The Doug Anderson 5km was on Wednesday in Bedford Park, Bedford. The met office had issued an Amber extreme heat warning and the temperature at 7:30 was 27 degrees, with 'feels like' 30 degrees. None the less, 8 North Herts Road Runners squirrels participated amongst the 291 finishers. It was a great club event and the first one available in some time. The heat made it very hard and the water on the course was very much appreciated. It was great to sit in the garden of the local pub afterwards with some team mates and recover some fluids over a chat. Matt Sayers said “the race was great, but my highlight was the post race pint.” Despite the heat there was some fantastic performances. The mens team of Tom Webb, Mark Vaughan and Stewart Overton won the mens team competition. And the team of Mark Vaughan, Stewart Overton and Matt Sayers won the veteran mens team competition. Despite the heat, Mike Banister ran a personal best time for 5km. In the individual competition, Matt Sayers won the over 45's mens and Mark Vaughan won the over 50’s mens competition. The whole team celebrated by picking up Sue Vaughan!
First home was Tom Webb who finished 4th in the race with 16:28. Not too far behind was Mark Vaughan who took 7th place in 17:11. Finishing 11th and 12th in the race was Stewart Overton and Matt Sayers who worked together brilliantly and both finished in 17:31.Mike Banister made the top 20, finishing 19th with 18:16. John Auld finished 36th in 19:14. First lady home for the club was Natalie Lawrence in 19:47. Sue Vaughan completed the squirrels turnout finishing in 28:10.
Parkrun was back this week in many places across the country and there was a good turn out from NHRR, 24 in total - most of which ran the local course at Letchworth. Paula Holm said that the event was very well organised and everybody was socially distancing and giving each other space. She “was delighted to run the slightly longer course and come home first lady”. Other courses ran by Squirrels were Oxford, Stevenage, Wimpole Estate, Keswick and Market Rasen Racecourse.
Carl Haskell ran at Oxford with Abbie Haskell and Vicky Haskell. They finished in 25:37, 56:50 and 56:51 respectively. Ian Harvey ran at Stevenage finishing in 21:16 with Georgina and Carina Quayle also finishing in 26:21 and 30:00 respectively. Vince Wright and Jillian Boys ran at Wimpole Estate finishing in 21:55 and 27:06 respectively. Glyn Blakey ran Keswick in 24:28. Andrew Underhill ran Market Rasen Racecourse in 20:59. 14 squirrels ran at Letchworth, James Fox lead the way finishing in 17:39 followed by James Dalton (21:44), Matt Roberts (23:06), Paula Holm (23:07), Kat Gourd (25:24), Steve Benton (25:56), Rhia Botha (26:04), Ellie Scott (26:20), Christian Allen (27:37), Bob Davis (29:02), Amy Murch (30:36), Carl Goodrum (31:33), Philip Flack (31:43) and Brian Bailey (38:15).
‘There’s nowhere to hide on the track, so it was really inspiring to see them put in a solid effort’ was John Auld’s pithy report after leading the track-side support for four of his North Herts Road Runners team-mates as they tackled the 5,000 metre distance on the hottest day of the year.
The valiant quartet of Andrew Leach, Mark Vaughan, Nathan Pask and Stewart Overton were taking part in the MK5000 series of races at the Stantonbury Track in Milton Keynes. With conditions officially rated at 27 degrees, but ‘feeling more like 30’ according to men’s team Captain Auld, ‘it was so hot that all the racers struggled. Even the supporters struggled and were looking for shade wherever possible’.
Despite the furnace-like conditions, super-veteran Andrew Leach still recorded a scorching 16:45 time, with Vaughan and Pask not far behind with 17:23 and 17:28 respectively. Stewart Overton completed the NHRR turnout with an excellent 17:52.
Competitors and supporters alike enjoyed what Auld described as a ‘carnival atmosphere’. ‘It wasn’t a day for times’, he reported’ ‘but a good chance to show some NHRR spirit and determination’.
With most peoples’ eyes on centre court and Wembley, races were few and far between. Others were taking part in the fantastic Fountain to Fountain 18 mile charity walk raising vital funds for two local Hospice charities.
Three squirrels scampered down the A1M to Hatfield to take part in the London (?!) Vitality 10,000 at Hatfield Park. Sisters Linsey and Jennie described the course as amazing and beautiful with a great atmosphere, a fab medal and t-shirt. They were raising money for the charity MIND, a charity close to their hearts. They said they “were not there smashing PBs but were having a blast running together.”
Joining them was Squirrel Steve Brenton who used the race as part of his marathon training. He was pleased to get himself a new PB for the distance of 45:17 on such a nice course, but having just returned from holiday, found that he had tired legs and didn’t enjoy the hill at the end!
Other Squirrels are busy trying to clock up their fastest 5km times for the highly -acclaimed Squirrels Cup and enter their speediest runs for the Virtual Midweek League. Elwyn Howell was first off the blocks for both!
With the countdown to the releasing of restrictions, the return of Parkrun is nearly upon us as are more frequent races for the competitive ones among us.
In a busy week for the North Herts Road Runners, the ladies team notched up some fantastic times racing in Norfolk, and the club’s legendary First Saturday of the Month race finally returned.
After the 2020 races were cancelled, 11 ladies from the North Herts Road Runners were delighted to finally get the chance to race at the rolling parkland of the stately home Holkham Hall in Norfolk on Sunday 4th July. Katie Harbon was the sole squirrel to take on the challenge of the half marathon distance and ran a superb 1.26.18 to finish 6th in the race and 2nd lady overall, merely seconds behind first place. Despite the grey and damp conditions, running in a torrential downpour and having to contend with a tough, undulating course, with many off-road sections, Katie was thrilled to podium and said, “I loved my first race back after 14 months and am delighted to be so competitive. Can’t wait for my next race in 2021!” By 1pm, the weather had improved, with blue skies and a rise in temperatures seeing the remaining runners set off to tackle the 10km distance. Despite some testing hills, the North Herts Road Runners team did brilliantly, with Tash Pitman finishing fourth overall and first in her age group in 43.32, followed by Helen Cairns (47.55) and Jane Clarke (48.05), who took second and third spots in their respective age groups. Next across the line was Karen Dodsworth, smashing her target and third in her age group in 56.00, followed by Jo Harbon (56.28), Sue Vaughan (58.45), Miranda Morgan (1.05.17), Vanessa Rolfe (1.10.00), and Joy Stroud, who won her age category in 1:15:36. The team exuded great team spirit, with everyone cheering on the sidelines, maintaining social distancing but really relishing a return to racing in real life after 16 months of virtual races.
Closer to home, Steve McKeown was delighted to report a trio of consecutive wins at the Hitchin Sprint Triathlon (a 400m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run), coming in first overall in 59:49 – a new course record! Other squirrels competing in the event were Natalie Lawrence (1:00:33) and Oliver Starr (01:38:28).
Also this week, the North Herts Road Runners were finally able to restart their legendary and popular free monthly 5km event in Letchworth for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. Following a test event last month for club members only, the squirrels held their first public event of the First Saturday of the Month 5k on Saturday 3rd July, successfully attaining the required approval to host the event several weeks before parkrun! Despite the overcast and very muggy conditions, the runners were out in force to complete the picturesque circuit on Norton Common. There were 47 finishers in total, with Richard Poulter first man home in 19:06, and Kat Gourd first lady in 24:14.
Within the club, the runners have also had another busy week of excellent social runs, with Mike Bullock and Susan Mansfield organising another fantastic and scenic run, this time an 8.5 mile route starting from Woburn and heading out into the surrounding countryside, parkland, and around the edges of the safari park, with excellent opportunities to spot elephants, giraffes, and rhinos through the fences of the park – animals not usually found roaming in the local countryside! July has also seen the start of the intra-club “Squirrels cup”, in which runners compete in cake-themed teams of three to run the fastest 5k distance during the month.
On the weekend that should have seen the North Herts Road Runners hosting our Greenway challenge half marathon, which was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, plenty of squirrels were out competing in other events.
Lucy O’Connor took part in the gently undulating Milton Keynes marathon on Sunday. Her time of 4:12:05 was a marathon PB, having knocked 9 minutes off her previous marathon time which she ran back in May. Lucy was grateful to those who came to support her, and said “it was wonderful to see a friendly face, especially at mile 22”.
Andrew Porter and Sue Foot did the Maverick Frontier Chilterns marathon, which covered a total distance of 27.3 miles. It was a very scenic route, starting and finishing at the Chiltern Way Academy in Wendover. There were some tough climbs and Andrew slipped on one of the descents and landed in a bed of stinging nettles which resulted in the whole of his arm turning red and sore. It was a very well organised event and there was a large shiny gold medal at the finish.
The virtual Midweek League continues this week, and the Blue and Green groups took part in a 10k time trial on Thursday night. 19 runners took on the flat Brandles road loop in Letchworth, and Midweek league rep Pete Sibbett said “everyone smashed it”. Also running Thursday night was Richard Weber who managed a 47:32 personal best for the 10k distance.
Lindsey Lucas, Helen Marson-Smith and Jo Sopala used their Saturday social to put a time in for the Virtual Midweek League race. The recent weather meant that progress was slightly hindered by the flooding on the Letchworth Greenway. What initially appeared to be an ankle-deep puddle soon turned into a knee-high pool and led to a reroute over the fields. The threesome were happy to wear the club vest again and focus on smiles for team spirit. Jo finished in 1:17:27 with Helen just behind in 1:17:28. Lucy wasn't far behind either with 1:18:43.
‘A big step towards getting up and running again’ was the verdict from North Herts Road Runners after a successful test of their monthly 5k event on Norton Common in Letchworth Garden City.
The Squirrels are looking forward to hosting their regular First Saturday of the Month 5k again – a free-to-enter event open to the whole community that has been suspended since the start of Lockdown last year.
They used this week’s test event – with just their own club members participating - to try out new ideas that will make the event Covid-safe, such as runners starting in waves rather in than in a mass start.
Race Director Richard Harbon said ‘We’re now completely confident that we can put on a safe and enjoyable monthly 5k starting on Saturday 3rd July – or as soon as the national rules allow after that. We really appreciate the support we’ve had with this from our own members and the wider community –especially North Herts District Council, who have been super-helpful. We can’t wait to see loads of smiling faces at our events again.’
Elsewhere ‘a nice lolly at the end’ was the best David Weston could say about his experience at the St Albans half-marathon, where ‘a lack of any training, a lockdown takeaway addiction and a sudden increase in miles this week resulted in an unforgiving race’. Despite growing up in the area, Weston found the course unexpectedly ‘undulating’, and the combination of 750 feet of ascent and ’the sun beating down with no mercy’ made for a ‘torturous, barbaric and relentless’ challenge. After using his last vestiges of energy to help a ‘wobbling’ St Albans Strider to the marshals with 600m to go, our hero was relieved to finish in 1:52, vowing ‘never again’.
The North Herts Road Runners made light work of the hot new June iteration of the Hertfordshire Half Marathon.
A scurry of squirrels from the North Herts Road Runners ventured to Knebworth on Sunday 6th June to take part in the Hertfordshire half marathon. The popular race, which was being held in the summer instead of the autumn for the first time, started in the parkland in front of the iconic Knebworth House before heading out onto on closed roads in the surrounding local countryside.
The combination of hot weather and a challenging hilly course did not deter the super squirrels, with several smashing their goals to achieve some fantastic personal best times. Ian Datlen, who was proud of his team mates for “running their legs off”, was the first squirrel over the line, in a fantastic new personal best of 1:30:04, with James Datlen following closely behind in 1:33:51, Shaun Allin in 1:42:03, and Rhia Botha in 1:43:14. Dave Braybrook was delighted to achieve a huge personal best of 1:43:54, admitting that it was “very warm day to be doing an undulating course”, but was proud to complete the race “with a sprint finish that the coach would be proud of!”
The impressive times and personal bests did not stop there, with Matt Roberts (1:45:06), Anna Greetham (1:45:27), and Charlie Jones (1:45:32) all smashing their previous records. Other squirrels completing the race were Alexandra Gates (1:47:45), Kyle Stout (1:58:11), Liam Jones (1:58:15), Rachel Canning (2:07:46), and Siobhan Walsh (2:45:03). There was also a 10 km event at the same venue, which Elwyn Howell finished in a new personal best of 47:40, coming second in his age category.
On a super sunny Sunday morning, a scurry of Squirrels headed over to Hitchin to run the Hitchin 10k. The race was the first local running event since restrictions were eased and was organised under COVID-19 rules, with runners setting off in waves. The undulating course seemed to suit the North Herts Road Runners, with Natasha Pitman coming home as first lady (43:26), closely followed by second lady Tracy Pitcairn (43:27). Paula Holm also took part, despite a previous vow to give up racing, and notched up a great time of 43:58 – her third ever sub-45 minute 10k.
James Dalton achieved an excellent personal best (40:52) finishing 16th overall. Kat Gourd (47:15) said “It was very enjoyable, despite a few undulations and a sneaky challenging hill by the pig farm at Charlton Hill”. Ian Sutcliffe was pleased with his run in a time of 59:28, which got him below his target of an hour and placed him third in the V70 category.
Elsewhere, our ultra-running duo Mike Bullock and Susan Mansfield were back in action, this time joined by Andy Grudzinski. Competing in The Devil’s Lite 50k Trail Ultra, the three heroic squirrels set off on the South Downs Way, oblivious of the terror that was to come. After only 1 km, the hills began, and didn’t stop for the next 49 km. Even the downhills were “evil...steep and treacherous”, and apparently it felt like a morning on the rollercoasters at Alton Towers! As much as the elevation, the heat took its toll, as Mike explained: “Heatstroke was my problem, so I spent much of my race being sick in bushes, getting more and more dehydrated, and making it an uncomfortable day in the hills.” Susan, however, fell down hills....twice....and ended up in the ambulance ....twice ! She finished covered in bandages and sterile dressings , and Andy Grudzinski, who was doing his first 50k event, was like a Florence Nightingale, looking after her to make sure she finished the race…. big shout out to the superb Andy!
Andrew Porter and Sue Foot did the Chiltern Kanter on Thursday. This was a map-reading marathon of 26.5 miles in which runners were given 32 grid references with questions to answer at each grid reference. There were no marshals or checkpoints. They started at Pitstone out to Ivinghoe Beacon, Aldbury and Wiggington Bottom. It was a very scenic route and they managed to answer 28 of the 32 questions; the other four were missed due to them taking some wrong turnings!
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