All eyes were on Croyland Park, Wellingborough as the Squirrels set out to defend their early lead in the Three Counties Cross Country League.
31 hardy squirrels faced the course that was described by Jillian Boys as a “very hilly and loopy course with a couple of river crossings thrown in for good measure!” Captain John Auld was delighted to see the Ladies finish the race in 2nd position and the Men in 3rd –giving a combined overall victory on the day and maintaining their lead in the league. After the race he said “we had some great individual and team performances on a tough, strength sapping course and some ice cold water.” Wayne Bell and Natalie Lawrence made impressive debuts for North Herts Road Runners, both making it onto the scoring teams with Lawrence first lady and Bell finishing in 11th position. For the ladies, the remaining scoring team was Paula Adams, Jane Clarke and Ellie Webb. Scoring for the men were Tom Webb, Darren Sunter, Bell, Matt Sayers, Ed Price, Darren Mattussa, Nick Malpeli and Vince Wright.
Fifteen squirrels chose to stick closer to home – taking on the Hatfield 5 Miles. Tackling the distance for the first time and first home for the club, Stewart Overton declared he was “pleased with his time of 28:37”. Ian Sutcliffe took the trophy for Vet 70 in an inspirational 42:52. Another squirrel making their debut in a Road Runners vest was Elwyn Howell with an impressive 43:23. Other finishers were, Stuart Cocks, Lucy O’Connor, Lorna Chambers, Brian Judkins, Helen Marson-Smith, Shani Fielding, Hayley Cocks, Kelly Hanlon, Jo Kenlin, Jo Sopala, Clare Hooley and Lindsay Lucas. Hooley reported that it was “the perfect antidote to a hilly cross country, because as much as they make us stronger, hills also exhaust some of us. We were all thrilled to make it in under an hour.”
Vanessa Rolfe was the only squirrel to travel to Cambridgeshire for the Bassingbourn Belle 10 Miler - Rolfe was relieved to finish in 1:41:44 (and on her feet!) stating “this was the first run since I fell flat on my face!”
Jo Summers returned to the Colworth Hare and Tortoise taking on the 5 laps of a 5.25 mile off-road route and scored herself a course personal best in a time of 4:01. Further afield, Steven Peel travelled, with his family in tow, to Florence to take on the marathon distance. He completed the “amazingly beautiful course” in a fantastic 4:02:23
Dedicated training paid off for several North Herts Road Runners as they recorded personal best at various races over the weekend.
Darren Sunter was selected to represent Hertfordshire at the inter-counties 10k championship in Brighton on Sunday. On an out-and-back course along the windy sea front, Darren ran 33.40 to finish 45th in a field of quality runners. Darren said, ‘some great runners out on course and I had the unfortunate opportunity of seeing a few come the other way but I was happy enough with the performance.’
Thirteen squirrels travelled to St Neots for the popular half marathon. Chilly but clear skies and a nicely undulating course through the countryside made for a pleasant running. Caroline Thrussell certainly enjoyed the conditions winning the Vet 55 category in a PB of 1:38:49. The event also saw PB performances by Darren Matussa in 1:20:46, Jane Clarke in 1:36:59, Chloe Lucas in 1:43:01, and Lucy Hurley who finished in 1:53:55.
On Saturday, PB’s were achieved by Tom and Ellie Webb who travelled to Eton Dorney for the Windsor & Eton Autumn Half Marathon. The route comprised 4.5 flat laps of Dorney lake. There was a strong headwind for half of the race - including the final 2 miles providing a tough finish. Tom finished 5th in 1:13:53, five minutes quicker than his previous best at Brighton in February this year. Tom said his improvement is down to the benefits of the awesome training and coaching at NHRR. Ellie was 39th Lady in a time of 1:45:59.
Taking on more challenging terrain at the Dirt Half Challenge in Leighton Buzzard - a nice, relatively tame trail half marathon Andy Grudzinski ran an unexpected PB of 2:13:20. Steve Foster also ran this as the first of two half marathons he took on over the weekend finishing this one in 1:36:26 then running the Hertfordshire Half Marathon at Knebworth in 1:37.10. ‘I was on target for a better time until 10miles when the fuel tank ran out. At 12miles I stayed with a family and their jelly babies for two minutes while I refuelled, but I was very delighted to do two half marathons in two days’, said Steve. Niccolo Bassani also ran the hilly Hertfordshire Half finishing in 1:33:07.
Chris Poole and Stuart Cocks travelled to Wales for the Conwy Half Marathon. Despite the Welsh hills and head winds Stuart ran a new PB of 1:43:05 and Chris finished a few seconds later in 1:43:15.
Endurance athletes Jo Summers, Sue Foot and Miranda Morgan did the local Sundon Saunter, an off road 27.7 mile challenge starting and finishing in Barton -Le-Clay. After a foggy start it turned into a perfect day for running with wonderful views across Bedfordshire. Jo finished in 5:14 with Miranda and Sue finishing together in 6.25. Fresh off the back of the Athens Marathon last week Michelle Grudzinski was in action again at the Larnaka Marathon to finish in 4:55.
Let’s get Christmassy with NHRR Santa Canta on Saturday 1st December. It’s your regular First Saturday of the Month 5k but with an added festive sparkle.
It’s the perfect way to start December and is suitable for everyone including children to take part. Dig out the Christmas jumper or dust off that Rudolf onesie and run, jog or canta around Norton Common (fancy dress is optional but there will be prizes and you might look like a bit of a grinch if you don't).
It’s free to enter just register at 8am on the day or pre-register at www.firstsaturday5km.org.uk
If you already have a FSOTM barcode there is no need to register again for the Santa Canta.
This year NHRR are fundraising to support Tracks Autism, all donations on the day are very welcome.
There will be medals and mince pies for all finishers, so come and join us for some festive fun with bells on.
‘Perhaps I should start drinking Cognac’ was Michelle Grudzinski’s verdict as she reflected on contrasting fortunes for herself and husband Andy over a weekend of international marathon-running for the two North Herts Road Runners members.
After enjoying her marathon exploits in Athens twelve months ago, Michelle was back in the Greek capital again, but a challenging build-up to the race saw her having to battle her way to the finish line and her time of 5.41.57 was her slowest road marathon time yet.
Husband Andy, by contrast, secured a new personal best time of 5.05.51 at the Cognac Marathon in Jarnac, Bordeaux. There are no reports as yet on whether his improved performance was fuelled by the wine-tastings famously available at the aid stations around the course.
Chris Poole packed in almost as much travelling for his running, albeit without leaving the country. Poole spent his weekend criss-crossing the north of England, starting with the Fountains Abbey Parkrun in North Yorkshire on Saturday morning, where he clocked a handy time of 24.09. By the afternoon Poole was in Wythenshawe for a fixture in the Manchester Cross-country League, where he took a steady approach to save himself for an even bigger challenge the next day.
On Sunday Poole was back in Yorkshire for the Bolton Abbey Trail Half-marathon on what he described as a ‘brutal course’. The hardy Squirrel somehow enjoyed the ‘wet, muddy and very hilly’ conditions and said ‘running through two rivers and copious amounts of mud was epic. The finish time of 2.20.32 was nowhere near my fastest, but with 2,231 feet of climbing it was a good day out!’.
The weekend saw the first cross country league race for North Herts Road Runners. Participating in the Three Counties XC league as defending champions, 46 bright eyed and bushy tailed squirrels made the journey from HQ at the Squirella Building Letchworth over to Dunstable. Although the weather has been fairly mild thus far - the course was still challenging - winding its way up and down off road hills around the quarry. North Herts Road Runners ladies and men started as they finished the league last year both finishing 2nd in each gender competition and finished 1st in the combined competition.
Speaking with scoring ladies Jane Clarke and Paula Adams afterwards, Jane mentioned it was “a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning - making sure we truly earn our tea and cake by running up and down just a few small hills”. She continued “It was great to see so many Squirrels running today bringing huge team spirit as always.“ Paula followed up stating that it was “it felt tough, but we were surprisingly strong. It was a massive bonus to win the team competition”.
Cross country enthusiast James Walsh was “delighted to be part of it all this morning”. Happy with his run, he went on to say “well done to all our brilliant runners for a stellar set of performances on a tough course and thanks to our supporters as well.”
For the ladies, the scoring team was Astrid Mckeown, Paula Adams, Jane Clarke and Caroline Thrussell. Scoring for the men was Tom Webb, Adam Bowler, Darren Sunter, Matt Sayers, Stewart Overton, John Rayner, Darren Mattussa and Rob Harris.
Being the first weekend of the month, 87 runners took part in NHRR organised First Saturday of the Month 5km around Norton common. James Fox, 17 years of age, won the race in 18:07. First Squirrel home was Chris Stokes, finishing in 21:02 (11th). Eva McCabe was the first lady finishing in 21:36 (18th).
Several squirrels ran the Stevenage Half marathon. Stuart Cocks proclaimed he was “totally buzzing” after running a new personal best for the distance in 1.43.58. This knocked nearly a minute of his old time. Cara Sutton and Dervla Downing said “it was a great course, hilly in places but running through Fairlands Valley park was lovely.” The pair both ran personal bests finishing in 2:03 and 1:46 respectively. Vanessa Rolfe also finished in 2:25.
Richard Weber ran his first race as a squirrel through the Cambridgeshire villages of Histon and Impington at the Histon Bonfire Burn 10k. He was pleased to report that he achieved a personal best of 51:02, knocking over 90s of his previous best.
Four squirrels ran parkruns on this week. Pat Norris ran 32:23 (181st) at Stevenage Chris Poole ran 22:48 (56th) at Krakow. Steve Lummis ran 27:15 (97th) at Tring and Matt Davies ran 25:08 (31st) at Lochore Meadows.
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