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!
North Herts Road Runners flew around Ampthill Park on Sunday in race four of the Three Counties Cross Country League. The squirrels won both the men’s and ladies team event keeping them top of the league overall with one race to go.
Cross country captain John Auld couldn’t have been happier with the result. ‘I am absolutely delighted that we got a well-deserved clean sweep of victories today! Exactly the results we wanted. A superb team performance by all.’
There were 37 runners who toughed it out in windy conditions over a challenging course. The women’s team totally smashed all the competition finishing 35 points clear of nearest rivals Wellingborough and District. Natalie Lawrence was first home for the team followed by Katie Harbon, Astrid McKeown, Paula Adams, Jane Clarke and Caroline Thrussell. They are now joint top in the league competition with it all to race for in the last race.
It was a close competition between NHRR and Ampthill and Flitwick Flyers men’s teams with the squirrels winning with just one place making all the difference. Tom Webb lead the men’s team home finishing in 3rd place. There were more strong performances from the scoring team with Adam Bowller 5th, Jim McConnell 7th, Darren Sunter 9th, Matt Sayers 10th, Ed Price 19th, Stewart Overton 22nd and Mark Vaughan 25th.
Having won the combined men’s and women’s competition in all 4 races so far, NHRR are firm favourites to retain the title at the final race in two weeks.
Michelle and Andy Grudzinski headed for some sunshine miles on the Caribbean island of Turks & Caicos. Their holiday happened to coincide with the TCI Move-a-thon which included a marathon. Michelle finished in 4:54:26 2nd female and 3rd overall and Andy finished in 5:31:23 6th overall. Michelle did confess, ‘The total Marathon field amounted to 7 people! In fact, the locals seemed to think running, let alone a marathon, was a stupid idea; Andy doesn’t disagree.’ Andy responded that, ‘In Michelle’s words - we were not last, and it is not our fault no one else entered. She’s going to be living off her podium finish for the rest of her life.’
David Annetts competed in the first race of the Enfield Race Walking League (5 miles) on Saturday. Good conditions and recent training and coaching sessions gave Annetts the confidence that he could extend his race pace and was rewarded with a personal best winning time of 38:54.
Jillian Boys doubled up this weekend not only competing in the cross country at Ampthill but also racing the ‘Fido’s Forest Frenzy’, which is a purely canicross race. Canicross is racing with dogs. The event was set in the beautiful Thetford Forest and run over a course that was approx 12km. Boys ran with both her dogs Poppy & Lulu the chocolate labs. Boys said, ‘They were absolute superstars and did me proud as we finished in 2nd place in a chip time of 56.54!’
Matt Sayers also doubled up this weekend by winning his Parkrun debut at Letchworth in a time of 18:26.
‘Gritty and attritional’ was Tom Webb’s verdict on a close-fought Herts County Cross-country Championships race, as only the narrowest of margins prevented North Herts Road Runners from regaining the Herts County mens’ Cross-country title they last won in 2015.
After a tough battle over a demanding 12k course in St Albans’ Verulamium Park, the Squirrels saw their six-man team’s finishing positions total 105 points – just two more than the 103 registered by new champions Watford Joggers.
Webb secured an impressive fourth place in the individual standings and had great support from Jim McConnel (8th), Matt Sayers (12th), Ed Price (24th), Mark Vaughan (26th) and Stewart Overton (31st). ‘I enjoyed it’, said Overton after giving his all on the final circuit of the undulating 3-lap course - ‘my heart rate felt steady but the legs couldn’t take me any faster’.
Webb, McConnel and Sayers saw their performances rewarded with invitations to represent Hertfordshire at the prestigious Inter-counties Championships at Loughborough in March.
Ellie Webb flew the North Herts flag in the ladies’ Championships and finished comfortably in the top half of the field in 37th, while Eva McCabe finished 8th in the under-17s race.
It was a weekend of double success for Matt Sayers as he had warmed up for Sunday’s cross-country by winning the Road Runner’s regular First Saturday of the Month 5k in an excellent time of 18.02. An impressive 92 runners braved the chilly conditions to complete their first ‘FSOTM’ of the year. Elodie Levis of Team Trident was the first lady in 23.59.
Serial marathon runner Sue Foot spent New Year’s Day tackling the Flitch Way Marathon – an out-and-back route between Braintree and Bishop’s Stortford. She was pleased to finish in 4 hours 36 – ‘nine minutes faster than the marathon I did four days earlier’.
Lindsay Cook was delighted to hit her sub-30 target at the Bakewell Parkrun with a 29.14 finish time – ‘a great start to my new year of running!’.
A first 90%-plus age grading was David Annetts’ reward as he continued his successful conversion to race walking at the Lee Valley New Year Open Meeting. Annetts completed the 3000m race in 13.43 for an outstanding second place and said he was particularly pleased as he ‘had narrowly missed the 90% grade as a runner’.
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