Nine athletes from North Herts Road Runners made the journey to Sutton Park, near Birmingham, to take part in the prestigious British Masters National Road Relay Championships. The Letchworth-based club fielded teams in the men’s M35+ and M45+ categories, and came away with an impressive set of results, including a top ten finish, showing the club can more than hold its own on the national stage.
In the M35+ race, a team of six North Herts runners were led by Jim McConnel, who ran the first 3-mile leg in 16:35, putting the team in eighth position. He was followed by Ed Price, Ryan Smith, Stewart Overton and Darren Matussa, who were each able to run good times and, more importantly, hold position. Adam Bowller, who had taken the club’s V35 marathon record with a time of 2:38:07 in Rotterdam just three weeks earlier, ran a solid final leg bringing the team home in eighth place overall with a combined time of 1:46:30.
“There were some very strong teams from some big clubs out there today,” said Bowller. “To finish in the top ten at a national event gives us a lot of confidence ahead of the summer season.”
Due to a last-minute injury, the M45+ athletes were unable to field a full four-man team, but Nick Malpeli – who had also achieved significant marathon success three weeks before, running 2:44:24 at Manchester – gamely ran both the first and fourth legs. In between were Andrew Leach and James Walsh, who ran their legs in times of 16:44 and 19:44 respectively.
The following day saw Darren Matussa back in action along with 31 other North Herts Road Runners at the Flitwick 10k. Despite cold conditions and an undulating course, the Squirrels enjoyed considerable success, with Darren finishing as the first North Herts athlete in 38:56. Sarah Mitcherson (43:15), Suzy Trott (44:20) and Caroline Thrussell (47:10) were the second female team, with Caroline also finishing as the second Women’s V55. Andrew Porter was the first male V70, running an impressive 56:15, while Joy Stroud’s time of 1:02:25 is a new Women’s V70 club record.
There were also significant personal bests for Oliver Brady (39:08), David Weston (42:53), Lucy O’Connor (48:08), Naomi Parkinson (50:00), and Hayley Cocks (1:16:06) who took a full five minutes off her previous 10k PB set at the Standalone 10k in 2017. Alan Hazlehurst was another Squirrel with reason to be pleased with his performance. His time of 53:27 was a full seven minutes quicker than when he last ran the Flitwick 10k before he joined North Herts Road Runners, “which just goes to show that training with a great club and great people does pay off,” said Alan.
In race walking news, David Annetts finished fourth at the London Inter Club Challenge 5000m at Picketts Lock track in a time of 25:45.
Nine athletes from North Herts Road Runners tackled the hottest London Marathon in history and all came away with war stories about the impact of the conditions.
John Auld secured an impressive new personal best of 2.50.48 after a sensible mid-race change to his original plan for an even faster pace. 'It was just too hot to get my time' said Auld. 'I was already thinking about adjusting my plan before halfway.’ Reflecting on a demanding training programme since New Year he joked ‘I wish I’d had the 16-week weather forecast – I’d have had a relaxing winter!’
Darren Sunter described it as 'a day for survival, not for best times’ after nearly abandoning his race. 'I was sitting by the side of the road at 15 miles - I nearly binned it' he admitted. Sunter got himself moving again and still clocked an excellent 3.05.35.
Kat Burr was the Squirrels’ first lady finisher in the London field this year. After battling the heat she reported she was ‘super proud’ to finish in 3.45.23 in the ‘crazy hot’ weather.
Adrian Sherwood and John Rayner both felt the effects of the warm conditions, with Sherwood slowing in the second half of the race to finish in a still creditable 3.31.50 and Rayner pulling out at 18 miles after a visit to the medical tent.
Jen Naisbitt showed great determination to finish in 5.57.32. Despite being sick at miles 20 and 22 she said she ‘carried on regardless’. Mark Edmondson-Jones finished in 3.19.29, Chris Poole in 4.18.40 and Paul Bowal crossed the line in 5.12.42.
Angeliki Stathopoulou found an even hotter challenge in the form of the Athens Poseidon half-marathon. Despite running the second half of the race ‘with completely numb legs from the knee down’ after problems with her calf-sleeves, Stathopoulou was pleased to finish as 34th lady in 1.53.29.
Serial marathoner Jo Summers took a more rural approach to the discipline by completing the Breckland Trail Marathon in Thetford Forest. Starting and finishing at the HQ of the British Trust for Ornithology, Summers slowed her pace in the heat (‘I just slow down and enjoy it’) but still finished third lady in 4.21. Her personal highlight for the day was hearing two Cuckoos: ‘I can’t remember when I last heard one, so to hear two in one morning was brilliant’.
Closer to home, Alan Hazelhurst completed his first ever Parkrun, recording 27.59 on the Letchworth course.
For me as a fellow club member Helen Govey running in her first ever marathon in (Boston Yorks) in 4hours 28min 20secs is a real inspiration. She joined the club less than 3 years ago on a couch to 5K course and has never looked back and she is literally about half the woman she used to be in size but not in stature!!
She is now a very special and active member of the club who never fails to have an encouraging word for me (and everyone of the runners starting from where she did) before she disappears into the distance showing a clean pair of heels. Boston was selected for its flat course for her first attempt because (with apologies to Coach Karen) she is not keen on hills and she nailed it, she might have been overtaken by Bananaman at mile 3 but she is very proud to say she got him back at mile 6! Vanessa Rolfe was also running finishing in 5:39:47.
Running in his first marathon and his first big race under the NHRR banner Lee Hayes in Brighton, clocking in at 3:33. Behind him Pat Norris was battling in his 20th Marathon not long after recovering from a Kidney stone and hitting the wall at mile 20 he kept to it and finished in 6:38. Dan Mallett 4:40 and Carina Quayle 5:21 also took part.
Jo S was off road with a map and directions for her 27 miles in Northampton doing the valley and Views finishing in 5:21 having experienced some fabulous views and a few battles with the Valleys. She has done the event before but without the mud that this year was so bad it had spectators handing on to a live electric fence for stability!!!
With preparation for the London Marathon this next weekend in full swing there were a more limited number of people out on ParkRun duty. Finsbury Park saw David Weston finish in 53:49. Stevenage had Sarah Millhouse (25:35), Richard Fox (27:34) and Brian Judkins (33.40). Letchworth had a 5 Squirrels taking part. Richard Harbon (22:43) was first squirrel home in 8th place. James Dalton (24:24), Lewis Green (26:15), Phil Hung (26:54) and Luck Callan (28:37) following him in. Oliver Brady was further afield in Willoughby and finishing in just 19:33. Darren Matussa posted the Squirrels fastest Park run time this week of just 18:36 coming in fourth in Denham, being followed home by Stephen Lummis (22:42) and Chris Poole (22:56).
Plenty of Marathons this weekend. After a long winter of training in all sorts of weathers, the first big date of the major spring marathon efforts from club members.
Four Squirrels travelled to Rotterdam for the flat course. The group had been training together with three London Marathoners and were all in great shape. Expecting some great times the quartet did not let NHRR down. First home was Adam Bowller, setting a new club MV35 record of 2:38:07. Not too far behind was Matt Sayers, with a great finish, dipping under the minute mark in a new PB of 2:46:48. Stewart Overton narrowly missed getting under 3 hours and finished with 3:00:24. Stewart said afterwards that he was “Happy with a PB and honestly couldn't have given any more”. The last 2km he was “zig zagging and dizzy”. Also suffering the dreaded wall was Ed Price who finished with a new PB of 3:05:54.
Two squirrels ran the Greater Manchester marathon where the weather on Sunday was perfect marathon weather - no rain, no wind to speak of, if anything quite chilly at the start. Nick Malpeli set a new club MV50 record with 2:44:24. His target was to go sub 2:45 and managed the pace with relative ease for 20 miles, but then it became tough. Nick said “The last 6, naturally, became harder and harder, but I didn't slow down too much achieving the 2:45 with over 30s to spare”. Chris Poole finished just under 4 hours with 3:59:40.
Jo Summers completed her 200th marathon in Rome, finishing in 3:57:41 and Niccolo Bassani, ran 3:34:33 in his home city of Milan.
78 runners turned out for NHRR very own First Saturday of the Month 5km around Norton Common Letchworth. Paul Jackson was the first squirrel home and the race winner finishing in 18:39. Other squirrels running were James Keogh 6th (20:34), Richard Harbon 10th (22:21), Marcus Farnfield 15th (23:11), Andrew Cooper 28th (24:53), Andrew Robson 29th (25:36), Caroline Thrussel 33rd (26:12), Adam Wilson 35th (26:30), Andrew Porter 49th (28:56), Carina Quayle 61st (31:16), Helen Cromack 63rd (31:38), Helen Marson-Smith 74th (34:21), Hayley Cocks 76th (38:33) PB. Completing 1 lap was Jo Kenlin and Jo Sopaia. Hayley Cocks was pleased to take 3 mins off her previous PB.
The Summer series of The First Saturday of the month 10km around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park started in this week. John Auld finished 4th with a new PB of 35:37 and won two tickets to the Orbital. John went there looking for a PB to complete a 5km, 10km and Half Marathon PBs set in the training up to the London Marathon in a fortnight.
A scurry of squirrels turned out for the Sandy 10 mile race where NHRR had some fantastic results with ideal cool, still and damp conditions. The course is a tale of two halves, with some quite challenging uphills in the first couple of miles, and then fairly gently undulations until you turn back to the start and come down the hills from the way out. Helen Cairns 1:12:55 was first squirrel home and also was the second FV35. Sarah Mitcherson wasn't too far behind finishing in 1:14:08 and Caroline Thrussell (1:19:33). Lucy O'Connor was the next Squirrel and set a new FV55 club record of 1:19:44. Further finishers were Dervla Downing (1:22:13), Linda Aird (1:22:48). Ian Sutcliffe was next, setting a new MV70 club record of 1:30:29. Completing the NHRR finishers were Brian Judkins (1:47:11) and Vanessa Rolfe (1:49:48). Linda said afterwards “I thoroughly enjoyed the downhill miles and the momentum enabled me to carry on pushing to the finish to achieve my best 10 mile time since I set my PB at the distance in 2011 - and I was only 11 seconds slower than that PB, so well chuffed with that!”
Darren Matussa raced in the 1500m race 5/9 at the Watford Open Meeting on Wednesday evening. Darren finished 3rd with a time of 4:49.71.
Decathlon Sports organised a 5k in Stevenage. The route took you up from Asda car park towards Fairlands Valley Park (under multiple underpasses on the way) then a loop around the park and back down to Asda car park. The course was a little long, coming in at about 5.3km. Stuart cocks came in first for NHRR and in the top 15 at 23.45 actual time for 5k 22.40 giving him another 5k PB! Ellie Scott and Naomi Parkinson ran together and finished 1st and 2nd lady in just under 25 mins. Abbi Cocks came in at 29.30. Hayley Cocks came in 38.44 but 5k time was 36.42. Shani Fielding also got a PB this weekend time was 35.03 and the 5k time was 33.06 taking 2 minutes 58 seconds off. Jo Kenlin did it in 39.55 with 5k time was actually 38.15 also giving her a new PB with 2 minutes 12 seconds off her 5k time. Hayley said afterwards, “training really does pay off we are all buzzing”
Competing at Parkrun this week were Oliver Brady (19:41 at St Peters). Jo Sherry (26:08 at Albert, Melbourne), Chris Poole (28:18 at Markeaton) and Pat Norris (32:47 at Stevenage).
There were some notable runs this week from North Herts Road Runners. Paula Holm travelled to South Africa to take part in the Two Oceans Half Marathon. Despite three moths of injury and being taken ill a few days before-hand, Paula made the starting line - for a 5:50am start! Beginning in the dark and facing extreme hills within the first mile and a half, Paula struggled from the off, completing the course in a creditable 1:43:36, finishing 716th out of 16000. After the race she reflected on the experience “The African spirit, incredible vibe, stunning scenery and watching the sun rise over Table Mountain during the dawn race, made for the most amazing once in a lifetime experience!”
Nearer to home, Jo Summers continued her incredible saga of marathon running, building up to her 200th in Rome very soon. She completed two of the four in the Great Barrow Challenge near Bury St Edmonds, on consecutive days, finishing the first in a comfortable 3hrs 51, which she was pleased with.The second, another scenic, undulating route generally considered to be tougher than the first day’s route, ended up being 30 miles. Jo said, “It took me a while to settle into 30-mile mode instead of marathon, but once I had I just trundled along again and finished in 4.46 which I suppose isn't too shabby for 30 miles.”
Linda Aird travelled down to East London to take part in the Victoria Park 10k, which was being run alongside a half marathon and a 5k race. Despite a congested start, the paths were wide and well-surfaced and the course was flat. Linda commented, “I decided to try and stay with a bloke just in front of me who was running at a good pace. I managed to stay with him for the whole race, playing cat and mouse - sometimes he was in front, sometimes I was - but he finished just in front of me, and we shook hands and thanked one another for pushing each other on throughout the race! I was pleased to finish in my best 10k time for a while - 50:27”.
As usual there were plenty of park runners out and about. Sue and Mark Vaughan ventured across to the Great Denham parkrun. Sue is on the comeback trail after a series of injuries have interrupted her training. On the fast, flat 5K course at Great Denham, Sue blasted off at PB pace and, rolling back the years, negotiated her way round the course in a time of 26:34, coming very close to her parkrun PB set 2 years ago in Bedford. This was a great indicator that recent training is paying off and that a return to form just in time for the imminent midweek league is on the cards. Sue said “I wanted to go out hard and try to hang on, rather than play it safe, and it worked! The course is great and definitely one I will do again!”. Mark won the race in a time of 17:00.
Lindsay Cook was amongst a trio of Squirrels who took on a more local run. Lindsay said, “I slid around Letchworth parkrun for the first time finishing in 33:27. I was pretty pleased with my time, given the conditions underfoot, and also felt very smug in my mudclaws as I got a lot more grip than most of the others there!”
Other parkrunners this week in Letchworth were Richard Harbon in 7th place (23:00) and Rachel Annetts, 55th (33:55). In other parkruns: Ellie Scott was 38th in Norwich (26:07); in Kettering Chris Poole finished 49th (23:20); At Stevenage, Eva McCabe continued her success, finishing 22nd, (1st Lady) (22:13), followed by Stephen Lummis, 56th (25:04), Naomi Parkinson, 63rd (26:01); Lucy Hurley, 65th (26:05); Helen Giffin, 128th (29:16) and Sheila Leavy, 132nd (29:22). At the East Coast parkrun, Joe Sherry finished 48th (26:59) and at Holkham parkrun, Nick Malpeli was 8th (19:09).
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