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.
Jane Clarke and Jim McConnel both won selection to represent Hertfordshire with impressive performances in the County Cross-country Championships.
The pair were the stand-out performers for North Herts Road Runners on an undulating course at Cassiobury Park, Watford and both received letters from the Hertfordshire selectors at the finish line, inviting them to race at the Inter-counties Cross-country Championships at Loughborough in March.
Clarke admitted to being ‘emotional’ at securing her first opportunity to wear a Hertfordshire vest. ‘I thought I was going to shed a tear’, she said after a superb 14th place finish. McConnel took eighth place in the men’s race and said he was ‘elated to be selected to run for the county’.
Other finishers for the Squirrels in the County Championships: Ladies (8k) Linda Aird, 53rd; Jo Harbon, 57th, Christine Sharp, 86th. Men (12k) Darren Sunter, 16th; Matt Sayers, 37th; John Auld, 43rd; Dan Hills, 47th; Dan Martin, 68th; James Walsh, 77th; James Keogh, 91st; Johnny Spinks, 124th.
Lewis Cromack finished 21st in the under-11s race and Charlotte Spinks was 13th in the under-17s .
The NHRR men’s team took bronze medals for placing third in the team competition.
On the last day of the year a scurry of squirrels took on the undulating 10 mile course at the Buntingford 10. There were no signs of Christmas excess with some excellent performances and fast finish times despite windy conditions. First home for the club in 5th place and 2nd V40 was Ed Price in 57:26. Linda Aird was also among the prize winners finishing 3rd FV55 in 1:25:11. There were PB’s from John Auld 18th 1:01:45, Matt Sayers 20th 1:02:25 and Stewart Overton 26th 1:03:16. Paula Holm made an impressive debut over the distance to finish 107th in 1:14:51.
Other finishers included Darren Sunter 11th 59:20, Vincent Wright 52nd 1:07:30, Matthew Davies 62nd 1:08:45, Steve Tracey 71st 1:10:24, Martyn Annetts 81st 1:12:05, Sarah Mitcherson 128th 1:16:52, Chris Poole 164th 1:20:44, Claire O’Sullivan 195th 1:23:49 and Naomi Parkinson 245th 1:26:32.
Sue Foot took on day two of the Great Barrow Xmas Triple Tipple, a multi terrain marathon challenge. Conditions were cold and icy with sleet and rain showers for most of the first half then strong winds picking up for the second half. ‘This was a marathon that you just had to grit your teeth and finish’ said Foot. ‘I indulged in some of the tipple of the Xmas triple with a mixture of Amaretto and Coca Cola and that got me nicely through to the finish’. The tipple did the trick and Foot finished in 4.33 to complete her 118th marathon.
Steve Lummis completed his 50th Parkrun at Tring in 29:54 with fellow squirrels Phil Hunt 26:41, Chris Poole 27:44, and Paula Holm 32:38. Other Parkrun results included Wimpole Matthew Davies 26:41, Stevenage Helen Cairns 23:29, Kettering Steve Williamson 21:08, Cambridge Brian Judkins 33.25, St Albans David Weston 22:09 and Preston Lindsay Cook 32:59.
As might be expected at this time of year it was a quiet week for team NHRR. Steve Lummis completed his 49th park run on his 24th different course at the muddy, slightly hilly but very scenic Westmill parkrun near Ware. Steve said “Given my preparation and the mud, this was never going to be a quick one.” He finished in 16th place in a time of 26:06 and is now looking forward to the milestone of his 50th, continuing “My 50th parkrun will take place back in my old home town of Tring next week where I ran my first one just over 3 years ago”.
Several other Squirrels also took part in Festive Parkruns. In Bromley, Matthew Davies finished 15th (19:19). In Preston, Lindsay Cook was 210th (31:22). Ellie Scott was 113th at Norwich (23:47) while at Kettering Steve Williamson was 19th (21:04). Chris Poole finished 102nd at Worsley Woods (24:35). At Stevenage a small Squirrel squad complete the course: first home for tech club was Ollie Garbas in 19th place (20:34), followed closely by John Cooper, 22nd (20:52), Phil Hunt, 37th (22:17), Claire O’Sullivan, 75th (24:37), Carina Quayle, 140th (29:59) and in 225th place Johanne Kenlin (43:07).
Sunday saw the Three Counties Cross Country League home race for NHRR at Standalone Farm. In bitter cold conditions that brought both mud and ice in places on the course a total of 36 squirrels scurried around the course with many others giving up their spare time to marshall and provide support. With several of NHRR's runners missing due to injury or marshalling duties the pressure was on those who were able to run to bring in a good result in the home race.
Amongst a total 321 runners on the day NHRR excelled once again with the combined team coming out top on the day. The scoring team for the men were Jim McConnel, Darren Sunter, John Auld, Matt Sayers, Ryan Smith, Stewart Overton, Dan Hills and Vincent Wright. For the ladies' team the scorers were Katie Harbon, Jane Clarke, Tash Pitman and Sarah Mitcherson. There is everything to run for at the last race in the New Year as NHRR are currently top of the league but with only a small margin it's not over yet.
Due to the cold conditions this weekend many local parkruns were cancelled for safety reasons. Those who managed to find a parkrun to race were Steve Lummis (Milton Keynes) 23:28; Phil Hunt (Cambridge) 22:31; Matthew Davies (Wimpole) 25:45 and Chris Poole (Castle Park) 23:14
John Auld headed north to race the Silkstone Shuffle, a seasonal 4.5-mile multi terrain race organised by Barnsley Harriers with a very brutal 2-mile uphill start.
Auld started off chasing the race leader but quickly eased off the pace as he realised he was probably going faster than he wanted. Focusing then on holding second place he pushed on up the hill. ‘I’d forgotten just how hard this hill is, it just keeps going, and going... Twists and turns and surface changes, it’s really tough. It does level off near the top however, the flat section is where conditions were icy, and it was rather dangerous. I had a couple of little slips and decided to slow down a touch. This is when I got overtaken’ said Auld. Holding on Auld finished in 3rd place overall, with a new PB of 27:24.
This is the 11th time Auld has run the race, and he’s worked himself up from outside the top 20, to podium finishes.
Chris Poole who has run 185 Parkruns was doing a bit of Parkrun tourism in Poland at the weekend completing the alphabet challenge. The challenge consists of running a Parkrun which begins with every letter of the alphabet (excluding X, as there isn’t one yet). On his fourth international Parkrun Poole completed his challenge at Jablonna.
Other squirrels braving the cold at Parkruns this weekend included Claire O’Sullivan finishing in 23:49 at Strathclyde parkrun, Phil Hunt 23:11 at Ally Pally and closer to home at Stevenage John Cooper 21:05, Adam Wilson 24:28 and Paul Bowal 25:01.
The last ‘First Saturday of the Month’ NHRR race around Norton common is billed as the ‘Santa Canter’ and saw a record breaking 293 finishers. The emphasis of this race is not really on the times but on the sheer fun of being out early and running with other people, Oh and of course, dressing up! There were more Santas, Elves, Fairies (good and bad), Snowmen, Wise Men, Reindeer, Turkeys, Christmas puddings, Christmas Trees and Christmas jumpers than you could shake a stick at, with one person breaking the mould in a full Bah Humbug outfit.
It was a great atmosphere on a day which was warmer and drier than might have been expected, although it was a little slick under foot in paces. During the run one of the marshals combined his roll with serenading the runners with Christmas tunes on his Trumpet, and a group of Singing Snowman were singing all the way around the 5K route. The finishers were rewarded with medals and refreshed with (non-alcoholic) Mulled Wine and mince pies. With over £700 raised for the MS Therapy Centre into the bargain.
The flat running race was won by NHRR’s John Auld in 18 mins and 16 seconds with Jane Clarke, again of NHRR, the first lady home in 21:43. The winners of the awards for costumes went to Shani Fielding dressed as a Christmas tree with Spencer Bevan and his two children winning the best dressed family, with a couple of matching Santa outfits and a human Christmas tree/elf on the shoulders.
With the Santa Canta being such a popular event with there were only a few NHRR runners running in other events Patrick Norris ran the Parkrun in Bury St Edmunds in 34:51, Helen Nuttall ran in the one in Stevenage in 33:04 and Chris Poole might be forgiven for missing the Santa Canta as he ran the Amager Strandpark Parkrun in Denmark! Finishing in 23:27
Over a longer distance Martyn Annetts (1:33:49) and Suzy Trott (1:40:02) found that some recent hard training sessions paid off on the undulating Bedford Half Marathon course, both of them improving on their finishing times from their last outing at this distance.
A heroic scurry of 41 squirrels travelled to Dunstable for race 3 in the Three Counties cross country league. The men's team finished first and the ladies were second giving us an overall team result of first. This means that NHRR are currently 2nd overall, 2nd in the men's and 4th in the ladies in the league.
The scoring team for the men consisted of Jim McConnell (8), Adam Bowller (10), Ed Price (11), John Auld (12), John Rayner (15), Matt Sayers (21), Ryan Smith (29) and Dan Hills (39). For the ladies Katie Harbon (68), Astrid McKeown (93), Jane Clarke (117) and Tash Pitman (178).
Also running was Vince Wright (57), James Keogh (63), Nick Malpeli (65), Adrian Sherwood (76), Richard Harbon (97), David Welsh (107), Steve Tracey (118), James Walsh (119), David Weston (138), Pete Sibbett (179), Paula Adams (188), Sarah Mitcherson (191), Johnny Spinks (211), Linda Aird (276), Jo Harbon (277), Adam Wilson (279), Caroline Thrussell (284), Hannah Keeble (287), Paul Bowal (295), Lucy O'Connor (305), Sue Vaughan (309), Nicky Tracey (312), Miranda Morgan (313), Sheila Leavy (334), Christine Sharp (337), Lindsay Cook (357), Joy Shroud (360), Corina Quayle (364) and Brian Judkins (365).
Stewart Overton is officially good for his age after running the Zurich Maratoia/San Sebastian finishing in a new marathon PB of 3:02:01.
Hatfield 5 mile included a dray of squirrels in the results including 4 members of NHRR recent beginners group. Alice Bates (41.26) was first home for the club, closely followed by Ian Sutcliffe (41.52) who was 1st MV70 in the County. Also running was Heidi Millart-Griffin (51.28), Kelly Hanlon (58.59), Lindsey Lucas (50.49), Jo Kenlin (1.04.30).
Several squirrels ran at parkrun this week. Brian Judkins ran 33:37 at Bedford. Steve William ran 21:19 at Kettering. Phil Hunt ran 22:24 at Evesham. Closer to home, 3 squirrels ran at Stevenage, Oli Garbas (22:37), Steve Lummis (23:10) and Chris Poole (23:53).
There was a clutch of new personal bests for North Herts Road Runners on one of the most popular weekends of the year for half-marathon running.
Mark Edmondson-Jones was delighted to clock 1.25.31 at the Hertfordshire Half-marathon – a new event starting and finishing at Knebworth House. He also took the honours as first finisher in the 50-plus age group.
Further up the A1 Matt Sayers also recorded a new best of 1.19.13 in finishing 15th at the St Neots Half-marathon, with Ed Price (6th in 1.16.18) the only Squirrel ahead of him. Club Chairperson Astrid McKeown was first lady home for North Herts in 1.29.09 on the 13.1-mile course.
Other NHRR finishers in the weekend’s half-marathons: at St Neots: Vince Wright, 1.23.36; Darren Matussa, 1.23.53; Sarah Mitcherson, 1.41.56; Claire O’Sullivan, 1.50.19; in the Herts Half-marathon: Steve Foster, 1.38.30; James Drew, 1.41.05; Lucy O’Connor, 1.56.06; Ben Ryan, 1.56.11; Linda Aird, 1.56.41; Katrina Dixon, 2.04.48; Micelle Grudzinski, 2.05.14; Alison Blunt, 2.05.15; Miranda Morgan, 2.10.43; Lindsay Cook, 2.31.19; Vanessa Rolfe, 2.33.17; Mark Pinney, 2.33.52; Linsey Ashley, 2.38.49, Jennie Andrews, 2.38.49.
Linsey and Jennie's success was all the more notable as both are both recent ‘graduates’ from the NHRR beginners group and completed their first ever 5k only 10 weeks ago.
Hayley Cocks completed her first ever Parkrun at Stevenage in 38.53.
Long-distance experts Jo Summers and Sue Foot both tackled the picturesque Shillington Shuffle off-road marathon on tracks and farmland starting and finishing at Barton-le-Clay in 4 hours 44 and 5.40 respectively.
Sunday saw the second race in the season’s Three Counties Cross Country League. 34 North Herts Road Runners took to the Wootton course. The men’s scoring team of Jim McConnell, Ed Price, Adam Bowler, John Auld, Matt Sayers, Stewart Overton, Ryan Smith and Nick Malpelli finished in second place and the women’s scoring team of Jane Clarke, Sarah Mitcherson, Linda Aird and Naimh Barry (in her first race for the club) finished in 8th place giving the Squirrels an overall 4th place on the day. Other runners were Dan Hills, Vince Wright, Simon Poole, Adrian Sherwood, Steve Wells, Matt Davies, Richard Harbon, James Walsh, Marcus Farnfield, Johnny Spinks, Lucy O’Connor, Ian Sutcliffe, Miranda Morgan, Karen Dodsworth, Sue Vaughan, Christine Sharpe, Jane Tyler, Helen Crommack, Lindsay Cooke, Brian Judkins, Geoff Pentengell and Monica Cullin.
In the overall standings NHRR are 3rd, with the men’s team in 2nd place and the women in 4th.
Further afield, in the Greek sunshine, Michele Grudzinski completed her 10th marathon (and her 3rd in 7 weeks) in the Athens Authentic Marathon in a time of 4:39:28.
11 Squirrels took part in ParkRuns. Ellie Scott - 28:44 (366th) in Norwich. Julie Jones - 38:48 (407th) in Bedford. Chris Poole - 26:47 (72nd) in Wanstead Flats. Brian Judkins - 33:30 (281st) in Woodley. Matthew Davies - 25:49 (92nd) at Wimpole Estate. Stephen Lummis - 26:06 (28th) at a muddy Rushmere Park. Mark Cook - 21:39 (9th) in March. At Stevenage Oliver Brady was 5th in 19:47; John Cooper was 12th in 20:56; Joe Sherry was 71st in 25:01 and Sheila Leavy was 162nd in 29:01
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