It was a busy weekend of racing for the North Herts Road Runners, with an eclectic mixture of road running, trail running, cross-country, and canicross events keeping the squirrels busy.
On Sunday, several squirrels raced in the Basse Belle 10 miler, a scenic 10-mile road route starting in the Cambridgeshire village of Bassingbourn, and there were some great performances from the club. Dervla Downing finished in 1:17:43, achieving first place in her age category, and together with Caroline Thrussell (1:18:32) and Sophie Thrussell (1:13:37), was on the winning ladies’ team – a fantastic achievement for the club in a very popular race. Meanwhile, for George Wright, this was his first attempt at this distance, finishing in an impressive 1:22:59 and setting a new under-17 club record – luckily he managed to avoid slipping over in the off-road muddy section. This “mile and a half of mud” did not deter Adam Wilson and Kat Burr, who successfully navigated it with a running buggy, completing the course in 1:31:26 and 1:28:14, respectively. Other squirrels who completed the race included James Godfrey (with a brilliant new PB of 1:11:15), Matt Roberts (1:15:02), David Weston (1:16:14), and Natalie Phillips (1:38:10).
Also tackling the 10-mile distance on Sunday was Jillian Tooley-Boys, who ran the Waterside Canicross 10 at Grafham Water with her dog Lulu. She said “luckily the rain stopped just before we started and it was a lovely soggy, fairly flat, 10-mile route around the perimeter of the reservoir. We came it at a respectable 1:21 and were rewarded with a lovely medal and plenty of doggy biscuits at the end.”
Several squirrels took part in the Hatfield 5 mile on Sunday, another popular event that offers the rare opportunity to race the 5-mile distance. After a “worryingly wet” drive down the A1M to the start, the rain luckily tapered off in time for the race itself, enabling the runners to notch up some excellent performances around the flat and picturesque course. First home for the club with a fantastic new PB was Kris Whitmore in 30:56. He was closely followed by James Keogh in 32:13 (apparently an almost identical time to last year!) while his wife Clare was not disappointed with her time of 1:06:26. Elwyn Howell achieved yet another PB of 35:33. Other squirrels who completed the race were Richard Barker (35:33), Sue Vaughan (47:10), Georgia Barker (48:28), Julie Taylor (51:14), Jane Robson (51:14), Tracey McCreath (52:24), Philip Flack (53:36), and Branka Moss (01:03:16).
The other big running event for the North Herts Road Runners on Sunday was the second fixture in the Three Counties Cross Country League at Delapre Park in Northampton. 25 squirrels took part in the challenging two-lap course. The club’s cross-country representative John Auld described the muddy and difficult conditions that are rather characteristic (and indeed character-building!) of cross-country races: “On the day, the weather was kind, with mild conditions and beautiful Autumnal sunshine. However, the not so kind weather before race day had produced quite a bit of mud on the course from the recent rain. Combined with the long drag up the hill into the woods and the short sharp hills in the woods, as well as the tufty grass, the course was very strength sapping. Every squirrel loves a challenge, so this didn't deter anybody.” Ladies’ team captain Tash Pitman agreed: “The benefit of the uphill was the downhill … well, it would have been had it not been for the gooey mud that seemed to deepen on each bend with all the runners flaying their arms trying to stay upright. Most succeeded but there were quite a few muddy bottoms sprinting over the finish line!” In a competitive field, the ladies finished 3rd behind Wellingborough & District AC and Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers, while the men were also 3rd behind Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers and Rugby & Northampton. This consistency meant the squirrels finish 2nd in the combined team competition. The overall league status is very tight, with the ladies currently in 3rd position behind Wellingborough and Bedford, and on level points with Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers (although leading on score total), while the men are currently in second place behind Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers, and level in points with Rugby & Northampton (but leading on score total). Overall, the squirrels are currently in 2nd position behind Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers on score total, and a few points ahead of 3rd place Wellingborough. Tash Pitman is optimistic that the squirrels are in a good place ahead of the next fixture, which takes place on home turf on 18th December, with hopes that the home advantage will see the North Herts Road Runners move up a notch to take the top spot!
The 25 squirrels who ran at Northampton on Sunday were: Mike Roberts (7th), Stewart Overton (16th), Ed Price (20th), Ben Sewell (22nd), Vince Wright (23rd), Katie Harbon (31st overall and 2nd lady), Matt Sayers (28th), Shahab Ahmad (41st), John Auld (71st), Ian Datlen (79th), Hannah Ridley (94th), James Walsh (99th), Tash Pitman (111th), Jane Clarke (156th and 10th lady), Paula Adams (165th and 27th lady), Alice Carty (215th and 44th lady), Helen Cairns (229th and 51st lady), Anna Gibson (265th and 65th lady), Lucy O’Connor (268th and 66th lady), Mel Flynn (273rd and 68th lady), Jo Harbon (301st and 86th lady), Karen Dodsworth (309th and 90th lady), Linda Aird (318th and 95th lady), Lindsay Cook (368th and 125th lady), and Brian Judkins (389th).
Much further afield, Michelle Grudzinski and Jennie Fraser headed to North Wales for the Betws-y-coed trail half marathon. Michelle described their daring and ambitious adventure: “Having done no research at all beforehand and relying solely on our knowledge that there's an excellent pizza restaurant at the finish we headed to the start line. Jennie was dressed for a British summer run whilst Michelle was wrapped up for the Arctic, who has it right? Who knows!” She described the course as “uphill ... and more uphill and again... first on road, then track then through mud and sludgy marshland ...55 mins and 5km done we were feeling broken... “ The ladies paused to ponder whether or not they would be able to finish the race in daylight, and despite temptations to stop at 10km (having been assured by a marshall that they could secure a 10km time), the determined duo persevered and completed the whole half marathon distance, with Jennie finished in an amazing 2:53:10 and Michelle following closely behind in 2:55:07. Michelle added “As we were warming up in front of the fire later that evening, we realised the elevation was greater than marathon Eryri in half the distance!”
Several squirrels ran in Parkrun events, both locally and further afield, on Saturday. The full list of Parkrun results for this week is as follows: KETTERING: Steven Williamson 25:42; STEVENAGE: James Godfrey 20:15, Mike Phillips 21:10, Michael Over 21:51, Matt Roberts 27:39, Anna Greetham 27:58, Rhiannon Botha 27:59, Natalie Phillips 28:21, Helen Giffin 29:39, Dervla Downing 30:52; GUNPOWDER PARK Branka Moss 38:38; HOUGHTON HALL: Philip Hawkes: 21:53; LETCHWORTH: James Dalton 22:45, James Poulton 23:23, Laura Fairbanks 26:20, Amy Murch 28:21, Geoff Pettengell 35:39; POCKET: Jon Hunt 22:07; HENLOW BRIDGE LAKES: Kris Whitmore 20:27; STOREYS FIELD: Ian Harvey 19:36.
Katie Harbon and Stuart Overton ventured down to Brighton to take on the Brighton 10k representing Herts at the inter counties 10k. Katie finished in a new PB time of 36:13 to take 9th female and form part of the silver medal winning Ladies inter county team and Stuart finished in 34:57 to place as 2nd Male V40. Stuarts commented “Conditions cleared for us to run in dry conditions under sunshine although the coastal winds made for a tough 2nd half.”
St Neots Half marathon as described by Richard Barker as “a jolly nice day out!” 844 runners completed the figure of eight ‘undulating’ course on a sunny day with a chill wind, North Herts were represented by Dave Braybrook, Laura Fairbanks, Richard Barker and Anna Gibson.
Dave unfortunately had to withdraw a couple of miles into the race due to injury leaving the remaining squirrels to enjoy the remainder of the route through some lovely south Cambridgeshire countryside ably supported by fellow squirrels at Abbotsley.
Richard came in first with a time of 1:46.33 and described it as chatty social run! Laura came in soon after with a time of 1:47.59 secs, a really great effort coming in well under a target time of 1:52. There was not long to wait for Anna to arrive with a great sub two-hour finish of 1:57.20.
Philip Flack combined a visit to family on Saturday with a parkrun at Bury Field, Newport Pagnell. This area is steeped in history and was a favourite place for Oliver Cromwell apparently but that was probably before parkrun.
It's a one lap trail course with 2 moderate hills. Phillip came 28th out of 62 which is a comparatively small field in a time of 28:02 which is the best time for any form of 5k he has run this year.
Squirrel Dan Mallett journeyed to Athens to take on the marathon. The competitors are ‘treated’ to a 5am start in the town of Marathon. Dan described the race as “the hills start coming in to play at 15 miles, which broke me. From there it was very much jog/walk just to finish”. Dan completed the course in a respectable 4:52:43, not the time he was aiming for, but he thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He praised the marshals, was thankful for the good weather and enjoyed being surrounded by the history of Athens.
Following recent good form and a continuous flow of PBs, Elwyn Howell used the opportunity of visiting family in Devon as an excuse to support and pace his daughter Sarah who was running her first half marathon. On the Saturday he completed the Teignmouth Parkrun in a time of 21:36 and was 2nd in his Age Category and then on Sunday the Father/Daughter Duo completed the Starcross Devon Half Marathon in a time of 2:09:16. Proud Dad Elwyn described it as a lovely sunny day with a brutal wind.
Andrew Leach competed in (and won!) a selection race back in October to earn his place representing England at the 33rd running of the British Irish Masters Cross Country International which took place at Santry Demesne, Dublin. The event is described as “fast, furious and highly competitive”. Leach came 3rd MV55 in the Championship with just 11 seconds separating the top 3 finishers.
Closer to home Kris Whitmore competed in the Inaugural running of Hitchin’s Beer Hunter Challenge. The race took place over three stages, firstly a 2km “sprint” race to the first pub of the day. The second was a 4km “hill” stage to the Red Lion in Preston. The final stage was an “Enduro” 10km cross country back to Hitchin. Kris was consistently second, to three different runners which was enough to give him the overall victory!
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