On Thursday night 50 squirrels battled the soaring temperatures to take on the annual Fairlands Valley Spartans Relays.
There were some excellent individual performances with PBS flying everywhere despite the sweltering heat and airless conditions, but the night was all about working together as a team. The lady squirrels won the women's event - Astrid McKeown, Helen Cairns and Sarah Mitcherson took the trophy and were crowned Herts County Champions!
NHRR's 'B' team of Kat Burr, Paula Holm and Jane Clarke secured the bronze for the FV35 category. The male squirrels, not to be outdone by the ladies, also took away medals with a 2nd in the open event - Mark Vaughan, Adam Bowller, Stewart Overton, Darren Sunter, and Tom Webb and NHRR's 'B' team won silver for the MV40 category with a team of Lee Hayes, Nick Malpelli, James Walsh, Darren Matussa and Ryan Smith.
On Wednesday night three Squirrels travelled up to Bedford for the annual Doug Anderson Memorial 5K. Darren Matussa was first home for the club in a course PB of 18:23 and was 16th overall. Michelle Grudzinski was delighted to clock a massive PB of 23:53, having been paced by fellow squirrel Adam Wilson who finished in 24:19, his second fastest time!
On Sunday three Squirrels enjoyed "more favourable conditions" at the Lee Valley 10 Festival 10 Mile event. Stewart Overton, not content with having secured victory on his first track race, taking on the 1500m distance at the Watford Open in 4:46 and a PB at the FVS Relays, he was "very pleased" to take 5th place and rack up his 3rd PB of the week in an impressive 60:33. Michelle and Andy Grudzinski also made their journey worthwhile by both scoring PBs of 1:31.23 and 1:42.36.
Home and holidaying squirrels were out in force throughout the UK - notably Richard and Jo Harbon tackled the Oban Parkrun and reflected that "it was a full blooded fell run with serious hills", but still managed to finish 7th male and 10th lady! Squirrel Stephen Lummis advised other Parkrun enthusiasts to check their Parkrun is on before travelling, having driven to Panshanger early Saturday morning to find it cancelled. Thankfully he had enough time to "drive like Lewis Hamilton" across to Ellenbrook Fields, arriving 3 minutes before the start and still ran a creditable 23:10!
Sunday saw Nick Malpeli and Astrid McKeown voyaged down to Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey for the Caterham Rotary Half Marathon, which incorporated the British Masters Half Marathon Championships.
Another warm one, with Nick Malpeli finding the undulating 2 lap course hard going the second time around. Malpeli finished with a seasons worst time of 01:23:41. This was 10 seconds slower than at the Hitchin Hard Half (so maybe it wasn't so hard after all). It was still good enough to secure him the British Masters MV50 Bronze. Astrid McKeown came 3rd FV45 in a time of 1:33:25 winning the British Masters FV45 Bronze.
Most of the racing started early this weekend with Five Squirrels taking on the tough but scenic off-road course at the Panshanger Park 5 Mile race on Thursday evening. This was the second race in the local Midsummer 5 Mile Series.
Unsurprisingly it was another warm evening, and the ladies team went into the race in 1st position after the first race in the series. There was a good turn-out and the bigger field meant the women would have to dig deep to maintain their winning position.
The Ladies team kept up their performance from the previous race to take first place in the series. Finishes were Naomi Parkinson 39:13, Jullian Boys 40:05, Lucy Hurley 42:23, Adam Wilson 43:38 and Alan Hazlehurst 43:51.
Six squirrels headed to Bedford on Friday night for the Beds AAA 10k. The fast, flat course produced some excellent times. Mark Vaughan finished 6th overall in 34:26 and was 1st M45, followed closely by Adam Bowller in 7th with a new PB by 32 seconds in a time of 34:29. Stewart Overton finished in 19th place in a time of 35:58, and Ryan Smith also ran a PB finishing in 36:49. Other Squirrels taking part were Ian Sutcliffe 54:42 and Sue Vaughan 55:28.
Taking the short trip north Andrew Robson competed in the Bedford Super Sprint Triathlon for the 11th time. In perfect racing conditions Robson set new PRs for all three sections clocking an overall time of 1:26:28, almost 4 minutes quicker than last year and finishing 11th in his age group.
Parkrun results as follows: Leamington parkrun John Russell 63rd 22:15, Stevenage parkrun Simon Poole 2nd 18:25, Miranda Mogran 150th 27:43, Helen Giffen 227th 31:16, Patrick Norris 255th 33:16, Naomi Parkinson 302nd 37:37, Wimpole Estate Brian Judkins 285th 35:04, Ellenbrook Fields Chris Pool 56th 23:13, Bakewll Jodie Brumhead 79th 23:52, and Letchworh Parkrun Vincent Wright 10th 21:40, James Dalton 13th 21:52, Jillian Boys 34th 24:54, and Bob Davis 60th 28:42.
North Herts Road Runners enjoy success on the roads and in the mountains
Wednesday saw the Midweek League’s ‘Mob Match’, which brings together all of the participating clubs across the divisions for a closing 10k event. Following up their success in Division 1, the North Herts Road Runners produced another show of strength, with the women’s team finishing first in both the open and the Vet categories. They were led home by Paula Adams who finished in 4th place overall with a time of 41:56. The men also produced a strong display with three men, Jim McConnel, Mark Vaughan and Tom Webb, finishing in the top 10. It capped an end to what has been a breakthrough season for the Squirrels in the league’s highly competitive top flight. At the awards presentation after the race, Team NHRR picked up prizes for the second team overall in Division 1, the first Vets’ team overall and the first Vets’ Men’s team. The Squirrels also bagged a clutch of individual trophies: Katie Harbon was first female overall, and Astrid McKeown was second. Sarah Mitcherson was first V35, while Paula Adams was first V45. For the men, Mark Vaughan won first V40, and Matt Sayers won second V40.
There was plenty more hard running to come for the Squirrels, and not just on the roads. Jim McConnel and Michelle Grudzinski both travelled to Snowdonia at the weekend. Michelle took part in the Trail Half Marathon, which included seven brutal miles up Snowden, and finished in 3.15.23. Jim took on the full marathon, and in his very first attempt at the distance, finished in 11th position out of 698 entrants. Despite battling some punishing climbs, the dreaded cramp, dehydration and hunger, Jim posted a time of 4 hours and 23 minutes, and even ended up with a smile on his face. “Appetite whetted, I might just try another,” he said after the race. “Maybe a flat road one next time!”
Sue Foot took on the Lulworth Cove Challenge, and enjoyed stunning scenery as well as a total elevation of no less than 2351 metres. Sue was one of 60 runners who ran along the coast from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door and back, crossing MOD land and taking in some amazing views, and she was very pleased to finish with a time of 8 hours 37.
In Northamptonshire, Jo Summers ran the Hannington Hike. This new, gently undulating route took in numerous beautiful villages. She completed the full distance, which turned out to be 28.5 miles in total, “even without making any mistakes,” in 5 hours 28.
Closer to home, Lucy Hurley and Naomi Parkinson ran the Fairlands Valley Challenge Ultra, a 50k event, which in fact was closer to 55k in length. On a blisteringly hot day, the temperatures topped 29 degrees. Their verdict of the race: “Definitely would recommend if you want a challenge!” Other Squirrels taking part on the day were Katherine Burr, Caroline Thrussell and Paul Bowel.
North Herts Road Runners have various training groups for different abilities and levels of experience. The Purple Group is billed as a good place to start if you’re new to running, and seven members of the group showed what massive strides they have made since joining the club, by running the British 10k in London. Kelly Hanlon, Jo Kenlin, Shani Fielding, Joanne Sopala, Hayley Cocks, Monica Cullin and Shirley Calcutt were joined by fellow Squirrel Stuart Cocks in posting fantastic times, and in doing so raised £1700 for MS Trust.
North Herts Road Runners celebrated the scorching summer with a ‘Dawn and Dusk’ double-header version of their monthly 5k run on Norton Common.
The ‘First Saturday of the Month’ 5k is well established as a popular fixture in the local running calendar with a regular 9.00am start time, but the one-off addition of an evening run proved popular,, with over 150 people taking part over the two runs – including 10 who completed both. Many runners and their families rounded off the evening event with a picnic and a celebration after the World Cup excitement. Race Director Steve McKeown said ‘It was a chilled and fun atmosphere, with lovely weather. I imagine we’ll be doing it again next midsummer’.
Home club NHRR enjoyed a 1-2-3 finish in the morning event with Paul Jackson first in 18:25 and James Keogh and Adrian Sherwood close behind. Fellow Squirrel Sarah Mitcherson took the ladies’ honours in 20:37.
Hitchin Running Club’s Oliver Saville stormed home first in the evening with a time of 17:15 and Emily Hutchinson was first lady in an excellent 18:49.
Fresh from masterminding the ‘Dawn and Dusk’ event, NHRR’s Steve McKeown was up early the next morning to lead a strong contingent of Squirrels at the Hitchin Triathlon. Steve won the event overall, completing the 400m swim, 20k bike section and 5k run in a blistering 59:51.
John Auld chose the Hitchin event for his triathlon debut and finished 19th despite finding that he ‘really struggled off the bike – it’s horrible!’ Lindsay Cook, Helen Cairns, Jo Harbon and Andrew Robson were also competing, with Lindsay and Andrew among those reporting faster times than last year.
It was a double celebration for the McKeowns as NHRR Chairperson Astrid McKeown won the Ware 10-mile race in 1:09:11 and reported her gratitude at being ‘hosed down by local residents – a nice touch’ in the hot conditions.
Earlier in the week five NHRR runners tackled the first race in the Midsummer Series 5-mile race at the Woodhall Estate in what Linda Aird described as ‘very, very hot’ conditions’. Naomi Parkinson was the first NHRR finisher, taking the third senior lady spot in 40:04, with Jillian Boys in 41:04, Lucy Hurley 43:43, Linda Aird 45:07 and Alan Hazlehurst 45:11.
Michelle Grudzinski overcame running ‘low on fuel reserves and struggling a lot’ in the latter stages of the 46k Maverick Ultra in the Peak District. Despite feeling ‘sick and shaking’, Michelle finished in 9 hours 54.
Jo Summers completed a remarkable Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday three marathons in a week as part of the Great Barrow 10 in 10 Days Challenge, including setting a new course record of 3 hours 52 for the Wednesday route.
Monica Cullin reported it was ‘very hot, but I managed to get round’ after finishing the Weybridge 10k in 1:39:23 and Jennie Andrews and Linsey Ashley complet
Wednesday saw the final Mid Week League Race of the Summer take place in Stevenage. North Herts entered the race in 4th place looking to secure their position and avoid relegation having only been promoted last year to division 1. The rallying call went out from President Harbon and the squirrels responded. Either by making vast quantities of delicious rolls and cakes, donning hi-vis jackets and cheering on all the runners as loud as possible, handing out desperately needed water or running as fast as possible to secure our division 1 place.
The rolls were delicious.
The marshalling was efficient.
The water was thirst quenching.
The racing was sublime.
Not only did North Herts secure their place in division 1, they finished an incredible second overall. This was down to outstanding racing in the final run. The men’s team, women’s team, men’s vets team and women’s vets team all finished 1st in their respective category. Jim McConnel finished 2nd in 34:15 followed by Andrew Leech in 34:29 and Darren Sunter in 34:56. All in all 62 squirrels took place including an outstanding Katie Harbon finishing first female in 38:57 making her first female overall. In addition the Vets Men finished 1st overall. Once again North Herts Road Runners demonstrated their team spirit and support for one another and running in general with a superb attitude from everyone whether marshalling or running. Congratulations to Ellie Scott as MWL Rep for organising such a successful season.
Elsewhere this week Jo Summers continued to tick off the marathons by finishing the Great Barrow Challenge day 4 of 10 marathons in 10 days in a time of 4:39 and Naomi Parkinson and Alan Hazlehurst ran the Great Bassingbourn half marathon. Naomi finished in 1hr 59 and Alan in 2hr 04 on a very hot and undulating course with absolutely no shade!
Stewart Overton continued his fine form by winning the King’s Lynn Parkrun in a time of 17:16 and Dave Annetts entered the Jim Sharlott 10k incorporating the BMAF 10k championships. This being a famous race in the walking calendar Dave managed to complete the course in 54:02 winning the V50 category and finishing 2nd overall
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