The South England Athletics Association held the Annual Cross Country Championships on Saturday. The Women had to run a gruelling 8k and the men 15k in very hilly and muddy conditions. The ladies representing NHRR were Katie Harbon (34:18), Paula Adams (39:17) and Jo Harbon (46:10). The men were Mark Vaughan, Vince Wright (1:03:50), James Keogh (1:05:33), Darren Sunter (56:48), Wayne Bell, John O’Gorman (1:04:55) and Johnny Spinks (1:17:43).
David Annetts travelled to Amsterdam for the De Lat Winterserie 10k Walk. He was very pleased to set a new PB on the sunny morning of 47:16. A challenging race where David only lost out to local walker Paul Jansen on the final lap of the 4 lap course.
Phillip Flack decided to rest his legs from churning through all the mud at his regular Letchworth Parkun and travelled to Bedford Parkrun for a change. This proved a good decision as he knocked 15 seconds off his personal best finishing in 26:15 and won his age group of over 65s.
Father and son Andrew and Matt Leech travelled to Texas USA to compete in the Houston Half Marathon and finished in 62:55 and 71:11 respectively. The pair were undertaking an official attempt to break the father-son half marathon combined time world record and did so by an amazing six and a half minutes.
A scurry of squirrels ran the Fred Hughes 10 mile race in St Albans – which incorporated the Herts County championships. Described as a very well organised race on an undulating course taking in some of the Hertfordshire countryside. Carl Haskell achieved a new personal best (PB) of 69:58. Lucy O'Connor finished in 1:25:05. David Weston was in familiar territory as the race HQ was his former school. David said that those near him in the race could often hear him shout out loud former teachers names in anger to help motivate himself. This clearly was affective as he finished with a new personal best of 68:32. Andrew Coates also ran a new PB with a time of 80:45. Others running were Kat Gourd (1:25:53), Matt Roberts (1:24:51), Ian Harvey (1:13:52) and Dervla Downing (1:17:23).
Four runners and a giant chocolate squirrel took the annual pilgrimage to the Buff Trail Half Marathon Wales. The event has been represented by NHRR at for the last 6 years, since its inception. Adam Wilson went up off the hill and wasn't seen again until it was time for the finish line mug of hot vegetable soup. His time was a fabulous 2.35.21. Paul Bowal and Andy Grudzinski were the next squirrels in having run much of the race together. This was unusual for Paul who has a reputation for finding young females to run with. That may explain why Andy beat him to the finish in a time of 2.47.29. Paul's no-female to chase time was 2.47.37. Michelle Grudzinski ran with an achillies problem which gave her pain and a finish time of 3:08:43. Michelle declared herself NHRR queen of the Sting, a separately timed very steep up hill section – whilst NHRR King of the Sting was Adam Wilson.
David Annetts started off his 2020 race season with the 5 mile Enfield event of the Race Walking league. Finishing in 1st place in a time of 38:00.
Vanessa Rolfie was the sole squirrel at the Folksworth 15. The last time she ran this race the weather was atrocious – this time the sun was out but there were still some hazardous black ice to look out for. Nessa was very pleased with her run and time.
Nick Malpeli ran close to where he grew up at the Essar Four Villages Half Marathon, finishing 111th with a time of 80:53. Although the temperature was still almost zero and foggy throughout - Nick was pleasantly surprised by the still and dry conditions amongst the recent rain and windy weather.
Luton Wardown: Andrew Coates 23:43, Dave Braybrook 25:45, Tim Banting 27:03
Ashton Court: Georgina Quayle 30:38
Milton Keynes: Jillian Boys 29:02
Westmill: Phillip Flack 28:50
Stevenage: Russell Hagen 26:18, Julie Toland 26:54, Jane Clarke 27:37, Patrick Norris 34:11
Linford Wood: Naomi Parkinson 24:51
Yeovil Montacute: Brian Judkins 35:04
Ellenbrook Fields: Siobhan Walsh 29:05
Letchworth: James Dalton 23:01, Ian Datlen 23:51, Ellie Scott 33:02
Drumpellier Country: Claire O'Sullivan 26:32
Fulbourn Hospital: Carl Haskell 20:34, Chris Poole 24:22, Abbie Haskell 32:31, Vicky Haskell 32:33.
North Herts Road Runners claimed the Three Counties Cross-Country league title for an unprecedented third time on Sunday as 41 Squirrels laboured to victory on the hilly, muddy Dunstable course. The club’s cross-country rep, John Auld, said “The mud made the already challenging hills even worse! I think I was just jogging on the spot a few times.” However, the conditions did not dampen the spirits of the plucky club runners. Knowing they needed to win the race to take the title, they dug deep. In a hard-fought contest, the ladies team won first place and the men’s team won second place, leading to a combined victory for the race and the overall league.
Reflecting on the victory, John said, “We won every race. We have the best team, with 65 club runners taking part this season. Everybody should be super proud of this. We have actually only failed to win one race in the combined category in the last 3 years.” In further impressive news, the ladies team captain, Katie Harbon, was crowned Ladies’ Open Champion, with Ed Price storming to second place in the Open Male competition.
It was not all about winning however. Lorna Chambers said, “A baptism of fire for my first ever XC race! Thanks so much to all who turned up to support in the chilling wind. I am so proud to have been part of the NHRR team - every little helps!”. Rhia Botha added “What a brilliant result. Well done everyone! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to run for such a wonderful club in my debut XC season. I really thought I'd hate it, with all the mud, wind, rain and cold, not to mention the hills! But I must admit that it has been quite a special experience.”
Other impressive results from the league were as follows: Oliver Brady, 1st male U20, Stewart Overton, 1st male V35, John Auld, 2nd male V35, Wayne Bell, 2nd male V40, Mark Vaughan, 1st male V45, Paula Adams, 1st Ladies V50, Pete Sibbett 3rd male V55, Carina Quale, 2nd ladies V60 .
Elsewhere, two Squirrels took part in the very first Letchworth Ultra (Run the Sun in Weston). Mike Bullock and Susan Mansfield ran in what Mike described as a “Big muddy sludge-fest”, which involved running as far as you can in daylight hours (8 hours) on a 5 km lapped off-road (hilly-ish) course. Mike said, “The day started with foolish ambitions of a double marathon distance for our first ultra of the decade, but this lasted about 2 minutes until we arrived at the first bog-of-doom...then the second, then the third ...” As the day progressed, more and more runners disappeared down muddy holes, so by lunchtime half of the field had retired. Mike and Susan soldiered on to the end, and ended up tired but happy, coming 4th (57km in 7hrs 45) and 6th (57km in 8hrs 6 minutes) respectively.
Squirrels have taken advantage of the festive period to enjoy extra racing opportunities both locally and while away.
Sunday saw 17 squirrels race the County Champs at Stevenage, competing in the U17 ladies, U20 men and both senior ladies and men. Flying the flag for our younger members, Eva McCabe placed a fantastic 5th in the Ladies under 17s and James Fox was a superb 6th in the Men’s Under20s competition. The senior men had two teams out, the A team (Andrew Leach, Ed Price, Darren Sunter, Stewart Overton, Mark Vaughan and Nathan Pask) finished 3rd behind St Albans and Watford. The B team came 12th. Cross Country representative John Auld commented “The course was flat, but super muddy in places. The sprint finish was really muddy and we had to do that bit 5 times! It was so strength sapping, it took me the whole of the rest of the lap to recover from it - and then you had it again. I attempted a bit of a sprint finish at the end, but I was literally stuck in the mud!” The Ladies were led home by Astrid McKeown and were followed by Georgina Quayle and Carina Quayle.
Ben Sewell joined Sophie Thrussell at the Run Through, Victoria Park Half Marathon for his debut race in a Squirrel vest. Sophie claims that they have “continued training throughout the holidays- including speedwork on Christmas Eve morning and minimal mince pies!” Ben went out quicker than target pace for the first few miles and decided to hold on - finishing in an impressive new PB of 1:15:47- over a 3 minute PB and a fifth place finish! Sophie reports that she started at target pace and tried to keep it consistent, which proved to be quite difficult, saying it felt uncomfortable throughout. Ben ran beside her to the finish line, resulting in a PB of an incredible 1:29:04 and a Championship Start Qualification for the Virgin London Marathon in April.
Making the most of being retired, Coach Karen Dodsworth drove up to Ferry Meadows, Peterborough, to take part in the New Year’s Eve 10km. With the original course flooded in 2 parts the organisers used their Winter 10km course and apologised to runners for the muddy conditions. Whilst there were some slippery corners and muddy paths Karen was intent on pushing on having trained hard for this race. Reaching half way in 25.16 Karen realised that a fast time was possible and kept pushing to the line to finish in a chip time of 50:50, 3 1/2 mins faster than her previous best 10km of 2019 and her fastest time for 9 years.
Kat Gourd was the only squirrel to travel slightly further East to take part in the Ely NYE 10k on New Year’s Eve. In her first race back after injury and having been hit by the dreaded winter lurgy, Kat was pleased to get round in a respectable 53:54 pleased, helped by the perfect running conditions and the jolly bagpiper at the 8.5k mark!
Further afield, Astrid and Steve McKeown took advantage of the New Years Eve 5k race in Bonn, Germany whilst visiting family. Astrid finished the chilly run beside the Rhein in 21:04 which placed her 5th overall woman (2nd F45), whilst Steve won his age group (17th overall) in 18:53.
Saturday saw the First Saturday of the Month for this year with 86 hardy runners taking part in the picturesque 5km run around Norton Common. First Male home for the club was James Dalton in 21:00 and Rhia Botha took the position of First Lady in 23:10.
Not only did squirrels take part in the additional Parkruns that took place on New Years Day, several members clocked up their Parkrun milestones this week with Brian Judkins reaching his 250th. His long journey to hit this target has taken him around the UK, as far as Inverness, over the past 10 years, but was completed this Saturday at the local Letchworth Parkrun. Pat Norris completed his 100th Parkrun this Saturday choosing the slightly less muddy Stevenage course!
Stevenage: Jane CLARKE 22:47 James POULTON 24:54, Danielle LISTER 30:09, Glyn BLAKEY 31:06, Barbara SAYERS 33:40, Patrick NORRIS, 35:40 Letchworth: Siobhan WALSH, 32:08, Mike Bullock 37:26, Brian Judkins 38:26, Allison Blunt, 38:28 Cara Sutton, 38:29 Kettering: Steve WILLIAMSON, 22:50 Wimpole Jillian BOYS, 25:34 Southwark: Chris Poole: 26:24 Fulbourn Hospital: 23:21
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