There was double success for North Herts Road Runners as their ladies and men won both team competitions at the Baldock Beast Half-marathon.
Men’s team member David Weston credited his part in the Squirrels’ success to the ‘lovely course and atmosphere’ on the rolling route through the villages east of Baldock. Despite unorthodox race preparation involving some ‘liquid carbs’ over a weekend of rugby-watching, Weston was ‘very happy and surprised’ to knock a remarkable six minutes off his previous best time for the 13.1 mile distance as he crossed the line in 1.36.23.
Weston was joined on the winners’ podium by Peter Clarke (1.29.49), Niccolo Bassani (1.35.35) and James Dalton (1.37.47).
Bassani admitted to treating the first half of the race as an ‘easy training run’, but then decided ‘it felt quite a waste of time and I sped up for the second half’. He ‘thoroughly enjoyed it’ – and the event t-shirt above all!’
A personal best time of 1.46.44 from Dervla Downing saw her complete the winning ladies’ line-up alongside Natalie Lawrence, who finished as second lady in the race in 1.26.56, and Caroline Thrussell, , who won the F55 category in 1.40.27.
Hailey Batson was another Squirrel to tame the Baldock Beast – a tough one to pick for her first half-marathon. She was spurred around what she described as a ‘relentless’ course by seeing ‘so many familiar faces’ among the marshals and supporters. She finished in 2.24.17.
Other Squirrels competing in Baldock were Lee Hayes (1:30:23), Ian Datlen (1:38:47), Chris Stokes (1:39:28), Andrew Underhill (1:43:42), Drew Norton (1:44:26), Phil Hunt (1:45:15) Jennie Fraser (1:54:15), Alice Noakes (1:55:33), Adam Wilson (1:59:47), Sue Foot (2:06:15), Andrew Porter (2:11:21), Helen Govey (2:15:49), Cara Sutton (2:15:25) and Miranda Morgan (2:16:47).
Stuart Cocks overcame ‘hot weather – in February!’ to secure a new half-marathon best of 1 hour 42.1 and 1,298th out of 15,00 runners at the Brighton Half-marathon. Hayley Cocks overcame a virus to smash an impressive 19 minutes off her pervious Brighton time to finish in 2.46.58 and Shani Fielding was another happy Squirrel with a new personal best time of 2.50.14.
Despite encountering a ‘very hilly course at the Frickley Country Park Parkrun in South Yorkshire, Andrew Robson recorded a new Parkrun best time of 25.01. Other NHRR Parkrunners at the weekend included Joe Sherry in Bedford (26:40, Steve Williams in Kettering (21:18), Pat Norris (33:32) and Jane Clarke (37:45) in Stevenage, Steve Lummis (24:36) at Linford Wood, Brian Judkins (33:50) in Northallerton, Linda Aird (29:35) in Ludlow and Adam Bowller (16:30 and first finisher) and Stewart Overton (17:02) at Great Denham.
Parkrunning on home ground in Letchworth were James Dalton (21:52), Steve Brenton (24:34), Jennie Fraser (27:46), Brian Bailey (29:45) and Naomi Parkinson (47:26).
North Herts Road Runners enjoyed some great results in much improved conditions over the last week.
Just a week after taking part in a tough race at the British Indoor Athletics Championships, David Annetts was back in action at the Enfield Race Walking League 5-mile race. Despite trailing an under-20 athlete for the first four miles, the veteran race walker managed to take the lead in the final mile and won the race in a time of 38 minutes and 53 seconds, gaining a one-second Personal Best time in the process.
David wasn’t the only Squirrel to roll back the years, as Linda Aird went back to her roots to take part in the Harrow Hill 10k. “I've done this one a few times,” said Linda, “the hills don't get any easier.” The race starts in Harrow School's own sports ground, and goes over the hill, taking in some of the beautiful historic buildings - many of them belonging to Harrow School itself. Sadly, Linda didn't have much time to admire these, as she was working so hard just to keep moving forwards at times. However, in beautiful spring conditions, she finished in 55:36, and was the second W55 runner.
Warm weather also played a big part in Paula Holm’s road running at the weekend, when she travelled to South Africa to take part in the Cape Peninsula Half Marathon. Paula wasn’t sure if the purpose of the trip was to enjoy a holiday, to celebrate her impending 40th birthday or to run away from the fact that the birthday was happening at all! The race started in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and following the coast towards Cape Point, taking in beautiful bays and ending in the naval base at Simon's Town. “It was an awesome experience,” said Paula, “and the most beautifully scenic run ever.” Paula was worried about the heat as it was 24 degrees at the 7am start time, but was reassured that the head winds the whole way would be more of an issue, “and they really were; I found myself running on the spot at times.” Despite this Paula ran her race in 1:45:21 and was 184th of 2772 entrants. She even found time for a bit of unscheduled sunbathing at the finish before hitching a lift back to the start with a local running club. Unfortunately they had to wait for the last runner to finish, leaving Paula with plenty of time to get burnt to a crisp.
The North Herts Road Runners were immensely proud to see one of their members represent the club in the 5000m Walking Final at the British Indoor Athletics Championship on Sunday which was aired on the BBC. David Annetts who has been representing the club in walking races the length and breadth of the country lined up in Birmingham alongside the best in the country including the eventual winner Tom Bosworth. After an excellent start the pressure resulted in many of the competitors being disqualified including a disappointed David at the 4km mark. Having trained since January for the difficult race the standard was set extremely high with the km splits being sub 4 with Tom Bosworth’s eventual finishing time being 19:22. A remarkable time given it is a walking race.
Despite the wet and windy conditions a number of ‘Personal Bests’ were set at the Love Welwyn 10k race on Sunday including two members receiving medals. Rob Harris was pleased to finish in a superb time of 37:46 earning him 4th place overall and 1st in the MV40 category. Monica Cullin also won a medal for coming first in the FV70 category with her time of 1:33:13. The popular local event also attracted 9 other squirrels of which 6 managed to beat their previous 10k time. Jennie Andrews showed a huge improvement in this event by smashing her previous time by 11 minutes to finish in 53:41. Other PBs included Helen Marson-Smith with 1:03:45, Jim Marvell in 1:03:29, Hayley Cocks in 1:06:43, Ali Mottram in 1:06:08 and Jo Sopala in 1:07:50.
Elsewhere Sue Foot continued to rack up her impressive mileage by taking part in the Stopsley Challenge. The challenge was to run as many laps as you could or wanted to within six hours. The long lap was 5.1 miles along country roads around Offley. The first half was mostly downhill but the second half took the runners up some very long and challenging hills. The shorter lap was just under a mile. Sue managed five laps of the five mile route and one lap of the shorter route making it 26.4 miles in total!
Sue remarked, “The weather was pretty brutal throughout and the puddles got gradually bigger and the hills seemed to get tougher, but despite walking up some of the hills and trying to avoid some car drivers who thought it might be fun to spray me with the muddy puddles when they drove past at speed, I finished in 4.49!”
Stewart Overton continued his fine form whilst preparing for the London Marathon. He competed in the Worthing Half Marathon which was challenging in the wind and rain. Despite the conditions Stewart targeted a sub 80 race which he managed by finishing in a fine 1:19:01. An excellent time and good preparation for his next race The Big Half in London on the 10th March. Another squirrel, Elwyn Russell Howell also ran a half marathon at the weekend in the Olympic Park finishing in 2 hours 32.
We are looking forward to this year's Comet Sports Awards after three NHRR entries made it onto the final shortlists.
Nick Malpeli is among the four-strong list of contenders for the 'Veteran Achievement' prize in recognition of his exploits over the marathon distance. Nick enjoyed an outstanding year in 2018, winning his second England vest, twice improving his already very impressive best time to a superb 2.43.16 and being selected for an elite-level England Athletics training camp.
Nick is joined on the shortlist by an entry for the NHRR veterans teams, which highlights our success in wining both ladies' and men's Hertfordshire Veterans' Championships over the 5k distance.
The NHRR list of contenders is completed by joint publicity officer James Walsh, whose photo of team-mate Jim McConnel at the County Cross-country Championships is shortlisted for 'Sports Photograph of the Year'.
The awards evening takes place at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre on 1st March.
Jillian Boys ran two PBs this weekend. The first was at North Herts Road Runners’ First Saturday of the Month on Norton Common in Letchworth, and the second at the Cancer Research UK London Winter 10K on Sunday. Jillian loved both races, saying,“the First Saturday race was a lovely snowy morning and I ran with my dog Poppy – we got a new course PB of 22.55 (including an unplanned ‘dog business’ stop!). On Sunday around 20,000 runners raced with me through central London, starting at Trafalgar Square and finishing at the Cenotaph memorial along Whitehall. It was a beautiful blue sky day, nice and cold and dry: perfect running conditions. I was really hoping to achieve my first sub 47min 10k – and I was so pleased to find out my chip time was 46.57!”
On Saturday, also in London, John Rayner travelled to the home of the 2012 Olympics for a 10k race around Queen Elizabeth Park. John said,“This is a monthly race which I also did at the start of February last year. It is a flat 3 lap course, I went for a warm up lap to discover that the route had changed to avoid a footpath closure. I'm pleased I did this or I would have been in for a shock during the race! With my family watching I set off too fast and soon found myself in the lead. At the end of the first mile I was overtaken and wasn't able to keep up as we hit a head wind along the canal under the Olympic stadium. From this point on I held on to second place. With half a mile to go 3rd place briefly caught up with me but I had enough left to push on.” John finished in a time of 36:30, which, although it was a minute slower than last year felt like a positive result given all his injuries in between.
Ed Price ran the Chichester 10k on Sunday morning which was also the Sussex 10k Championship and a qualifying event for England Masters (the first three in each age category qualify to run for England at a future 10k race). On a flat and fast course, and in perfect running conditions, Ed managed to finish in 34:10, one second slower than his PB. Ed lamented “I was the 9th MV40, so no chance of an England vest, but I enjoyed the race and loved running amongst (and behind) so many quality runners.”
4 Squirrels ran in ParkRuns (Ian Datlen, Steve Brenton, Joe Sherry and Chris Poole) and 23 Squirrels turned out alongside Jillian at the First Saturday of the Month in a field of 86 runners.
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