On Wednesday (25th May) 64 North Herts Road Runners headed to St Albans to take part in the flat and fast second of the four 10k races in the mid-week league. Under the wooded canopy of the Alban Way a field of 446 athletes took on the out and back course starting and finishing with a lap of the grassy Highfield Park in St Albans. With an increase in numbers from the previous race and a similar number of squirrels to Fairlands Valley Spartans toeing the line, it was all or nothing for every single runner. The course was considered tough, with one of the Squirrels before the race claiming “The really long straight old railway path gives me nightmares!”.
This didn’t stop a fantastic performance for both clubs with North Herts matching their position at Stevenage with the Men finishing second, behind home team St Albans Striders, and the Ladies finished third, behind a strong Trent Park and St Albans. After 2 races, defending champion squirrel Tom Webb looks to retain his title, and Katie Harbon also enjoyed a strong run, placing 2nd and 3 minutes faster than her previous best at this course in 2019. North Herts ladies Captain Tash Pitman was “delighted the ladies finished 3rd, behind the two strongest teams from my 15 years’ experience in the Mid-Week League."
Four days after taking part in the mid-week league, Vince Wright headed to Kempton Park to take on the 10k around the horse racing track in West London. The course was mainly tarmac but there were also some sections of gravel and a small section of sand, so not ideal, but Vince continued his spree of great racing and finished 6th overall and second in his age category in a time of 37:04.
Elsewhere, Anna Gibson and Sue Foot ran the Greensand 50k. This is an ultra-trail run around lovely Bedfordshire countryside, starting and finishing at Shuttleworth. Anna said the conditions were great for her first ultra-race, and the race organisation was excellent. Anna Gibson finished in a great time of 6:11:47 and Susan Foot in 6:23:07.
Parkrun was very popular again this week with squirrels competing at Stevenage, Letchworth, Bedford, Ken Woods and Henlow Bridge Parkrun.
Stevenage - Jane Clarke 41:26 and Tracey McCreath 33:27
Letchworth - Matt Sayers 19:13, James Dalton 20:50, Peter Clarke 21:42, Steve Brenton 24:06, Ian Datlen 24:17, Jegan Simon 26:20, Jennie Fraser 26:48, Paul Bowal 27:02, Aimee Flack 31:15 and Philip Flack 31:16.
Bedford - Tash Pitman 20:38.
Ken Woods - Joe Sherry 23:23.
Henlow Bridge- Ed Price 18:17, John Auld 19:31, Mike Phillips 21:10, Rob Milburn 25:17, Matt Roberts 25:39, Rhia Botha 25:39, Anna Greetham 26:55, Natalie Phillips 27:26 and Sue Vaughan 30:04.
Nick Malpeli of North Herts Road Runners donned his England Masters vest and headed to compete in the Chester Half Marathon on Sunday, which incorporated the National Championship which meant rubbing shoulders with the best masters in the country. Nick took the tilte in a personal best time of 78:33, despite quite a climb at mile 12 to return to finish in the city centre. Nick was delighted with the win, but even more delighted to be presented with his award by Johnny Mellor the elite 2020 British Marathon Champion.
Squirrels and the Spartans club together to host first Mid Week League race since 2019!
North Herts Road Runners, also known as the Squirrels and Fairlands Valley Spartans came together to co-host a fabulous return to the Herts Mid Week League road racing series. Both teams are in the top division and 407 runners converged on Fairlands Valley Park to compete after a two year Covid-induced absence against the five "friendly" rival clubs in the same division. The NHRR campaign to retain the top spot won in 2019 got off to a flying start with their men's team of 12 runners finishing 2nd and their ladies team of 8 runners 3rd, to put them in 3rd place overall. Fairlands Valley Spartans finished as 6th men and 5th ladies team to come 5th overall, so everything still to play for in the remaining 3 races. NHRR's Tom Webb won a hotly contested men's field in a time of 31:25, just 12 seconds ahead of Watford's Oliver Hill. Karen Townsend raced a stunning debut for NHRR and was their first female home in an impressive 38:11, and eighth female overall. Men's team captain John Auld said he was "super proud of the whole teams performance - from the direct scoring team and right through the field and loved seeing team mates running for each other."
Run to the Sea ultra Marathon
On a sunny warm Saturday, Cara Sutton and Sue Foot headed down to the South Down to take part in "Run to the Sea", an ultra-distance 50km multi-terrain point to point route from Horsham to Brighton seafront, second to none for scenery and views. Cara finished her debut ultra in 6 hours 29 minutes, closely followed by the very experienced ultra-runner in 6 hours 32 minutes. Cara said "The first half was flat, lulling us into a false sense of security, before we got our first taste of the South Downs with a steep hill that continued for over 1 km. From then on it was hilly, with steep knee straining downhills followed by more glute burning uphills."
Kyle conquers Copenhagen
Kyle Stout managed a 12 minute PB at the Copenhagen marathon just 5 weeks after his Brighton marathon. Kyle said he started to feel fatigued at the 22 mile mark but enjoyed the race in the beautiful Danish sunshine.
Colchester Stampede - Elwyn Howell
Not content with just one 10km race this week and PB performance at the Stevenage MWL, Elwyn Howell headed off to the Colchester Stampede 10km at the weekend, coming first in his age category in 45:32.
We had 29 Squirrels venturing out to 7 different parkruns on Saturday 14th May. Great Denham saw a mini takeover with Paula H corralling her team mates with the promise of coffee and cake afterwards. Great team spirits with PBs all round and Stewart Overton won the event in a speedy 16:42. Tracy said "A beautiful day and a lovely flat course made for great conditions. With all the excitement I went out fast, way too fast for the first mile in 6:14, but somehow managed to keep the legs going to the end before collapsing in a heap after the finish tunnel" and thanked Paula Holm for helping her up! Tash was up in Ambleside and took in the 3 lap Rothay parkrun, with some tight muddy bends and soft grass making the going tough!
The weekend was a double dose of North Herts Road Runners hosted events. Starting with the First Saturday of the Month 5km and followed by the return of the Greenway Challenge on Sunday. Race Director of the Greenway Challenge and club president Lucy Hurley described an awesome weekend off racing and running. Thanking the volunteers, runners and cheerleaders that made the weekend incredibly special.
First Saturday of the Month
75 runners including 33 squirrels ran the First Saturday of the month 5km round Norton Common. The morning sunshine was broken just before the race started with a rain shower. However, this wasn’t too bad as it was fairly warm still. The rain added some puddles to the course in time for the second lap and gave everybody nice muddy back legs.
Stewart Overton was first home followed by Matt Sayers and John Auld. Astrid Mckeown was first lady followed by Tash Pitman and Paula Holm.
Tash said that in the pre-race catch up we had all said we were taking it easy, ahead of Wednesday’s Mid week League race, but think the excitement of a race saw us all run considerably faster than planned. It was great to run as a team and help each other round. Hopefully good practice for Wednesday.
Amongst 186 finishers were 17 squirrels that ran the Greenway Challenge which raised money for the Garden House Hospice. The sun was certainly shining down on a beautiful morning and the greenway looked absolutely glorious in the sunshine. There were plenty of lovely distractions including skipping lams, blossom and pretty wildflowers.
First squirrel home was Nick Malpeli finishing in 1:29:26, whilst first Lady home for the club was Rachel Arnott in 1:38:55 closely followed by Tash Pitman in 1:39:02. Nick said that it was very enjoyable and gave a big thank you to the volunteers for another impeccably organised event.
Kat Hinitt finished fourth lady with a personal best for the course in 1:45:18. Kat thanked the marshals and expert bakers who supplied the amazing cakes at the end.
Tash said she had the pleasure of running with Ian Datlen and Rachel Arnott. Ian kept them on track, doing his best to make sure they didn’t cut any corners. He also promised to pace us conservatively to keep the legs fresh for Wednesday’s race and he did a pretty good job until the last 2km, where he appeared to smell the amazing display of cake at the finish line and took off like Usain Bolt, with Rachel springing alongside!
Ian finished in 18th place in 1:38:53. Rachel finished 19th overall and won the Ladies race in 1:38:55. Tash herself did her best to keep them both in sight and finished in 20th spot, second lady in 1:39:02. The threesome had a great fun run, chatting away and loving the blue skies and lush spring blossom and scents.
Wimpole Estate: Vince Wright 19:09
Rother Valley: Danielle Lister 28:00
Castle Park: Jo Sherry 25:13
Letchworth: John Russell 25:16, Steve Brenton 27:59
Henlow Bridge Lakes: James Poulton 23:53, Rob Milburn 25:58
Akrotiri: Alice Noakes 23:09
A bumper weekend of Bank Holiday running saw North Herts Road Runners setting club records and personal bests galore.
The Squirrels turned out in force for the Hitchin 10k and came away with a sparkling set of results, new member Ben Hadman taking top spot on the podium with a superb 33:23 and Rhia Botha winning her V30 age category in a new personal best of 43.05. Karen Townsend and Laura Fairbanks also got in on the ‘PB’ party with new best times of 42:03 and 47:30 respectively – Townsend also making a podium appearance as third female finisher and Fairbanks hailing the ‘lovely race with great support’.
Super-vet Ian Sutcliffe had been ‘hoping to get under the hour again’ but finished in 1:00:49 for second place in his V70 age group.
Other NHRR finishers in Hitchin included Will Harrison in 40:34, David Weston, running ‘undercover having misplaced my club vest’ and finishing in 44:59, Kat Hinitt, who somehow ‘really enjoyed’ her 47:05 performance despite ‘very sore and grazed knees from a nasty tumble a couple of days beforehand’ and Lindsay Cook, ‘very pleased to finish’ in 1:01:48 despite ‘sore knees in the later part of the race’.
Shaun Allin was on pacer duties for two friends and came nicely under their 50-minute target in 49:32.
Vitality London 10k
Down in the capital, a scurry of Squirrels showed they can hold their own with the biggest running clubs in the land as North Herts placed as 14th team in the prestigious Vitality London 10k. There was a trio of scorching personal bests from Tom Webb – 37th out of 16,000 runners in 31:54, Mike Roberts in 33:30 and Stewart Overton in 34.05. Dervla Downing completed the mixed team with 46:02 to make it a fine day out – ‘great to be pounding the streets of London with Sir Mo’, as Webb reported.
Milton Keynes Marathon
Richard Weber was relieved to ‘finish upright and conscious’ after ‘the hardest race I’ve ever done’ as he made his debut over the 26.2-mile distance at the Milton Keynes Marathon. Lucy O’Connor was only minutes behind as she recorded an impressive new best time of 4:01:00 and Anna Gibson and Greg Bowie finished in 4:35:58 and 4:44:43 respectively.
Dave Braybrook tackled the accompanying half-marathon and just ‘enjoyed the run instead of racing, crossing the line in 1:51:04.
Great Denham Parkrun
The Road Runners had started the Bank Holiday weekend in style, with 17 members descending on Great Denham Parkrun near Bedford for a ‘Squirrels on Tour’ event in what Dan Mallett described as ‘sunny conditions and a great way to start the weekend’.
Katie Harbon set a new club Parkrun record as she crossed the line in 18:10 and first female finisher. Nick Malpeli (second finisher) and Adrian Sherwood also beat their previous Parkrun bests with 17:58 and 18:54 respectively, while Dan Mallett missed a new best time by just a second as he finished in 20:40.
Despite being ‘distracted at the start by finding a nice Labrador to stroke’, Tash Pitman still managed to set a new Club Record for the FV45 category with her 20:01 clocking at the Edinburgh Parkrun, taking full advantage of the ‘pancake flat out and back course with a brilliant view of the Firth of Forth on the return leg’.
More great results
Just to prove it really was a bumper Bank Holiday weekend of racing, Vince Wright knocked an amazing two and a half minutes off his previous best with 36:07 at the Gear 10k in Kings Lynn, Adam Bowller clocked a superb 16:08 PB at the MK Rocket 5k – ‘an enjoyable race on closed roads, starting in the centre of Milton Keynes and finishing in the stadium’ and Stewart Overton ‘capped off a busy two weeks of races’ with a speedy 16:22 at the Friday Night Under the Lights 5k in Battersea Park.
Finally, John Auld returned to his roots to tackle one his favourite races – the Silkstone Shuffle near Barnsley. He put in a ‘good honest effort’ on the ‘multi-terrain course of 3km up a trail hill followed by 4.5km back down, over fields and stiles’, clocking 30:13 for sixth place and just one second behind fifth – a great start as this was the first of a series of three races, with cumulative time deciding the overall standings.
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