Christmas came to Welwyn on Sunday when fourteen North Herts Road Runners joined many others and scurried round the Welwyn Festive 5 mile race, many in Christmassy costumes.
Sisters Linsey Ashley and Jennie Andrews said,“It was the first time we have done a 5 mile race and we loved it. The course was brilliant, the marshals were encouraging and seeing all the Santas, elves and snowmen run around was brilliant. The chocolate Santa at the finish line certainly gave us some motivation to get round!” Caroline Thrussell also ran the race and said, “After a rainy warm up, we started under a rainbow and the sun shone for the rest of the race. I was thrilled with a pb of 35:42, first FV55 and a club record of over 3 minutes. Other finishers for NHRR were John Rayner, who finished 4th in 29:28. 30 Seconds later was Darren Matussa, who nearly took a wrong turn on the course, finishing in 6th position. Pete Sibbett finished in 32:42. Stuart Cocks, following a 1st in age category park run at Jersey Farm the previous day, finished in 33rd place in 36:25. Chris Poole also ran the Jersey Farm Parkrun and finished in 36:45. Babs Sayers finished in 38:35, with Jo Harbon coming in next in 41:31. Sue Vaughan was 95th in 44:42, closely followed by sisters Jennie Andrews and Linsey Ashley who both finished in 46:18. Lorna Chambers was 147th in 49:33 and Jane Tyler finished in 52:48. Finally, Monica Cullen brought up the NHRR tail in a spritely 1:14:16.
The weekend also saw the Milton Keynes winter half-marathon and three squirrels decided to make the journey to compete. Russ Hagan finished in 1:57:53. He said,“This was my very first half at age 58, so I'm very happy to have got round in under 2hrs. Huge kudos and thanks to the training provided by NHRR and the encouragement of my training group. When I joined the club less than 6 months ago I'd only done a few Parkruns so it shows what can be achieved with the support of the club. This was a large, very well organised event with well over 2000 runners. The course was surprisingly lovely on paths around parkland, lakes and by the canal. The positive vibe was certainly helped by the winter sun breaking through and the large number of cheering spectators. I would certainly recommend it as an intro to half marathons.” Jo Kenlin and Kelly Hanlon also ran the race. Jo said, “Our plan for the day was to just finish, but we then decided to pace ourselves with the 3hr pacer. We both had a great run and really enjoyed it. Kelly came in at 2hr 41 and I did 2hr 49 beating my last 1/2 marathon time by 24 mins…” A great race for all three Squirrels.
Further afield, Linda Aird took on the Telford 10k which was an age group qualifying race for England Masters 10k. Advertised as a flat, fast course, Linda said that it wasn’t completely flat and it was quite crowded, but still fairly quick. Linda finished third FV60 in a chip time of 50:48, which was within the qualifying time and 3rd in her category, so is hoping that she might have qualified for an England vest for Birmingham next year.
Finally, Chloe Lucas did the Keyworth Turkey Trot half marathon (the winners were awarded a frozen Christmas turkey!). It was a rather undulating course round the sunny Nottinghamshire countryside. Chloe was very pleased to finish in 1:43:15.
Personal bests, grit, determination and plenty of festive cheer mark another extraordinary week for the thriving Squirrels.
“The experience of running in the centre of a major European city on closed roads with lots of support is a fantastic one,” said North Herts Road Runner Stewart Overton, who took part in a 10k race, which was part of Valencia’s marathon weekend. “It really does give you that bit extra.”
In Overton’s case, it certainly did. His finishing time was 34:52 a massive 45 seconds off his personal best, and a well-deserved end to a year of hard training and steadily improving results. “If anyone ever wants to visit Valencia I recommend the marathon weekend,” he added. “The whole place buzzes with runners from across the globe but you can also take in the city and everything it has to offer at the same time.”
Stewart Overton wasn’t the only Squirrel running in the Spanish city at the weekend. Michelle and Andy Grudzinski both ran the full marathon. Despite having been unwell the week before, they ran together and finished their last marathon of the year in 5.11.26.
There was also plenty of action closer to home, as Saturday saw scores of Squirrels amongst the 199 runners who took part in the Santa Canta 5k at Letchworth’s Norton Common. Held every year, this fundraising 5k event is the festive edition of the popular First Saturday of the Month 5k series, which is organised by North Herts Road Runners. This year the event raised over £600 for Tracks Autism, a Stevenage-based early years centre for children with an autistic spectrum condition.
The runners didn’t let the rain or the muddy conditions dampen their spirits and ran, sang and cheered their way around the course. Hayley Cocks described herself as ‘super chuffed’ to take four minutes off her previous best time on the course to finish in 32:26. North Herts Road Runner Astrid McKeown was the first female finisher in a time of 20:51, while teammate Tom Webb took first position overall, just dipping under the 17-minute mark.
Meanwhile, John Auld returned to his native Yorkshire to resume his assault on the challenging Silkstone Shuffle series. The weekend’s race was the final event of the series, and Auld went into it with a two-and-a-half-minute lead over his rival in 4th place, but knowing that he was going to have a battle to secure a place on the podium. In tough conditions, it was neck and neck between Auld and his main rival. Things were going well, “I said to myself, nothing can stop you now apart from a fall...” said Auld, and then, disaster: he slipped at a stile and hit the ground hard. Despite a bloodied knee and elbow and some nasty bruises, Auld got back up and showed grit and determination to get through the rest of the race. Not only did he finish tenth overall on the day, but his strong finish guaranteed him third in the series – a podium finish for the second year running.
Bedford was the setting for a testing half marathon in which eight North Herts Road Runners ran. Niccolo Bassani’s time was 1:34:30. “Slower than I hoped,” said Niccolo Bassani, “but all things considered a good time given the beating wind and the long uphill sections.” Suzy Trott (1:37:54) was the second V40 woman, and Darren Sunter (1:17:17) finished in fifth place overall, and third V35 man. Also running were Martyn Annetts, Chris Poole, Tom Brownlee and Luke Callan.
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