The cross-country season started in style for North Herts Road Runners, as a group of Squirrels took on the Ampthill Trophy and lived to tell the tale.
“Beautiful day for it, and a lovely location, but those hills don't get any easier!” said Linda Aird at the end of a challenging race. Linda was one of a group of North Herts Road Runners who ran the Ampthill Trophy on Sunday. For many, this is the first cross-country fixture of the season, and this annual event is the perfect opportunity for hardy runners to dust off their running spikes and check their fitness on a testing, but ultimately rewarding course. Linda Aird was pleased to finish in 58:18, two minutes quicker than last year. Jillian Boys also had reason to celebrate having ran the undulating course in 56:21, a race PB and no less than 5 minutes quicker than her previous best time. “For some reason my brain failed to remember just how tough this course was,” said Jillian, “and that coupled with the totally unexpected heat and glaring sun made it even more of a challenge!” Also running were Hayley and Stuart Cocks. Stuart was pleased with his time of 51:13, while Hayley was delighted to have finished at all, having ran the race with something of a fuzzy head – this being the day after her 40th birthday celebrations. “Don't drink prosecco and gin the night before a challenging 10k cross country in Ampthill,” was Hayley’s sage advice. She nevertheless finished the race in a time of 1:24:25, and headed straight for a well-deserved bacon, sausage and egg roll!
Sunday also saw four squirrels join a field of just over 2000 runners at the Cambridge Town and Gown 10k. This was a charity race for Muscular Dystrophy UK. The course packed in a lot of the Cambridge sights including The Backs, the historic centre, Jesus Green and Midsummer Common, and a section alongside the Cam towards Stourbridge Common. “Conditions were perfect - sunny but cool and the route was very flat and fast,” said James Keogh, “and this certainly helped me to a time that was maybe slightly flattering but nevertheless a new PB.” James’ time was 38:02, and he finished in 49th position. Close behind were James Drew (43:39), Sophie Thrussell (45:44) and Vanessa Rolfe (1:02:04).
Further afield, Helen Nuttall ran the Great South Run in Portsmouth. “I think this was my first race this year- I’ve been struggling with heart related thyroid problems so just wanted to see how much I could push it (whilst trying to enjoy it)!” said Helen. “It was a beautiful day for running on the coast and there was loads of support. I finished in 1:12:56. Not my best but still very enjoyable!”
North Herts Road Runners were well represented at a very wet Perkins Great Eastern Half Marathon through the centre of Peterborough. Despite the weather, in a competitive race incorporating area championships, the Squirrels put in some stunning performances: Andrew Leach finished in 25th in a new V50 course record of 71:59. He was followed by Darren Sunter in 30th with a London Championship qualifying time of 73:25 and a PB and Adam Bowller with a sub 3 minute PB was just 1s behind in 31st with 73:26. Also setting a PB in 69th was Matt Sayers stopping the clock at 76:13. Stewart Overton again smashed the 80 min barrier with 78:57 and John Rayner ran 83:40. V50 Lee Hayes set a PB of 87:46 followed by Niccolo Bassini 92:07, Martyn Annetts 95:02, John Auld 96:00, Suzy Trott 97:45, James Drew 1:38:09 and Luke Callan 1:56:28.
Tom Webb finished 8th overall at the ITU World Championship qualifying event for the Standard Distance Duathlon at Bedford Autodrome. Tom finished the 10k run, 40k bike and 5k Run in 1:56:29 and has qualified for the world championships in Spain in 2019.
Ed Price and Lindsay Cook ran in the Manchester half marathon. Ed finished in 1:15:40 on a great (flat) course, with really good support throughout. Lindsay surprised herself by finishing in 2:13:53, her best time for a couple of years. Lindsay said,“After doing lots of cycling and swimming this summer and not much running I didn't feel very confident and was expecting around 2:30 but once I got going I felt strong, despite it being very wet.”
In another half marathon, this time at the Royal Parks in London in the pouring rain, Jim Marvell ran his first full race since an accident last year. Expecting to finish in 3 hours, hoping for 2:45, Jim actually finished in 2:30:26 with a negative split (faster second half)! So far he has raised over £1000 for Alzheimer's Research.
Lucy O’Connor and Miranda Morgan ran the challenging Ridgeway 15km Trail Run in the scenic Chilterns Hills. Lucy said, “Despite the drenching rain, glorious & slippery mud, dodging rabbit holes and those HILLS, we both thoroughly enjoyed it.” Lucy crossed the finish line in 1:26:23 (4th VF55) and Miranda in 1:40:20 (12th VF55).
Three Squirrels and a dog ran at the Hatfield House 10K. It was a lovely course around the grounds of Hatfield park in the relentless rain, but was lots of fun! Helen Marson-Smith ran the distance for the first time, finishing in 1:08:29. Lindsey Lucas nearly pulled out when she woke to the rain, thinking that having to keep her hearing aids dry would make a valid excuse but realised that would be letting her disability win! Linsey stormed across the line in 1:17:38. Jillian Boys also ran the race and canicrossed with her pooch Lulu. It was Lulu’s first ever race and she was a little superstar. Jillian and Lulu finished 2nd canicross with a time of 52:47.
David Annetts competed in the Enfield Race Walking League, 5 Mile race at Picketts Lock. In unseasonably warm and windy weather on quiet roads David continued his stunning performances, finishing 1st in 40:37.
Finally, the Squirrels were also present, as usual, at local parkruns: in Letchworth, Ian Datlen finished 5th (22:11); James Dalton was 6th (22:12); Jillian Boys was 21st (2nd lady) (25:24); Jennie Fraser finished 39th (27:31); Ellie Scott was 42nd (27:51); Naomi Parkinson was 43rd (27:52); Bob Davies was 43rd (29:49) and Brian Bailey was 53rd (32:11). In Stevenage Dervla Downing finished 2nd lady (23:34); Helen Giffin was 184th (31:13) and Pat Norris was 205th (32:29). At the Pocket Parkrun in St Neots, Chris Poole finished 35th in 23:18
Sunday was host to NHRR’s esteemed Standalone 10k. The weather was as cheerful as the amazing NHRR marshals. Whilst the majority of the club volunteer to help on race weekend, a team is selected to compete in the event and county championships.
North Herts Road Runners men won the open team competition with a team of Andrew, Adam, Darren and Mark. The ladies team also won the open with Katie, Astrid and Paula. In the Hertfordshire 10km veteran county championships, NHRR men of Andrew Mark, Ed and Matt won the county gold. Likewise the ladies won the veteran county champs with Astrid, Paula and Sarah.
Squirrels also won individual gold with Mark Vaughan winning the V40 category gold. Andrew Leach was 3rd overall in the race and the 1st V50 in the county. The gold kept coming for the ladies with Paula Holm wining 1st V35 and Astrid Mckeown winning V45. Oliver Brady was 2nd U20 and set a new club record. Sarah Mitcherson was 2nd in the V35 county champs and Jane Clarke was 3rd V35.
In the race, first home for the club was Andrew Leach who finished 3rd overall in 33:23. Other members of the team were right behind him meaning that after the first two in the race, NHRR had 5 squirrels in the top 7 - finishing continuously from 3rd to 7th. Adam Bowller (4th) with a new PB of 33:33 said afterwards that it was “An absolute honour to represent the club when so many others are working hard to make the wonderful event happen. Thanks so much for the fantastic support out on course”. Others finishing for the men were Darren Sunter (5th) 33:37 (PB), Mark Vaughan (6th) 34:09, Ed Price (7th) 34:42, Matt Sayers (11th) 35:07 (PB), Oliver Brady (21st) 36:42 (PB) (CR). Darren said after the race that following his PB at Hatfield 5km earlier in the week and another at Standalone - he’d was looking forward to cracking open a bottle of Drambuie to celebrate.
The ladies team was fantastic too. First home was Katie Harbon (65th) 39:34 followed by Astrid Mckeown (88th) 40:55, Paula Holm (101st) 41:23, Sarah Mitcherson (120th) 42:11, Jane Clarke (144th) 42:57 (PB), Sophie Thrussell (145th) 43:00 (PB), Helen Cains (169th) 44:00.
Standalone Eve was also the First Saturday of the month, and this day is always host to NHRR's own 5km in Norton Common. The event saw 47 runners in the morning sunshine before the rain started. NHRR's own Paul Jackson lead the way finishing in 17:51 whilst the first lady was NHHR's own Eva McCabe finishing 10th overall in 21:39. The field included another 12 squirrels including James Keogh (4th) 19:20, Ian Datlen (7th) 21:10, Declan McCabe (9th) 21:39, James Walsh (14th) 22:26, Caroline Thrussell (19th) 23:53, Geoff Murray-Rochard (28th) 26:51, Lewina Agius (30th) 27:08, Andrew Porter (34th) 27:55, James Dalton (36th) 28:24, Lindsay Cook (44th) 31:09 and Dawn Power (45th) 31:58.
Nick Malpeli ran in what he described as almost perfect conditions, chilly and dry, at the Chester Marathon. It was as good as day as it could get, said Nick, finishing in 41st overall and 2nd MV50 with a time of 2:43:16. This was a PB by over 1 minute. Competing in the England vs Celtic nations challenge, Nick finished 1st MV50 and 2nd in the British masters MV50. Nick also achieved the 3rd highest age grading in the England masters marathon team. Other squirrels running at Chester were Lucy Hurley and Naomi Parkinson who finished in 4:18:41 and 4:07:20 respectively.
On Wednesday, a scurry of 35 squirrels participated in the 3rd and final race in the Hatfield 5k series. First home for the club was Tom Webb (4th) 15:58. Darren Sunter (5th) 16:15 (PB), Mark Vaughan (7th) 16:28, Matthew Sayers (10th) 16:38, Stewart Overton (12th) 16:40, Oliver Brady (22nd) 17:34 (PB), John Rayner (26th) 17:45, Nick Malpeli (37th) 18:21, Lee Hayes (46th) 18:38, John Auld (47th) 18:45, Astrid Mckeown (50th) 18:59, Vincent Wright (53rd) 19:28, Martyn Annetts (55th) 19:34, David Weston (60th) 19:42, Sarah Mitcherson (69th) 20:35, Jane Clarke (74th) 20:46, Peter Sibbett (75th) 20:46, Chris Poole (86th) 21:28, James Walsh (91st) 21:27, Andrew Underhill (98th) 21:49, Ellie Webb (103rd) 22:03, Rhia Botha (106th) 22:06, Lucy O'connor (110th) 22:12, Hannah Keeble (126th) 23:27, Russell Hagan (138th) 00:24:17, Geoffrey Murray-rochard (154th) 25:21, Nicky Tracey (157th) 25:36, Sue Vaughan (162nd) 26:18, Karen Dodsworth (168th) 27:00, Joy Stroud (185th) 30:09 , Brian Judkins (186th) 30:22, Helen Marson-smith (189th) 30:37, Hayley Cocks (190th) 30:45 (PB), Joanne Sopala (201st) 34:54, Jo Kenlin (202nd) 37:14.
Now in its fourth year running, the Hitchin 5k as organised by fellow running club the Hitchin Hares went off without a ‘hitch’. A fun community race, it involves two laps of the small market town both starting and finishing in the market square. There was quite a turnout from North Herts Road Runners in support of this excellent event. Superb individual performances also lent themselves to the club finishing in 3rd Team place overall. Mark Vaughan, Paula Holm, James Dalton and Niccolo Bassani all producing top results in order to win the team prize. Mark Vaughan finished 2nd Male in 17:01 whilst Paula was overjoyed at finally winning some money as second lady in an excellent time of 20:51.
Amongst others the Cocks family descended on the town with both mum and daughter achieving PBs. Hayley ran the race in 31:44 which was an improvement of 5 minutes and 6 seconds compared to last year which ‘goes to show that the training really does pay off’. Her daughter Abbi pushed herself to her limits finishing in 28:48 whilst Stuart finished first for the family in 22:13.
Other notable performances were Geoff Pettengell in 32:38 with this being his first competitive race for nearly a year; Ian Sutcliffe finishing 1st in the V70 category in a time of 26:55, Lewina Agius finishing with a PB of 26:40 in her first ever 5k race and Jillian Boys setting a new PB of 22:59.
In other races Vanessa Rolfe ran the MIlton Keynes Half in 2:22:52 and especially enjoyed the fact that it was on a Saturday with a late start time of 1pm! This being a week after sneaking in a quick Sheffield 10k in 65:15 on the way home from a holiday. True dedication!
Stewart Overton ventured up to Biggleswade for one last track race in the 3000 Open and finished 1st in an absolutely superb time of 9:40. A great finish to the summer season in prep for the upcoming glorious cross country.
Steve Foster surprised himself after bettering his time of 1:35 in the Great North Run at the Windsor Half in 1:31:44 whilst Andrew Robson continued his dedication to the Bedford Sprint Triathlon Series completing his 12th consecutive entry to this race (3 races a year for 4 years) in 1:31:16.
Also the England Masters Inter-area cross-country challenge was held on Saturday at Bury St Edmonds. There were two races, women (all ages) and men 65+ over 6km and then a third race which was all men aged 35-60 over 8km. It was a flat and fast course over varied terrain, in glorious sunshine. Andrew Leach was 8th in the men's race (first M50). Andrew was also a members of the winning East region team (this involves a rather complex scoring scheme, based on age-graded times, 10 men + 5 women per team). The race is also being used as a "selection guide" for the upcoming Britain/Ireland Masters cross-country international in November. We wish Andrew good luck in this endeavour!
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