The legendary annual Baldock beast half marathon took place on Sunday 26th February, on a beautiful sunny morning with clear blue skies and refreshing (if chilly) winds – a far contrast from the tempestuous conditions seen in the past few years and a welcome relief to runners and organisers alike!
23 squirrels from the North Herts Road Runners completed the notoriously challenging race, with a an exposed and undulating course that starts at the Old Wallington Road in Baldock before heading out to the local villages of Wallington, Roe Green, and Redhill. William Harrison was first home for the club in 1:31:40, followed by James Dalton (1:34:35) and Michael Over (1:41:43) – a superb set of times that earned the trio the winning men’s team accolade. Meanwhile, Dervla Downing was the first female squirrel home in a fantastic 1:47:11, with Kat Burr (1:48:34) and Kat Hinitt (1:49:16) following close behind and helping to claim the ladies’ team prize – a double victory for the North Herts Road Runners! Fellow squirrel Caroline Thrussell, completing the race in a brilliant 1:52:18, also claimed first prize in the FV55 category.
Richard Weber, who achieved a personal best on this course and his second fastest half-marathon time ever, crossed the line with Dervla Downing, and despite the classic beast challenges of “fighting a biting cold wind, whilst also climbing a hill” was thankful for the improved weather conditions’ compared with the autumn’s stormy race, adding: “Thanks to Dervla for running with me throughout and spurring me on, and it was nice to cross the line together.” Downing, for whom the beast was only her second half marathon post-injury, agreed: “It was perfect running weather and great to be back running with so many squirrels. It was my second fastest time for this race, and it was lovely to share the podium with the two Kats as part of the first ladies’ team.”
The full North Herts Road Runners results for the Baldock Beast are as follows: William Harrison 1:31:40, James Dalton 1:34:45, Michael Over 1:41:43, Dervla Downing 1:47:11, Richard Weber 1:47:11, Shaun Allin 1:48:07, Steve Brenton 1:48:31, Kat Burr 1:48:34, Kat Hinitt 1:49:16, Caroline Thrussell 1:52:18, Laura Fairbanks 1:52:23, Lucy O’Connor 1:52:58, Tim Banting 1:54:36, Alice Noakes 1:56:02, Jennie Fraser 1:58:16, Andrew Coates 1:58:31, Anna Gibson 1:58:35, Adam Wilson 2:01:12, Jonathan Nichol 2:02:09, Gladys Cheng 2:03:58, Michelle Grudzinski 2:05:44, Andy Grudzinski 2:07:39, and Carina Quayle 2:25:20.
The half marathon action this weekend did not stop there! Just down the road, several squirrels opted to run in the Welwyn half marathon on Sunday instead. Ryan Nichol was first over the line club in a brilliant 1:26:51, while Elwyn Howell notched up yet another personal best of 1:42:00. Mel Flynn, who finished in 2:10:35, said that it was “a nice route, although trail shoes may have been a more appropriate choice to deal with the muddy sections!” They were joined by Gubir Singh Parmar (2:14:19), Charlie Jones (2:15:50), and Helen Giffin, who ran her first half-marathon in 31 years in an excellent 2:18:02. Further afield, Nick Malpeli and Matt Sayers ran the Wokingham Half Marathon. Sayers completed the race in 01:16:14 (107th), while Malpeli finished in 01:18:53 (172nd, and 2nd MV55) – a new personal best, which he said should qualify him for the England Masters Half Marathon team running at Chester in May. Meanwhile, Dan Mallett headed to the coast for the Brighton half marathon, which he completed in an impressive 1:40:47 – his second fastest half marathon time and only a little shy of his personal best. He said “Overall the race was very flat with a nice gust of wind behind us most of the way providing a nice boost. The crowd support was amazing as usual, would definitely recommend anyone who hasn’t done it give it a go!”
In a very busy weekend for the North Herts Road Runners, the racing action was not limited to Sunday. On Saturday, a scurry of seven hardcore squirrels headed to London for the National Cross-Country Championships at Parliament Hill. John Auld, the club’s cross-country rep, described the race as “An epic, iconic event with the best cross-country runners in the country as well as many others such as ourselves just hoping to test ourselves and enjoy the challenge.” Fortunately, the weather on the day was fantastic, but the course was “absolutely brutal… with thick mud and hills and laps. There was mud in places that came up to your mid shin and you lost sight of your shoes. Every step was a lottery of wondering if you’d still have a shoe on when you stepped out - and there were shoes stuck in there!” In the field of senior (1010 finishers), Carina Quayle was first lady home for the club, finishing 960th in 58:28, and very closely followed by Lindsay Cook, who was 961st in 58:30. The junior men had 211 finishers, including Matthew Ronayne 203rd in 46:02. In the senior men (2087 finishers), Mark Vaughan was the first squirrel home, finishing 672nd in 54:58. Vince Wright finished 924th in 58:27, John Auld was 1305th in 1:03:49 and James Walsh was 1578th in 1:08:37. Auld added that he was “genuinely proud of actually finishing the race as it was so tough. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, but really pleased with my effort and I had tremendous fun with some fantastic team mates.”
Also in London, on Friday lunchtime three squirrels descended on Hyde Park for the Serpentine Last Friday of the Month 5k. Ladies captain Tash Pitman led home the females in a brilliant 20:09, shaving off more time in her quest for a sub-20 minutes 5k. Stewart Overton led home the males in 16:37 with Darren Matussa following home in 18:36.
Last but not least, 18 squirrels also took part in various parkrun events on Saturday, including Andrew Leach who came first at Bedford in a fantastic 17:12. The full parkrun results for this week are: BEDFORD Andrew Leach 17:12; STEVENAGE Tracy Pitcairn 24:41, Barbara Sayers 24:55, Michael Over 25:16, Andrew Coates 26:05, Kat Hinitt 26:05, Sue Vaughan 29:25; WIMPOLE ESTATE Lucy Hurley 31:26, Sue Boys 34:59, Jillian Boys 36:01; LETCHWORTH James Dalton 21:48, Steve Brenton 26:05, Alan Hazlehurst 28:25; GREAT DUNMOW Joseph Sherry 27:22; HENLOW BRIDGE LAKES Daniel Martin 22:56, Brian Judkins 34:06.
A scurry of 7 hardcore cross country superstar squirrels ran at the National Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill, London. It’s such an epic, iconic event with the best cross country runners in the country as well as many others such as ourselves just hoping to test ourselves and enjoy the challenge.
From the top of the hill, you can see the London city skyline and hundreds of club gazebos and sale flags.
The weather was fantastic - we dropped lucky with that - and it was a lovely day. However the course was absolutely brutal! Kudos to the organisers for finding the most challenging features in Hampstead Heath and linking them all together. With thick mud and hills and laps. The senior races were later in the day after all of the juniors had ran laps, churning up the course as best they can - ready for us. There was mud in places that came up to your mid shin and you lost sight of your shoes. Every step was a lottery of wondering if you’d still have a shoe on when you stepped out - and there were shoes stuck in there. I actually saw a bloke running with no shoes on at all… There was also a couple of hills that were reminiscent of Royston heath hills where you had to wonder if walking would be faster. There was also a mud stream to run through. When you got to the 'normal' cross country bits, it felt like running on an athletics track!
The field of senior women had 1010 finishers. Carina Quayle was first sow finishing 960th in 58:28 - very closely followed by Lindsay Cook, 961st in 58:30.
The junior men had 211 finishers including Matthew Ronayne 203rd in 46:02.
There were 2087 finishers in the senior men. Mark Vaughan was first boar home, finishing 672nd in 54:58. Vince Wright finished 924th in 58:27, John Auld was 1305th in 1:03:49 and James Walsh, 1578th in 1:08:37.
We also had fantastic support from Sue Vaughan and Andrew Leach on the course. Very much appreciated!
Our gazebo is prominent on the live feed on England athletics YouTube channel. It looked amazing. Mark, Vince and myself carried the gazebo there and back. It was especially tough going back, but was well worth the effort as it does look fantastic.
The link is here if you fancy watching it, it has a few camera and is commentated.
Our club vests are also amazing. I heard many supporting words for North Herts Road Runners and I feel this is because the vest is very distinctive and the name is easy to pick out.
My main objectives were to finish the race and also ideally finish with two shoes on and not get lapped by Mahamed Mahamed, Emile Cairess or Alex Yee. I was genuinely proud of actually finishing the race as it was so tough. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, but really pleased with my effort and I had tremendous fun with some fantastic team mates.
I would personally like to thank everybody that came out. I really enjoyed the day.
A group of six squirrels battled the wet and windy trails, redways and canal side paths of North Milton Keynes in the aftermath of Storm Eunice at the 10 mile ‘Cattlecreep’.
First squirrel home for the club, Richard Weber, explained the name of the race “as it takes in a ‘Cattlecreep’, (a small, field-to-field access route for farm animals, usually to allow passage beneath roads, canals, or railway embankments). Running through a twenty metre Cattlecreep is interesting because most people, need to stoop to get through it, meaning running through it is pretty much impossible.”
Coming so soon after Storm Eunice, it was still rather wet and windy, with a few puddles, muddy tracks and fallen trees to negotiate. Weber finished the race in 1:21:06, coming 4th out of 22 in the V50 age category, whilst Lucy O’Connor claimed an amazing 1st in V60 age category finishing with 1:26:46. Also completing great runs were Anna Gibson (1:29:17), Russ Hagan (1:29:24), Lorna Chambers (1:41:26) and Brian Judkins (1:59:58).
James Dalton 21:31, Michael Over 22:06, Richard Harbon 23:50, Steve Brenton 24:36, Carina Quayle 33:16
Carl Haskell 38:03 Vicky Haskell 38:00
Clacton Seafront parkrun
John Russell 25:15
Paul Jackson (3rd) 18:44
Joseph Sherry 27:14
Longrun Meadow parkrun
Jim McConnel 18:41
Storeys Field parkrun
Vincent Wright 19:33
Katie Harbon (superstar) won the senior women with a perfect score of 4. For perspective, runner up was Jessica Prior of Trent Park with a score of 10. Tash Pitman was 4th in the V45 women. And Lindsay Cook was 19th. Karen Dodsworth was 12th V55.
John Auld was 15th senior man. Our superstar vet men's team includes overall individual placings from Rob Harris, who was 3rd V40. Vince Wright was 6th, James Keogh 11th and Ian Datlen 12th. James Walsh was 17th in the V50’s.
Overall across 5 races we had a total of 107 runners, 54 men and 42 women. This compares to 251 runners from Garden City Runners. And places us 7th in terms of runners.
Obviously the teams had help from those that weren’t able to run 4 or more races, so thanks again to those runners for the team contributions. Many thanks to all that ran at least one race.
Huge kudos to all that ran 4 or more races to gain an individual placing and special thanks to those that ran all 5 races. An individual placing shows both consistent performances and commitment to the team.
I haven’t missed a league cross country race since I joined the club 8 years ago. I only mention this because I absolutely love it and really appreciate all that contribute to the teams. If it’s a single appearance or a full season. I absolutely love competing as a team, especially in the mud. From a personal perspective, it really makes me happy - more so seeing others enjoying it and the NHRR team spirit.
This season has been fantastic! I’m really chuffed that we were able to compete. We’ve had the best race HQ by far as well as best dressed, with the club kit. Thanks to Mark and Sue for that.
Thanks to Linda and Jo for helping with our scores.
Thanks to Clare for her pictures and James for his blog.
And thanks to those that came to support at various races.
Looking forward to next season already!
This week, Katie Harbon of the North Herts Road Runners secured another victory in the final race of the Sunday cross-country league, giving her four victories in total out of the four races, and an unbeatable score.
A team of 22 squirrels made the short trip up to Royston Heath for the final round of the league. Stewart Overton was the first runner home for the North Herts Road Runners, finishing 13th overall. Katie Harbon ran brilliantly, finishing in 21st place and took the first lady prize for the fourth time.
The club’s cross-country rep John Auld said “Apart from the wind, the weather was actually not bad. It could have been loads worse. However, it was windy! And combined with the hills, it made it tough going! The course was brilliantly designed to hit every hill on the heath. And as soon as you reached the top of a hill, they sent you back down only to send you right back up again. It was full of short sharp hills from start to finish - a real strength-sapping course.’
Ladies’ team captain Tash Pitman agreed: “The Sunday League saved the toughest race until last, with two laps taking in three steep ascents up and then straight back down the imposing Therfield Heath. The rain held off and we just had to contend with a strong wind, best suited to flying kites!”
After surviving these tough conditions, the club thanked everyone who came to Royston Heath to run, cheer, support, and help. They had a fantastic support crew, including Linda and Jo who recorded the runners’ scores. The official results of the final race and of the league overall are still awaited.
Elsewhere, Dave Braybrook and Cara Sutton headed up the A1 to run the Stamford 30k race. This undulating course was described by Cara as “character building”. The wind and rain were relentless and the last 10k along a windy ridge was brutally tough. Dave finished in 2:41:15 and Cara in 3:05:38.
Meanwhile, just down the A1, Mel Flynn did the Love Welwyn Garden City 10k. The cold and windy conditions didn’t hold Mel back as she brought home a nice new PB of 55:45.
Elwyn Howell’s good form continues with another PB. He travelled down to London for the London Winter 10K and finished with a time of 45:55.
Apologies to Mike Banister, whose report was missed off last week. Mike completed the Watford Half Marathon on Sunday 6th February and secured a nice PB of 1:21:48. Mike said “I enjoyed the run and was pleased with my time, especially given the challenging route and conditions".
This week’s parkrun results:
Julie Toland 25:34, Sue Vaughan 29:52
Darren Matussa 24:21
James Dalton 21:32 (2nd), Steve Brenton 23:58, Daniel Martin 24:15, Ian Harvey 24:22, Daniel Mallett 24:25, John Russell 25:56, Phillip Flack 30:19.
Great Denham parkrun
Richard Harbon 21:57, Dave Braybrook 22:30.
Andrew Coates 23:51, Tim Banting 24:49
Henlow Bridge Lakes parkrun
Tracy Pitcairn 21:40 (1st lady), Rachel Annetts 28:47, Andrew Robson 32:22.
It’s been a sparkling, speedy start to the year for several squirrels who have been setting new club records at park runs.
Katie Harbon set a new senior and female open record of 19.25 at Henlow Bridge Lakes whilst Tracy Pitcairn’s LV35 CR of 20.41 was set at Stevenage.
Tom Webb made Fast Running’s weekly round up of top 10 fastest times with his 15.32 clocking at Bromley which is a V35 and open record. Matthew Ronayne ran 17.53 at Stevenage in the U19 category and V45 Ed Price also ran fast at Stevenage, 17.37. Stewart Overton and Andrew Leach travelled a short way to Great Denham to run 16.51 and 16.54 respectively for V40 and V55 records. Congratulations to all our new club record holders and huge thanks to Nick Malpeli who processes all our stats.
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