Long distance running as part of ongoing marathon training was the order of the weekend for the North Herts Road Runners, with several squirrels recording excellent results in 20-mile races.
Lucy O’Connor, Laura Fairbanks, and Richard Weber headed to neighbouring Bedfordshire to take part in the popular Oakley 20 race – an undulating, rural country road course around villages to the north of Bedford which is a key event in many runners’ marathon training diaries. Lucy reported “challenging conditions in the rain and wind and massive puddles”, but despite the weather all three squirrels achieved new personal bests. Lucy finished the race in a fantastic 2:59:42, knocking 6 minutes off her previous 2022 Oakley 20 time and smashing her existing 20 mile PB by 3 minutes (previously held at Oundle in 2022), while also scoring 1st in her age category (FV60) and winning a county medal for coming 1st in the County for her age category. With all these fantastic achievements, it is not surprising that she summed up the event as “a brilliant day”! Laura described the first half of the hilly race as “physically and mentally tough”, but despite this was the first squirrel over the line in an impressive 2:50:49, which she was pleased with ahead of her upcoming Manchester Marathon entry in April. Richard Weber crossed the line in a brilliant 2:53:35, taking 9 seconds off his previous 20 mile PB at Oundle and slashing nearly 6 minutes off his previous attempt on the Oakley course. He added “though the rain had mostly stopped, the roads were still wet with puddles aplenty, so keeping your feet dry really was not an option. It’s a hilly route … but there are several attractive villages en route, so it was really a pleasure to run.” Also running the Oakley 20 were fellow squirrels Andy Grudzinski, Michelle Grudzinski, and Alice Noakes.
Dave Braybrook tackled the 20-mile distance elsewhere, opting to travel further afield for the Wymondham 20 race in the picturesque market town of Wymondham in Norfolk. He described the event as “a race of two halves” and started strongly, but with a more challenging second loop. Nonetheless, he persevered and still finished in a great time of 3:02:32 and described the race itself as “excellent and really well organised”.
Meanwhile, several squirrels headed to Cassiobury Park in Watford on Sunday to take part in the Herts and Middlesex Vets Cross Country Championships. The NHRR ladies’ team, comprising Barbara Sayers, Linda Aird, and Lindsay Cook, were crowned 2nd team in the Herts County Championships. In addition, Barbara also claimed a bronze medal for placing 3rd in the FV45 age group and Miranda won a silver award for coming 2nd in the FV65 category. Stewart Overton also took part and ran brilliantly, coming in 7th place overall and 5th in his age category in the Herts County Champs, adding “some tough hills and extreme mud made for a challenging morning.”.
The action this weekend did not stop there for the busy North Herts Road Runners! Ruth Summers took on her first half marathon, running the Hampton Court Half along with fellow squirrel Nick Walker. They completed the race together in an excellent 2 hours and 11 minutes, and thanked their coach at the club Cara Sutton “for all her support and fabulous training plan”. Meanwhile, Nicola Withington ran the Hyde Park 11k, in support of the charity Target Ovarian Cancer. The unusual distance of 11k was set because 11 women in the UK die every day from the disease. Despite the “horrendous rain”, Nicola ran brilliantly and completed the run in 65 minutes. Fellow squirrel Neill Withington took on the 5.5k course, which he completed in 40 minutes.
This week’s Parkrun results for the North Herts Road Runners are as follows: LUTON WARDOWN: Kris Whitmore 19:06; FERRY MEADOWS: Scott Reed 28:52; STEVENAGE: Elwyn Howell 21:17, James Poulton 23:19, Mike Phillips 23:54, Rhiannon Botha 23:55; Michael Over 23:55, Andrew Coates 25:18, Sarah Mitcherson 26:19, Jane Clarke 26:24, Paul O’Sullivan 26:55, Anna Greetham 26:56, Matt Roberts 26:57, Natalie Phillips 29:20, Amanda Grieg 30:02, Geoff Pettengell 33:40, Ian Datlen 39:52, Laura Preston 39:55; GUNPOWDER: Darren Matussa 20:15; LOWESTOFT: Chloe Lucas 22:35; ETNA: Natasha Pitman 26:10; LETCHWORTH: Katie Harbon 21:47, James Dalton 21:48, Chris Stokes 22:45, Stuart Cocks 25:06, Jo Harbon 30:08, Jane Robson 31:22, Philip Flack 32:12, Hayley Cocks 38:23; HENLOW BRIDGE LAKES: Richard Barker 23:57, Tim Banting 26:40, Rob Milburn 27:20, Georgia Barker 31:02.
Jenny Fraser started off the marathon season in Rome. The marathon started with a very dramatic fly past by Italian Air Force over the colosseum and The Forum clouding the sky with national colours.
Jenny finished the race time a time of 4.34.06 but said, ‘At 1k, I realised I’d peaked and decided that the remaining 41K could be troublesome. With my brain ignoring the pleas to stop from my legs and my stomach concerned that I could finally have something in common with Paula Radcliffe, thankfully the stunning scenery was a wonderful distraction as it winded pass The Vatican, Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona before looping back to a grand finish at The Forum being cheered on my fellow Squirrels who had ran in the marathon relay.’
Running in the relay format of the race was Andy and Michelle Grudzinski, Paul Bowal and Adam Wilson who achieved an incredible 3:43! Amazing running everyone!
Over in Spain Angeliki Stathopoulos was competing in the Barcelona Marathon. Angeliki’s aim was to finish the race without injury’s and wasn’t bothered about time. She finished the race in a time of 4.31.10 and said that it was a great marathon and would totally recommend it.
This weekend saw a member of North Herts Road Runners celebrate a massive parkrun milestone. Brian Judkins celebrated completing his 300th parkrun at Henlow in a superb time of 35:29. Brian was joined by a group of squirrels who went along to Henlow to celebrate this wonderful achievement and give Brian the cheer he deserves! Brian is an inspiration to many who regularly turns up at races to represent North Herts Road Runners and is a great support to several members at training sessions. Also at Henlow was Ian Datlen who lead the field home in 20:59, Dave Braybrook (23:39), James Poulton (24:05), Time Banting (26:40), Laura Fairbanks (27:58), Richard Baker (27:58), Linda Aird (32:04), Anna Gibson (32:05), Lucy O’Connor (32:06), Miranda Morgan (33:32) and Jane Robson (34:34).
Elsewhere, North Herts Road Runners were out in force at Stevenage Parkrun with 14 squirrels taking on the two lap course. Ian Harvey lead the club home in just over 21 minutes (21:05) with Rhia Botha shortly after in 21:33. Jon Hunt, Mike Phillips and Paula Holm all beat the 24 minute mark in times of 23:51, 23:57 and 23:59, followed by Matt Roberts (24:14), Richard Harbon (24:20), Andrew Coates (24:44), Anna Greetham (24:51), Sarag Mitcherson (26:39), Jane Clarke (26:40), Andrea Weisl-Shaw (28:00), Amanda Greig (29:58) and Helen Cromak (30:07).
11 North Herts Road Runners attended their home parkrun, Letchworth, to take on the muddy two lap course. Katie Harbon lead the female race home in 19:40, followed shortly by Shahab Ahmed, first male, in 19:50. Vince Wright followed close behind in 20:45 with James Dalton (23:01),Philip Hawkes (23:51), Steve Brenton (26:07), Jo Harbon (29:01, Helen Harbon (32:19), Karen Shaw (32:51), Philip Flack (33:20) and Geoff Pettengell (38:09).
One club record, PBs a plenty and a number of first timers at the distance, resulted in a scurry of delighted squirrels at the Cambridge Half Marathon.
Forty four squirrels travelled to compete in this closed road, popular event, with many more travelling to support along the course. First lady home for the club exclaiming that the race is her “new favourite” was Katie Harbon. Not only did she manage a massive PB but set a new club record in doing so as the fastest female squirrel to ever complete the distance in a blistering 1:16:21. Katie paid tribute to “the amazing support from NHRR, spotted around the course in exactly the right places cheering everyone on.”
Nine female squirrels followed suit, also setting personal bests over the distance. Mel Flynn was “delighted with a significant new PB of 1:51:35” and enjoyed running with so many fellow squirrels. Anna Klucinka (1:21:20), Rhia Botha (1:31:14) and Laura Fairbanks (1:41:20), all proved that their hard training was paying off as they all achieved PBs en route to their longer goals of their Spring marathons.
Lucy O’Connor was thrilled to have bagged herself not only a PB (1:47:25), breaking her previous best from 2018, but also an impressive top ten finish in her age category and celebrated with a delicious beer afterwards.
Andreea Weisl-Shaw completed her second ever half marathon and PB of 2:02:51. Weisl-Shaw said “It was amazing to run through my own university town, where I studied and then taught for 15 years (but never ran a single day in that time). But the best thing was being there with my amazing teammates - the NHRR banner was like a homing beacon both when we arrived, and at the end, and seeing so many wonderful squirrels around the route, there to encourage and cheer us along, was a real boost of energy. I’m not quite where I’d like to be with my running, but I wouldn’t be anywhere near here if it weren’t for our club, the fantastic coaches and friends.”
Jenna Manggos, Nicola Withington, Tracey McCreath and Claire Hooley all raced the distance for the first time. Withington exceeded her expectations with a 2:21:34 finish despite an ITB injury. McCreath enjoyed the phenomenal support before and during the race which made it a very special event for her first ever half marathon and was happy to finish in 2:33:29 (including a toilet stop!)
It wasn’t just the Ladies who were on flying form. The men from North Herts Road Runners put their hard training to the test with some fabulous individual performances.
First male home for the club was Mike Roberts in a superb 1:10:56. Ed Price was one of many setting a personal best over the distance “after a good block of training, I finished in 1:15:03, not quite under the magic 75-minute mark, but it was a PB (just!); my first in years, so I couldn't be happier. The support from other squirrels all around the course was first rate, and I know it made it big difference for us all.”
Shahab Ahmad tackled the distance for the first time “after swearing I wasn't built for anything over 5k when I joined NHRR 7 months ago” and achieved an incredible 1:16:38 he thanked all the coaches and teammates who have been “so generous with their time, support, encouragement and advice over the past few months.”
Also smashing their previous times were Ian Datlen, Oliver Parsons, Mike Over, James Godfrey, Matt Roberts, Ben Ryan and Elwyn Howell.
Ian Datlen’s PB came as a “complete surprise” and ‘blames’ all the support around the course from fellow team mates saying as “it meant he couldn’t slack off”! Despite being a gifted a cold by his children, Oliver Parsons still managed a PB which sets him up well for a successful Manchester marathon in April. Michael Over was delighted by his 10 minute PB over the distance and thanked his coaches for all their hard work in getting him prepared for the race. James Godfrey was thankful for all the amazing supporters that helped him to achieve his time, while Matt Roberts ‘blamed’ the cold weather for encouraging him to run fast. Elwyn Howell was delighted to record a new PB in his home city. Richard Weber narrowly missed out on a personal best but enjoyed racing this event for the first time.
A full list of results; Mike Roberts 1:10:56; Ben Hadman 1:11:34; Adam Bowller 1:12:30, Ed Price 1:15:02 (PB); Sam Coxon 1:15:10 (PB); Matt Sayers 1:15:18, Katie Harbon 1:16:21 (PB) Club Record; Shahab Ahmad 1:16:38 (PB); Kris Whitmore 1:20:35; Matthew Ronayne 1:21:04; Anna Klucinka 1:21:20 (PB); Ian Datlen 1:23:39 (PB); Oliver Parsons 1:25:11 (PB); John Auld 1:26:28; James Keogh 1:27:53; Mike Banister 1:28:01; Ian Harvey 1:29:03 (PB); James Dalton 1:30:09; Rhia Botha 1.31:14 (PB); Mike Over 1:31:27 (PB); Mike Philips 1:35:42 (PB); James Godfrey 1:36:12; Matt Roberts 1:37:53 (PB); Casey Walker 1:37:41 (PB); Ben Ryan 1:39:11 (PB); Elwyn Howell 1:39:30 (PB); Laura Fairbanks 1:41:20 (PB); David Weston 1:42:17; Dave Braybrook 1:42:34; Jane Clarke 1:42:40; Ross Black 1:42:47; Alice Carty 1:46:11; Richard Webber 1:45:44; Lucy O’Connor 1:47:24 (PB); Mel Flynn 1:51:34 (PB), Anna Gibson 1:52:42, Sonny Kurmi 1:58:06; Jillian Tooley-Boys 1:58:56; Andreea Weisl-Shaw 2:02:51 (PB); Jenna Manggos 2:08:43; Nicola Withington 2:21:34; Tracey Maccreath 2:33:28 (PB); Farzana Bhatti 2:56:50; Clare Hooley 3:00:14 (PB)
With most eyes on Cambridge, 8 squirrels opted for the longer distance in preparation for their April marathons. The Essex 20 mile with laps of the disused Debden Airfield provided a great training run with North Herts Road Runners clocking in the following times: Darren Sunter 1:57:16; Ben Sewell 2:02:42; Tom Barclay 2:11:34; Sophie Thrussell 2:24:13; Emma Sandham 3:10:12.
Stewart Overton, Paula Holm and Rachel Arnott travelled up the A1M to take on the ‘rolling and scenic’ Oundle 20 mile road race. All came away pleased with their efforts. Overton ran 2:06:43 for 5th overall, securing 1st male v40 and Arnott with 2:31:24 was awarded the 1st female v45.
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