North Herts Road Runners’ Andrew Leach raced to the top of the National Masters 55 rankings on Saturday with a 9.42 clocking at the Milton Keynes 3000m PB Special track races. Andrew, the 2019 European V55 10000m track champion, was delighted to be back racing on the track and is hoping to go faster as the season progresses.
In an earlier race, club mates Mark Vaughan and John Auld, were relieved that the torrential downpour stopped just as they were about to start racing. Targeting 10.15 Mark latched on to the pacer from the gun and clocked 10.12 finishing 3rd, whilst John crossed the line 7th in 10.29. Mark said, ‘I’m very happy to have run a steady race whilst still coming back from long term injury’. Standing 14th in the national V50 rankings Mark will clearly be hoping to break in to the top 10 with his next performance.
With the Midweek League starting as a virtual race Elwyn Howell was the first squirrel to run 10km and record a stunning performance for a V60 of 54.27.
Going to the zoo proved just the ticket for Elwyn Howell and Kat Gourd at the Colchester Stampede.
Howell was full of praise for the ‘beautiful course’ with its unusual ‘start and finish at Colchester Zoo’ after speeding to a new lifetime best performance over the classic 10km distance.
He was delighted to scoop third place in his age category with an impressive 47 mins 35, only a short distance behind North Herts Road Runners clubmate Kat Gourd, who brushed aside the ‘showery conditions’ to record 45:42.
‘Not a nice run’ was Angeliki Shearstone’s more philosophical verdict after tackling a solo ‘virtual’ race in place of the cancelled Puglia Marathon. ‘I was all up for it’, the loyal Squirrel reported, ‘but it was a very, very tough marathon which hurt from the very first kilometres’. Despite ’swollen calves and aching legs’, Shearstone ground out a 4 hrs 22:52 result and was happy with ‘the pride of running with my North Herts Road Runners vest’.
Ultra-running specialist Sue Foot tackled the ‘Monkey Meander’ at Horseheath Racecourse in South Cambridge and came away more convinced than ever that shorter distances are just not her thing. Foot clocked up 8 laps of the undulating 5.3km gravel and grass track course to record yet another marathon distance in 5hrs 10 mins and said ‘I have never done a Parkrun and having done eight 5k laps I might still never do one!’
A scurry of squirrels ran the postponed Hatfield 5 mile race - which due to local council restrictions was relocated to the airfield at Bovingdon, Hemel Hempstead. Conditions were tough on the four lap course with a strong wind and humid sunny conditions. The event was ran in waves based upon expected finish times to abide with social distancing guidelines. Despite the lack of scenery, the race was more enjoyable than expected, explains Kat Gourd - “the laps flew by quite quickly”.
Clearly the squirrels had been training well during the restrictions as several achieved personal best times for 5 mile distance.
Both Kat and Dave Braybrook helped each other round and each came away with a personal best. Elwyn Howell was also achieved a new personal best and thanked the encouragement from fellow team mates. Richard Weber took part as his second race in the covid era. Coming away with a personal best by over two minutes. Richard said he enjoyed it and it was nice to run with a gang of squirrels again.
All squirrels finishing were as follows;
Michael Banister: 30:12
Natasha Pitman 33:08
Dave Braybrook: 36:14 (PB)
Kat Gourd: 36:17 (PB)
Elwyn Howell: 37:26 (PB)
Richard Weber: 37:34 (PB)
Hannah Keeble: 46:26
Mike Bullock and Susan Mansfield both ran the Last Man Standing Back Yard Ultra in Derbyshire.
The race was a 12 hour race in which you had to complete a 4.2 mile hilly muddy loop every hour. On completion of the loop within the hour, you were permitted to start the next lap on the next hour of the day.
Mike explains that the tactics in play were the compromise between pace and recovery time as well as allowing suitable time for refuelling. But - fortunately eating cake is part of their training. Anyone left in the final lap was a foot race for time.
“What a monster run it turned out to be” explained Mike. He continued “an evil course of forrest switchbacks, deep mud, torrential rain and hills.” The runners churned up the course with every lap – so each lap got progressively harder as the course deteriorated.
Mike and Susan completed 10 and 6 laps respectively.
With COVID-19 restrictions gradually being eased, several of the North Herts Road Runners embraced the opportunity to finally take part in racing events again – and where better to start than a marathon, or perhaps even a 50km ultra?
Never ones to do things by halves, Mike Bullock and Susan Mansfield kicked off the month of May with the North Downs Ridge 50k ultra. The route started from Box Hill, before leading around the Denbie’s Wine Estate and along the North Downs Way. Mike described the race as “one of the most beautiful and hilly ultras we’ve done” (and these two have certainly done a few!), with the route heading uphill from the start and even finishing on a hill. The hardy squirrels claim that they took it “steady” as this is just the first of three ultras they are doing this month, with their next being the ominously-named “Last Man Standing Backyard Ultra” in Derbyshire next Saturday.
Also keen to notch up some racing miles were Andy Grudzinski, Michelle Grudzinksi and Jo Summers, who took on the Wickhambrook marathon in Suffolk. The 27.1 mile mixed road and trail route was longer than the 26.2 mile marathon distance but despite this, all three recorded excellent marathon times. Jo finished in 4:09 (despite taking a 1 mile detour to catch a friend who had taken a wrong turn), while Andy and Michelle finished together in 4:49, with Andy smashing his personal best for a marathon despite still suffering some side-effects from his COVID-19 vaccine.
The marathon action did not stop there! Four more squirrels ran the ever-popular Great Barrow marathon, also in Suffolk. This was Sue’s 150th marathon and Lucy’s first. The route, which looped through country lanes, had “plenty of hills”, although this was compensated for by some stunning scenery. Of the 27 marathon runners, Yuko Gordon came in 5th in a time of 4:07:58, Lucy O’Connor 7th in 4:21:13, Sue Foot 13th in 4:53:57, and Andrew Porter 19th in 5:14:32. This was Sue’s 150th marathon and Lucy’s first, and Andrew completed the race despite having a hairline rib fracture that he sustained just a week ago.
Meanwhile, John Auld and John Rayner journeyed down to London for the first Saturday of the month 10km race at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The “very well organised” event was also very enthusiastically supported (apparently the marshals had missed racing almost as much as the athletes!) It was a superb start back to racing for the duo, with both recording excellent times in perfect conditions: John Rayner finished 11th in 36:57 and John Auld came in 23rd with a time of 37:31.
Closer to home and on a beautiful Saturday morning under brilliant blue skies, a total of 27 squirrels took part in the 13th virtual edition of NHRR’s First Saturday of the Month 5km, with 16 also logging times for the virtual Fly 5km – the 50th edition of a superbly organised virtual event that has been taking place throughout the pandemic. Four squirrels recorded personal bests in the Fly 5km (Dave Braybrook, John Auld, Paula Holm, and Mike Over), with the team coming sixth place in the inter-club competition.
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