Three squirrels headed to Highfield Park on a very damp Sunday morning to take part in St Albans Summer 10km hosted by Active Training World. The race started in a time trial format, with the fastest predicted time athletes setting off in wave 1 at 9am, followed by a second wave at 10am. This allowed for social distancing and the starting pen resembled a Formula 1 grid! Team captains John Auld and Tash Pitman started in the 9am wave heading out towards Hatfield along the flat, tree lined former railway line, Alban Way before looping back to St Albans. John finished in 39:16, 5th in the 30-39 age category and 18th male finisher. Tash finished in 42:22, 3rd in her age category, just 15 seconds short of the 2nd place and 6th female overall.
Russ Hagan cheered on his team mates in wave 1, before lining up for the wave 2 start at 10am. The rain had cleared at this point, which saw favourable race conditions help him to a fantastic personal best time of 51:40, achieving 6th place in his age category, a whole 3 minutes ahead of 7th place! Great racing from the squirrels. Russ Hagan said "It was so good to be back in a race again, I ran the St. Albans 10K for the first time a couple of years ago and got a PB so was hopeful I could better it. “
Saturday saw our First Saturday of the month 5k race take place on Norton Common. Fifty-Two runners took part with Peter Clarke coming in first with a time of 18:40 and the first lady, finishing in 8th place was Tracy Pitcairn with a time of 21:25. Three buggy runners took on the bumpy terrain of Norton Common, Tom Webb and daughter Olivia led the pack finishing 2nd overall (19:03). Second place was Dave Braybrook with Leo (24:41) and third was Jillian Boys with Mable (30:41). This monthly event is open to all runners and is totally free. See our website to register.
The Squirrel Cup concluded at the end of July it was very tight at the top of the leaderboard with Team ‘Rock cake’ made up of Chris Stokes, Susan Mansfield and Caroline Thrussell taking the top spot with a time of 01:05:08. They were closely followed by Team ‘Cream Horn’ who took the Silver medal and Team ‘Battenburg’ in Bronze position. This fabulous competition ran through the month of July and was expertly organised by Mike Bullock.
Sunday 26th September will see the return of the Standalone 10K. There are still places available and members are asked to volunteer for marshalling.
The North Herts Road Runners saw out July in style as they celebrated numerous successes at their run of the month 10km race in Bedford
The squirrels were out in force on Friday 30th July for the popular AAA Bedford 10k, which was the nominated “run of the month” for the club. The mainly flat, scenic race started at Bedford’s Priory Park, heading out along cycle paths out towards Danish Camp and back, skirting the Great Ouse. It also served as the Bedfordshire 10km County Champs, so a very strong field of runners toed the start line looking forward to a mass start “normal” race. Men’s team captain John Auld agreed that it seemed very close to a normal event, although women’s captain Tash Pitman noticed that the athletes were more spaced out than in pre-COVID times.
Among the excellent turnout of 17 squirrels, there were some superb individual and team performances. The men’s team of Andrew Leach (34:02), Matt Sayers (35:35), Stewart Overton (36:12), and Nick Malpeli came second (37:19), behind a very strong Huntingdonshire AC, with Andrew Leach winning the M55 age category. Not to be outdone, the ladies A team of Tash Pitman (42:33), Astrid McKeown (43:32), and Tracy Pitcairn (43:57) came second to Bedford Harriers, with Tracy also winning the F35 age category. The squirrels’ success did not stop there, with the ladies B team, Lucy O’Connor (49:17), Anna Gibson (49:36), and Deborah Smith (56:03), claiming third place on the podium. Impressively, it was Deborah’s first ever 10km and even though she admits she was “pretty nervous”, she was pleased with her steady pace and finished with a huge smile, completely smashing her target of under an hour. Several of the runners achieved impressive personal best times, including Dave Braybook, who was “over the moon” to see his previous personal best tumble from 50:22 pre-lockdown to a fantastic 43:30. Richard Weber also recorded a fantastic personal best of 45:49 in his first proper 10k race since the lockdowns. Other squirrels who took part were John Auld (38:25), Pete Sibbett (43:19), Richard Thackeray (44:58), Andrew Porter (56:43), and Brian Judkins (1:08:41). All the runners were hugely grateful to fellow supporters from the club who came along and gave the runners a boost to help them sprint over the line.
Meanwhile, Kat Gourd ventured into London for the London Landmarks Half Marathon on Sunday 1st August. The closed-road race was one of the first mass, large-scale running events to take place since the easing of restrictions, with more than 11 000 runners taking part. The race started near Trafalgar Square and took the runners on a well-planned, albeit slightly squiggly, sightseeing route of various key landmarks around central London, including the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral, with a huge amount of support, entertainment, and music throughout. Although the weather became increasingly warm during the event, mist showers and plentiful drinks stations were provided to help keep the runners cool on the 13.1 mile route. As the sole squirrel taking part in the race, Kat was thrilled to achieve her fastest ever half marathon time of 44:06.
Saturday also saw the second week of the much-awaited return to the weekly free parkrun 5km races across the UK, with North Herts Road Runners embracing the opportunity to take part in events both near and far. Nine squirrels ran at Letchworth, including Ian Datlen who was fifth overall in an impressive 21:02, followed by Vincent Wright (21:20), James Dalton (21:36), Matt Roberts (22:49), Kat Gourd (24:17), Rhia Botha (24:43), Eleanor Biggs (26:29), Carol Goodrum (30:02), and Brian Judkins (39:43). Meanwhile, five other squirrels ran at Stevenage, with Tim Banting completing the course in 24:51, followed by Russ Hagan (25:20), Charlotte Coles (26:30) and Phillip Flack (27:00). Across the border in Cambridgeshire, two squirrels ran at the popular Wimpole Estate event (Jillian Boys 27:42 and Lucy Hurley 28:07), and Carl Haskell ran at Storeys Field (23:29). Further afield (indeed, much further afield in some cases!), Chris Poole ran at Long Eaton (24:35), Glyn Blakey completed Keswick parkrun in 22:44, Ian Harvey ran at Weymouth (21:06), and Jane Clarke ran at Lands End (24:02).
After fifteen months training alone or in small groups, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions earlier in the month enabled North Herts Road Runners to finally gather together in person as a club in Broadway Gardens on Thursday 29th July. It was perfect ice-cream weather and to celebrate meeting together again, the club hired the local vintage ice cream van, “Ice Baby” and treated members to delicious ice creams and sorbets. Astrid McKeown, our club chairperson excitedly welcomed around 85 members back together, leading the clubs first in person announcements since the pandemic began, following her monthly You Tube announcements which did a great job in keeping the Squirrels’ community together.
There was a real buzz among our members who relished the opportunity to chat with their running friends after such a long time apart as a big group. One of the major announcements was the return of the club’s flagship race and ever popular Standalone 10km on Sunday 26th October, which was run virtually last year and saw 800 runners raise £4,000 for the charity Headway Hertfordshire. The race is reliant on club members to volunteer to marshal and help organise the event, so Richard Harbon, the club’s Race Director explained how to sign up to volunteer.
After announcements some members went straight to enjoy ice cream and catch ups with their running friends, while others did their dedicated training sessions before heading back for some cool ice cream refreshment. One group even decided to do an ice-cream relay, starting with ice cream to fuel a first 5 km run round West Letchworth, with a break for another ice cream before tackling a second 5km taking in East Letchworth before heading back for an ice cream finisher to cool down and enjoy a stunning sunset.
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