North Herts Road Runners turn out in numbers in a crucial weekend of running ahead of the marathon season.
With marathons in London, Brighton and Manchester just weeks away, dozens of Squirrels made the most of the beautiful weather and took to the roads, with two events dominating the weekend’s races: Oakley 20 and, for the men’s team, the 12-stage road relays in Milton Keynes.
Firmly established in the local running calendar as an ideal preparation for a spring marathon, and famous for the iconic hoodies give to all finishers, Bedfordshire’s Oakley 20-mile race always enjoys a large turnout of runners keen to test their legs. This year was no exception, with dozens of North Herts Road Runners among the entrants. Among them was Phil Hunt, who spoke of a sunny day with a cooling wind: “it was pretty ideal conditions. It's not a flat course, but it is beautiful, taking in several picturesque villages – including their tempting pubs!”
Natalie Lawrence successfully avoided all pubs and won the women’s race in a time of 2:17, not far behind North Herts’ first finisher Rob Harris who ran 2:11. Other Squirrels joining them included Cara Sutton, Alan Hazlehurst and Paula Holm. Naomi Parkinson came away with a 2:57 PB, and Phil Hunt was delighted to finish as the first North Herts Road Runner in his age category. Hailey Batson took two minutes off her best time for a half marathon on her way to finishing in 3:43. As for the hoodies? They were a lovely sapphire blue, and according to Paula Holm “the only thing that kept me going for the last 12 miles!” (See below for the full list of Oakley 20 finishers.)
Just the other side of the M1, the NHRR men’s team took part in the South of England Athletics Association’s prestigious 12-stage road relays at Milton Keynes. Lining up alongside some of the fastest runners in the South of England were twelve of North Herts Road Runners’ men’s finest, taking turns to run alternate long (7.6km) and short (5km) legs. The team were led out by Tom Webb (25:26) who ran the first long leg, and were brought home by Ian Datlen (20:51) who finished the final short leg 4 hours and 44 minutes after the start. As key team member John Auld pointed out, “everyone put a shift in for the team today.” (See full results below.)
Coach Karen Dodsworth’s pictures of a memorable day for the men’s team are here:
The weekend saw plenty of other squirrels in action, including Stuart Cocks, who ran the London Landmarks Half Marathon in a time of 1:47. Stuart commented on the great atmosphere adding “I was feeling good all the way round.” He wasn’t alone in that respect, as Hayley Cocks ran the same race, finishing in 2:33, an impressive 14 minutes quicker than her previous best time.
Hastings on the South Coast provided the backdrop for the “hardest half marathon” that Vince Wright has ever done, and little wonder given the race has a total elevation gain of 864ft. More surprising is that this weekend was actually the fifth time Vince has completed
this challenge. This year, recording his best time at the event, he finished in 88:53 for 89th place out of 2598 finishers. Meanwhile, Pat Norris travelled to Bury St. Edmunds to take on the Kings Forest 10k, and finished in 1:13. “I managed to overtake quite a few runners on the last 3k,” said a delighted Pat, before adding: “Three weeks to Brighton (and a bit more for you Londoners!) bring it on!”
Parkrun results Letchworth: James DALTON (00:21:14), Ian DATLEN (00:23:07), Chloe LUCAS (00:23:11), Jillian BOYS (00:23:13), Daniel MALLETT (00:23:55), Steve BRENTON (00:24:13), Damon CLEVELEY (00:24:38), Angeliki SHEARSTONE STATHOPOULOU (00:26:16), Philip FLACK (00:30:13), Carl GOODRUM (00:30:36).
Stevenage: Dervla DOWNING(00:22:35), Patrick NORRIS (00:33:32), Jane CLARKE (00:36:54).
Great Denham: Ellie SCOTT (00:23:08), Naomi PARKINSON (00:24:18).
Rising Sun: Carina QUAYLE (00:29:59).
Northwich: Nick MALPELI (00:19:47).
Loch Neaton, Watton: Sam BARRY (00:29:37).
Dunstable Downs: Stephen LUMMIS (00:24:34), Chris POOLE (00:25:13)
The full list of Oakley 20 finishers: Pos. Name Chip time 21 Rob Harris 2:11:46 40 Natalie Lawrence 2:17:52 152 Caroline Thrussell 2:38:13 194 Phil Hunt 2:41:57 208 Paula Holme 2:42:52 308 Christopher Poole 2:52:46 368 Naomi Parkinson 2:57:44 409 Jennie Fraser 3:00:53 530 Alice Noakes 3:11:07 586 Susan Foot 3:17:36 632 Alan Hazlehurst 3:24:07 763 Cara Sutton 3:42:33 769 Hailey Batson 3:43:35
SEAA 12-stage relays
(odd numbers long (7.2km), even numbers short (5km)
North Herts RRC 4:44:08
1 Tom Webb 25:26 29 25:26
2 Stewart Overton 17:17 31 0:42:43
3 Jim McConnel 26:20 31 1:09:03
4 Steve Mckeown 18:41 34 1:27:44
5 John Rayner 27:44 35 1:55:28
6 Edward Price 17:51 35 2:13:19
7 Mark Vaughan 27:48 36 2:41:07
8 James Walsh 19:06 35 3:00:13
9 Richard Harbon 33:08 37 3:33:21
10 John Auld 19:43 38 3:53:04
11 Peter Clarke 30:13 39 4:23:17
12 Ian Datlen 20:51 39 4:44:08
Helen Nuttall ran the Reading half marathon on Sunday. She said “There was loads of support on the course, a couple of steep climbs, but a nice race, well marshalled and well organised (with free massages at the end!). I was very apprehensive and a little scared about trying to race after all my time off with surgery etc, but once I started was so happy to be out actually racing and trying to push the pace. I was 10 mins off my PB, but it's all relative and with the circumstances I'm immensely happy with a 1:36:17. More than anything it has given me a confidence boost that I will get back to where I was (and hopefully faster!!).”
Slightly closer to home Elwyn Howell ran a very muddy Welwyn half marathon, taking fully 10 minutes of his PB, finishing in 2:10:26.
Adam Bowler was first across the line for the club on Sunday in the Fleet half marathon, an England qualifying race. He finished in 14th place in 1:12:36, a PB. In perfect weather conditions Caroline Thrussell was thrilled to also run a 2 minute PB, finishing in 1:36:28, a new club record in her age category, but not quite fast enough for an England vest. Other finishers were Edward Price (1:17:58), Darren Matussa (1:25:14), Katie Harbon (1:28:56), Astrid McKeown (1:29:43), Paula Adams (1:30:48), Helen Cairns (1:41:10) and Jane Clarke (1:50:07).
Several North Herts Road Runners ran in the Milton Keynes Festival of Running. In the 10k race, Lorna Chambers was really pleased with her effort resulting in a time of 1.01.30, a 6.5 minute improvement on her debut 10K at Sandy last week. James Keogh said “Between the howling winds on Saturday and the hail storms after the race it definitely caught the best of the weekend weather. Not to say that there weren’t some blustery headwinds at points” James fininshed the half in 1:33:41. He continued “Owing to injury I’m only just getting back to this kind of distance so was pretty pleased with my time all things considered.” Other finishers were (10K) Clare Hooley (1:11:34). Half marathon, John Rayner was 11th in 1:21:28, Sophie Thrussell finished in 1:40:23, Ali Mottram in 2:35:24 and Jim Marvell in 2:35:25. Jim said, “It was my first half and I’m absolutely chuffed with my time of 2:35:24. (I’d been hoping for 2:45 or so!). The course was more scenic and a little more undulating than I’d expected. The last couple of miles were particularly tough but I found a small reserve of energy for the all-important sprint finish.” One brave Squirrel tackled the 20 mile course - Adam Wilson finished in 3:25:05.
Three runners completed the Ashridge Boundary Run in the Chiltern Hills. Linda Aird said “the 40+mph winds and miles of thick mud at Ashridge made it a very challenging run - going over Ivinghoe Beacon there were moments when I was afraid I would be blown off my feet!”. Linda completed the race in 3:12:46. Lindsay Cook added “it was just my kind of run. At least half of it was pretty muddy underfoot, it was fairly hilly and extremely windy”. Lindsay crossed the line in 3:40:04. Completing the trio of Squirrel ladies was Miranda Morgan who finished in 3:22:11
David Annetts continued his impressive race-walking form taking part in two races in a fortnight. In the Molly Barnett / England Athletics 10k Race Walk Championship at Warwick University David was happy to finish 8th in a high quality field in a PB of 49:17. On 16th March he travelled to Sussex for the opportunity to get a longer track race. Though it was wet and windy the conditions were less of a hindrance than he had anticipated. To cap it all, David said “I kept my concentration to continue to the finish knowing that I'd been given the bell a lap early!” David won the race in another PB of 48:29.3
Saturday saw the club run of the month at Letchworth parkrun. Battling 45 mph and ‘carnage corner’ the following club members battled Strom Hannah to record finish times: Peter Clarke (22:38), Richard Harbon (22:55), Phil Hunt (23:52), Pete Sibbett (25:12), Ian Datlen (25:31), James Walsh, Mat Ankers (27:20), Angeliki Shearstone (27:49), Jegan Simon (28:16), Lucy O’Connor (31:31), Rhiannon Botha (31:54), Jennie Fraser (31:54), Carl Goodrum (33:01), Andrew Underhill (33:34) and Carol Goodrum (41:05).
In other parkruns, Brian Judkins ran at Cambridge (33:31), Jillian Boys ran at Wimpole (23:56), Chris Poole ran at Jersey Farm (25:07) and 4 squirrels made the short trip to Stevenage. Ellie Scott was first home for the club (23:15) followed by Naomi Parkinson (24:42), Jane Clarke (29:51) and Pat Norris (34:56).
Squirrels raced up and down the country this weekend battling gale force winds, hills and mud.
Tom Webb, Jim McConnel and Matt Sayers competed for Hertfordshire in the GB Intercounties Cross Country Championship on an undulating and windswept 6.5 mile course at Prestwold Hall, Loughborough where there was a strong field and fantastic support including the loyal cow-bell ringing squirrels on tour. The squirrels finished: Tom Webb – 194th, 38:22 Jim McConnell – 213th, 38:44 and Matt Sayers – 263rd, 40:37. Not to be outdone by the men, North Herts’ youngest squirrel Eva McCabe also gained selection and finished in 198th place. She described the race as “cold, windy, hail and mud. Perfect cross country conditions!”
Having been diagnosed with lung cancer last year, Lisa Laundy travelled to London to complete her first Half Marathon this alongside club mate Ally Blunt while raising money for Macmillan. They crossed the line together in an inspiring 2:23:59. Stewart Overton, Darren Sunter and Lee Hayes took the first train of the morning to compete in the Big Half in London. Stewart, describing the course that takes in a lot of the London Marathon, said that despite it being wet and extremely windy beforehand, they all fared well and enjoyed the support, the fast finish and a well earned beer afterwards! Sunter was first home in 1:13:46, followed by Overton 1:17:30 and Hayes 1:26:45.
Pete Sibbett travelled up North to run the Chester 10km and finished 8th in his age category. Unfortunately the cold, wind and rain combined to make this quite a tough run and Sibbett who said he was unpleasantly surprised at the amount of long uphills finished in 40:26.
In her first return to racing since a prolonged period of illness, Helen Nuttall ran the Hillingdon 20 miles. Speaking after the race Helen said she was delighted to finish in 2:44:17 considering both the hail and the uphills into gale force winds!
Eight Squirrels ran the RSPB Race for Wildlife 10K at the Sandy Lodge reserve, a two-lapper taking in heathland and wooded areas and featuring a couple of tough uphills. They were concerned about the weather, but they picked the right place to race as the blustery winds were not too bad apart from on a couple of exposed bits of the course and the sun even made a brief appearance at one point! Dave Braybrook made his debut performance in a North Herts Road Runners vest and finished the course in a superb 58:02. Leading the squirrels home was Linda Aird: 56:42 followed by Lucy O’Connor 58:28, Andrew Porter 59:43, Ian Sutcliffe 1:00:57, Lorna Chambers 1:07, Brian Judkins 1:10 and Carly Bedwell 1:19:55.
Jillian Boys completed the Harpenden Half Marathon in extremely tough conditions exclaiming that it was not just cold, windy and hilly but VERY muddy too and was pleased to finish in 1:51:08.
Marathon runner Jo Summers ran the Cambridge Boundary race for the 5th time and immediately questioned why, as it is not a course she enjoys and was struggling with a cold. Despite the wind, cold symptoms and feelings of regret, Jo was “relieved to have finished in 4:35”.
Parkruns: Letchworth, James Dalton: 22:26, Richard Harbon 22:57, Chloe Lucas (first lady) 24:52. Stevenage Ian Datlen: 21:16, Helen Cairns: 22:23, Dervla Downing: 23:00, Matt Ankers: 26:21, Rhiannon Botha: 26:27, Jane Clarke 36:27. Ellenbrook Fields, Chris Poole: 24:22. Poolsbrook Stephen Lummis: 23:59. Exmouth, Andrew Underhill: 21:42. Colney Lane, Ellie Scott: 24:47. Wimpole, Brian Judkins 36:11. Old Deer Park, Christian Allen: 23:46. Swansea, Mark Robinson: 19:54.
Despite the damp conditions and it being the morning after the club’s annual awards night, there were a few personal best performances at the Cambridge Half Marathon.
Lindsay Cook admitted to feeling the impact of the awards night, ‘I felt the late night and ceilidh dancing in my legs over the first few miles so I was pleased to finish in 2:18:45.’ Lindsay wasn’t the only one happy with their efforts. It was Jillian Boys second time running at this event and she was delighted to finish in 1:47:38 an impressive 6 minutes quicker than the year before and a new personal best by over 2 minutes. Angeliki Shearstone also ran a personal best of 1:53:42.
Five Squirrels went to Trent Park to take part in the Herts County Vets Cross Country Championships on Sunday. There was much mud, but sadly no medals on this occasion.
Lee Hayes was running in the V50 category and finished the tough, challenging race in 44:32. Then competing over a shorter but no less muddy course of 7.2km, were our V60 and V70 men Ian Sutcliffe, Geoff Murray-Rochard and Brian Judkins, along with Linda Aird competing in the Vet women's race.
Ian Sutcliffe crossed the line in 47:16 to finish 4th V70, with Geoff Murray-Rochard just behind in 47:17. Brian Judkins completed the distance in 55:24. In the women's race, Linda Aird finished in 44:16.
Miranda Morgan, Andrew Porter and Sue Foot took part in the Chiltern Kanter. A map reading event where you make your own route with over 30 grid references to find along the way. This was to be Andrew’s first marathon but in the end the trio did just over 29 miles. The route took them to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon, Ashridge and parts of the Ridgeway and was made all the tougher by the mud, wind and rain.
Parkrun results: Cambridge Brian Judkins 37:08, Mile End Helen Cairns 22:06, Dulwich Georgina Quayle 26:51, Ellenbrook Fields Chris Poole 23:10, Letchworth James Dalton 21:45, Naomi Parkinson 25:24, Damon Cleveley 26:09, Great Denham Pete Sibbett 19:20, Pocket Joseph Sherry 25:38.
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