It was a great weekend to take on the challenge and adventure that is the Round Norfolk Relay. It’s the third year North Herts Road Runners have taken part in the race which follows the county boundary over a distance of 198 miles, divided into 17 unequal stages. Unique in character and concept, the race presents not only a tough physical challenge, but also tests the club’s logistical abilities.
Run over 24 hours, without a break (and carrying a baton), the event requires careful planning and a dedicated support crew. Starting at 7.00am on Saturday our 17 runners successfully completed the race in 26 hours and 22 minutes. Supported by a crew of 15 people, including drivers, cyclists and timekeepers it was a fantastic team effort and a great accomplishment for the club.
Two Squirrels completed the Richmond Run fest Marathon, a mixed terrain course, starting in Kew Gardens and then out and back along the Thames to Hampton Court before finishing in the Old Deer Park. It was Matt Davies last race for North Herts Road Runners, as he is moving north. He finished 17th in 3:08 slower than his target time, but still a massive PB by 36 minutes from his first marathon in August last year.
It was David Weston’s first marathon and he was pleased to finish in 3:46. David said, ‘I didn’t really know what to expect and I was a bit nervous on the start line.’ Weston was running for the Royal Brompton Hospital raising around £1000 after both his parents had complicated surgery there this summer. ‘This certainly helped me round as I did begin to question what on earth I was doing at 18 miles.’ Monica Cullin ran the shorter 10k option in a time of 1:38:25.
Much closer to home North Herts Road Runners was well represented at the Harvest Trail quarter and half marathon at Royston Heath. The hilly course took runners across picturesque trails in the Hertfordshire countryside. Jillian Boys did the half marathon distance while Lucy O’Connor, Andrew Porter, Russ Hagen, Allison Blunt, Gladys Cheng, Helen Cromack, Anna Greetham, Jane Tyler, Brian Judkins, Sheila Leavy and Drew Norton all went for the quarter marathon distance.
Sue Foot ran the Ponton Plod, an undulating off road course run mainly over farmland and grassy trails. Foot finished the 28.4 miles in 6:08.
North Herts Road Runners turned out in force for Herts County 5k Championships with 36 Squirrels competing on the flat and fast course in Hatfield.
The star performers were the men’s team, who took the county title with superb performances from Tom Webb (15 mins 56 secs), Matthew Sayers (16.52), Stewart Overton (16.58) and Darren Matussa (17.38). Webb also won a silver medal in the individual county standings.
The Letchworth-based club’s ladies’ team almost matched the men with a set of silver medal winning performances from Jane Clarke (21.02), Ellie Webb (21.57) and Rhia Botha (21.59). Astrid McKeown was second female finisher and first in the F45 category in 18.55 and fast-improving Oliver Brady was among those recording new personal bests with a 17.52 finish. Chris Poole also recorded a new best with 21.35.
Further impressive performances came from Joy Stroud, whose new lifetime best of 31.00 was a new club record in the 70-plus age category, Lucy O’Connor with another best and a club record of 22.12 in the 55-plus group and Hayley Cocks, who knocked two minutes off her previous mark with 34.38. Cocks said she had been ‘worried about the two and a half laps course around an industrial estate but I really enjoyed it. I am already looking forward to the next race and looking to beat my time again – but possibly not by two minutes!’.
The inaugural Baldock Rat Run 5k provided a double triumph for the Squirrels, with Paula Holm first lady in 20.46 and Stewart Overton taking the men’s honours in 17.28. Jillian Boys ‘absolutely loved it’ as she finished 5th lady in a new best of 22.50. Boys reported ‘a wonderful, interesting off-road course consisting of multiple potential time-affecting obstacles, such as narrow tunnels, kissing gates and steps’.
North Herts runners had yet another good turnout at the Welwyn Garden City Half-marathon, with Lucy O’Connor 3rd W50 in 1.48.07, Vanessa Rolfe 3rd W60 in 2.23.20 and Andrew Porter 2nd M70 in 2.05.47. Other Squirrels finishing the 13.1 mile course were James Drew (1.43.00), Dervla Downing (1.51.25), Katrina Dixon (1.59.29), Cara Sutton in 2.11.30 and Allison Blunt (2.12.53).
John Auld continued his recovery from injury by running – and very much enjoying - the Great North Run in 1.31.27. ‘The atmosphere is great – fans on the street the whole way round’, he reported. Both John and sister Lucy were fundraising for Cancer Research UK. Chris Poole also completed the
course in 1.46.45 and Andrew Robson finished in 2.04, raising over £1,000 for Breast Cancer Now in the process.
Helen, Jo and Richard Harbon competed as a family in the Woburn team triathlon. In very challenging conditions they were delighted to finish 8th out of 17 teams in 2.47.10.
David Annetts competed in the Woodford Green 3000m Race Walk and was delighted to finish third in a new best of 13.54. Annetts has been travelling to Bury St Edmunds for specialist coaching and says he is starting to see the benefits: ‘As well as working on my own technique I’ve learned a lot from seeing others practising it’.
On a big weekend that demonstrated the strength, depth and breadth of the club’s membership, North Herts Road Runners took part in a large number of events across the region and brought back some fantastic results.
A group of Squirrels ran the Bedford Twilight 10k on Saturday evening. First home for the club was Astrid McKeown, who ran 40:15 and finished fourth woman. Also running were Lindsey Lucas and Jo Sopala, who ran together and spurred each other on to each achieve a PB, finishing in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Jillian Boys (51.55) and Ali Mottram (1:09:14) were among the club’s other participants. For Ali, it was her first 10k. “I’m pleased with my time,” she said, “and it was a lovely boost to have other club members there cheering me on.”
The following morning, saw even more North Herts Road Runners taking on the Bedford Half Marathon, described as a fast and flat course with scenic views across the river. First home for the club was Darren Sunter in 1:15.59, followed by Stewart Overton who ran a PB of 01:18.06. Also scoring PBs were sisters Linsey Ashley and Jennie Andrews, who ran together and finished together in a time of 2 hours and 19 minutes. Another of NHRR’s runners was Niccolo' Bassani, who finished in 01:36:26. He said that the last four miles proved really tough, and was not alone in commenting on the strength-sapping heat.
Back in Hertfordshire, six full and two honorary Squirrels joined forces to take part in the St Albans Stampede on Saturday. Sue Foot, James Drew, Gary and Lindsay Cook, Paula Holm, Linda Aird, Miranda Summers-Pritchard and Jo Summers made up a team of 8 to run as many of the 4 mile laps of Heartswood Forest/Nomansland Common as they could in 12 hours. Without wanting to waste a minute, they managed to strategically pick who to run when, and squeezed in 22 laps in 11 hours 55 minutes - winning the Team of 8 section by 3 laps.
It was also a busy weekend for the club’s multi-eventers. Eleven Squirrels swam and ran at the Freedom Tri-organised Duck N Dash event in Letchworth on Sunday. John Auld (30:28) was first home for the club, saying “it was the first aquathlon for a few of us, so we clubbed together and tried our best to copy what the tri club members did... I think we pulled it off, apart from looking down the line on transition- the only clothes in there were NHRR vests.” Other notable results include Katie Harbon and Sophie Thrussell, who finished second and fifth respectively in the female senior event; Lindsay Cook, who only the day before had been part of the St Albans Stampede team; and the two Squirrels who took part in the youth section: Eva McCabe was first in 30:08, and Oliver Brady was third in 30:11.
Tom Webb and Matt Sayers travelled to St Neots for the 2019 Standard Distance ETU (European) Triathlon Qualifying event. 450 competitors took part in the 1500m swim in the River Ouse, an undulating 45km bike course and 10km run. Tom Webb achieved a time of 2:11:22 for 12th place (6th in age group), while Matthew Sayers’ time was 2:23:23 (102nd place, 14th in age group).
Lucy Hurley and Naomi Parkinson ran the Dunstable Downs Challenge Marathon on Sunday morning in 5.15. “It was a hot day, but a stunning course (other than the 2 miles of uphill at the end)!” said Lucy, who described the event as friendly and well-organised.
Nick Malpeli ran the South Cheshire 20 on Sunday morning, coming first MV50 in 02:11:20. It was undulating with over 1000ft of elevation gain and warmer than expected towards the end. “Overall I’m very very happy,” said Malpeli. “I hadn't rested for this race as I was treating it more as a long training run.”
The weekend was also a milestone for Brian Judkins, who completed his 200th parkrun on Saturday. He ran at Wimpole and finished in around 33 minutes. “It’s a long haul from the first round a snow covered field in Basingstoke in Dec 2009,” said Brian. “There were only around a dozen in the country then and the finishing tokens were hand written on pieces of cardboard! I intend to keep going a while longer and get to those few local ones I haven't visited yet.”
Finally, the club hosted its regular First Saturday of the Month 5k run at Letchworth’s Norton Common on Saturday morning. Thanks to perfect weather, a convivial atmosphere, and friendly, supportive marshalling, the run proved as popular as ever, with 78 runners, including 23 Squirrels taking part. The next First Saturday of the Month will be on Saturday 6th October, followed the next day by the NHRR-organised Standalone 10k, one of the biggest events in the local running calendar.
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