), John Auld (16th), Matt Sayers (20th) and Ryan Smith (22nd).
Scoring for the ladies was Katie Harbon (1st), Jane Clarke (8th), Helen Nuttall (10th) and Astrid Mckeown (14th).
NHRR also won some individual trophies. Jim McConnell won the over V35 category. Ed Price won the over V40 category. Ed said afterwards “Going into the last race, the title was wide open. We still had everything to lose, but everyone turned up and gave it their all. Cross country is a team sport, and running together is what brought us the win today”.
Pictured from left to right is the ladies team captain, Katie Harbon with the ladies team 3rd trophy. The XC secretary, John Auld, with the combined team trophy. The men's team captain, Pete Sibbet, with the men's 2nd place trophy. Photo by James Walsh.
The full turnout of squirrels in the results is given below;
Jim McConnell (5th), Ed Price (9th), Darren Sunter (10th), Adam Bowller (14th), John Rayner (15th), John Auld (16th), Matt Sayers (20th), Ryan Smith (22nd), Mark Vaughan (28th), Stewart Overton (39th), Dan Hills (42nd), Vincent Wright (50th), Andy Green (52nd), Katie Harbon (56th) Dan Martin (59th), Nick Malpeli (68th), James Keogh (70th), James Walsh (74th), Adrian Sherwood (81st), Jane Clarke (122nd), Helen Nuttall (127th), David Watson (128th), Steve Harris (141st), Astrid Mckeown (144th), Marcus Farnfield (150th), Sarah Mitcherson (164th), David Frampton (184th), Paula Adams (189th), Johnny Spinks (195th), Naomi Parkinson (227th), Paul Bowall (252nd), Linda Aird (259th), Matt Ankers (262nd), Caroline Thrussell (268th), Niamh Barry (271st), Lucy O'Connor (274th), Adam Wilson (295th), Lucy Hurley (313rd), Hannah Keeble (332nd), Claire O'Sullivan (333rd), Karen Dodsworth (339th), Brian Baily (342nd), Andrew Porter (346th), Christine Sharpe (365th), Carina Quayle (372nd), Helen Cromack (378th), Jane Tyler (381st), Lindsay Cook (388th) and Joy Stroud (390th).
Andy Grudzinski travelled to Gothenburg in Sweden for the Sandsjobacka Trail of 44.6km in Scandinavian mud and 730m of hills. Andy completed the race in -4 degrees Celsius in a time of 7:02. When asked was it worth it, Andy said yes, with mud splattered from head to toe, bruised legs/arms/knees, having met all sorts of runners and gained the smallest of medals: what a great way to spend a Saturday in January.
Squirrels appeared in Parkruns this week at Stevenage, Ally Pally and Barclay. Rob Milburn, Chris Poole, Steve Lummis and Lewis Green ran Stevenage. Phil Hunt ran at Ally Pally and Paul Phasey ran at Barclay.
News, Notifications and Race Results