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.
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.
NHRR are hosting their next #RunAndTalk event on Tuesday 6th November, 19:00-21:00 at Spirella Building in Letchworth. The aim of the event is to encourage people to #RunAndTalk to improve their mental health and wellbeing through running.
Naomi will be giving a short talk introducing the role of Mental Health Champion and share some of her story on "Mental Health, Running and Me".
Then there will be groups heading out on an easy social run/jog/walk, giving everyone a chance to chat to friends and make new ones too. Afterwards we'll be heading back to Spirella for hot drinks and biscuits.
Scenic ten-mile race provides the perfect setting for another strong showing from the North Herts Road Runners.
“A lovely course although very hilly, and we got stuck behind a steam engine rally for a fair part of the way - interesting but smelly!” reported prize-winning Caroline Thrussell at the end of the Ricky Road Run 10-mile race. Caroline, and a group of other North Herts Road Runners, took on Sunday’s scenic race, which made its way around the Chiltern villages of Chorleywood and Little Chalfont. “We were all thrilled with our times.” added Caroline, and well they might be. On the day, NHRR’s ladies won second place for the team prize and Caroline, who completed the course in 1:17:29, was the first woman in the V55 category. She not only broke the club’s record for this race but she also won the County Championship too. Paula Holm also had a race to remember. Finishing in an impressive time of 1:10:49 (a four-minute personal best), she was third lady overall as well as being third woman in the V35 age category. Not bad for what Paula described as “the second hilliest race I have ever done!” Dervla Downing ran a PB of 1:20:07, and Lucy O’Connor came second in the V55 category in a time of 1:21:49. Russ Hagan ran his first ever 10 mile race in 1:28:54 and Jane Tyler, who is recovering from a cycling injury, finished in 1:46:30.
In North Wales, the Snowdon Marathon Eryri attracted another group of hardy Squirrels. Sue Foot was the first V65 and ran a time of 4:44:58. “I think we were all happy with our finish,” said Michelle Grudzinski after the race. “My time of 5.13.59 was an event PB by just under 3 minutes. For the others it was the first time doing the event.” They were Paul Bowal (5.03.39), Miranda Morgan (5.13.43) and Andy Grudzinski (5.33.40).
Sue Vaughan and Joe Summers were more North Herts Road Runners to get age category wins at the weekend. Sue ran at the Great Denham parkrun on Saturday morning. Despite starting off a little quicker than intended, she managed to keep the pace up and finished first in her age category in a time of 25:41, 53 seconds off her previous PB! “Very happy with this result after a solid block of training recently,” said Sue. “I celebrated with a healthy breakfast at a nearby café! No bacon rolls for me!”
Meanwhile Jo Summers took on the Bury St Edmunds Marathon. “No idea where this came from,” said Jo, “but having run no further than 11.2 miles in the last 10 weeks and rarely managing a weekly total of 20 miles in the last 6 weeks I somehow managed to run this in 3.45. That's my quickest time for two and a half years - and I've only gone quicker 10 times in 213 runs! Think it must be the 'run every day' training method kicking in!” Jo was 4th lady on the day and the 1st woman in the V50 category.
Now autumn is here, not only does that mean the start of cross-country season, but also ‘canicross’ season. Canicross is essentially cross-country running with a dog (or dogs) attached to you! “Yes, it’s a real sport and it is so much fun!” said Jillian Boys, who took part in the Loki 10k trail run in Thetford on Sunday with her chocolate lab Poppy. The two managed to bag a new PB together – 47.58. Poppy celebrated with a good dunk in the river afterwards.
Niccolo Bassani went off to Luton for the Love Luton 10k. Niccolo was pleased with his time of 42:07, and had the chance (for the third time ever since he started running) to hear the speaker call his name and club just before the finish line. “That did really make my day,” he said. Adam Wilson ran the half marathon at the same event in a time of 2:03.
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!”
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