North Herts Road Runners enjoyed some great results in much improved conditions over the last week.
Just a week after taking part in a tough race at the British Indoor Athletics Championships, David Annetts was back in action at the Enfield Race Walking League 5-mile race. Despite trailing an under-20 athlete for the first four miles, the veteran race walker managed to take the lead in the final mile and won the race in a time of 38 minutes and 53 seconds, gaining a one-second Personal Best time in the process.
David wasn’t the only Squirrel to roll back the years, as Linda Aird went back to her roots to take part in the Harrow Hill 10k. “I've done this one a few times,” said Linda, “the hills don't get any easier.” The race starts in Harrow School's own sports ground, and goes over the hill, taking in some of the beautiful historic buildings - many of them belonging to Harrow School itself. Sadly, Linda didn't have much time to admire these, as she was working so hard just to keep moving forwards at times. However, in beautiful spring conditions, she finished in 55:36, and was the second W55 runner.
Warm weather also played a big part in Paula Holm’s road running at the weekend, when she travelled to South Africa to take part in the Cape Peninsula Half Marathon. Paula wasn’t sure if the purpose of the trip was to enjoy a holiday, to celebrate her impending 40th birthday or to run away from the fact that the birthday was happening at all! The race started in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and following the coast towards Cape Point, taking in beautiful bays and ending in the naval base at Simon's Town. “It was an awesome experience,” said Paula, “and the most beautifully scenic run ever.” Paula was worried about the heat as it was 24 degrees at the 7am start time, but was reassured that the head winds the whole way would be more of an issue, “and they really were; I found myself running on the spot at times.” Despite this Paula ran her race in 1:45:21 and was 184th of 2772 entrants. She even found time for a bit of unscheduled sunbathing at the finish before hitching a lift back to the start with a local running club. Unfortunately they had to wait for the last runner to finish, leaving Paula with plenty of time to get burnt to a crisp.
The North Herts Road Runners were immensely proud to see one of their members represent the club in the 5000m Walking Final at the British Indoor Athletics Championship on Sunday which was aired on the BBC. David Annetts who has been representing the club in walking races the length and breadth of the country lined up in Birmingham alongside the best in the country including the eventual winner Tom Bosworth. After an excellent start the pressure resulted in many of the competitors being disqualified including a disappointed David at the 4km mark. Having trained since January for the difficult race the standard was set extremely high with the km splits being sub 4 with Tom Bosworth’s eventual finishing time being 19:22. A remarkable time given it is a walking race.
Despite the wet and windy conditions a number of ‘Personal Bests’ were set at the Love Welwyn 10k race on Sunday including two members receiving medals. Rob Harris was pleased to finish in a superb time of 37:46 earning him 4th place overall and 1st in the MV40 category. Monica Cullin also won a medal for coming first in the FV70 category with her time of 1:33:13. The popular local event also attracted 9 other squirrels of which 6 managed to beat their previous 10k time. Jennie Andrews showed a huge improvement in this event by smashing her previous time by 11 minutes to finish in 53:41. Other PBs included Helen Marson-Smith with 1:03:45, Jim Marvell in 1:03:29, Hayley Cocks in 1:06:43, Ali Mottram in 1:06:08 and Jo Sopala in 1:07:50.
Elsewhere Sue Foot continued to rack up her impressive mileage by taking part in the Stopsley Challenge. The challenge was to run as many laps as you could or wanted to within six hours. The long lap was 5.1 miles along country roads around Offley. The first half was mostly downhill but the second half took the runners up some very long and challenging hills. The shorter lap was just under a mile. Sue managed five laps of the five mile route and one lap of the shorter route making it 26.4 miles in total!
Sue remarked, “The weather was pretty brutal throughout and the puddles got gradually bigger and the hills seemed to get tougher, but despite walking up some of the hills and trying to avoid some car drivers who thought it might be fun to spray me with the muddy puddles when they drove past at speed, I finished in 4.49!”
Stewart Overton continued his fine form whilst preparing for the London Marathon. He competed in the Worthing Half Marathon which was challenging in the wind and rain. Despite the conditions Stewart targeted a sub 80 race which he managed by finishing in a fine 1:19:01. An excellent time and good preparation for his next race The Big Half in London on the 10th March. Another squirrel, Elwyn Russell Howell also ran a half marathon at the weekend in the Olympic Park finishing in 2 hours 32.
We are looking forward to this year's Comet Sports Awards after three NHRR entries made it onto the final shortlists.
Nick Malpeli is among the four-strong list of contenders for the 'Veteran Achievement' prize in recognition of his exploits over the marathon distance. Nick enjoyed an outstanding year in 2018, winning his second England vest, twice improving his already very impressive best time to a superb 2.43.16 and being selected for an elite-level England Athletics training camp.
Nick is joined on the shortlist by an entry for the NHRR veterans teams, which highlights our success in wining both ladies' and men's Hertfordshire Veterans' Championships over the 5k distance.
The NHRR list of contenders is completed by joint publicity officer James Walsh, whose photo of team-mate Jim McConnel at the County Cross-country Championships is shortlisted for 'Sports Photograph of the Year'.
The awards evening takes place at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre on 1st March.
Jillian Boys ran two PBs this weekend. The first was at North Herts Road Runners’ First Saturday of the Month on Norton Common in Letchworth, and the second at the Cancer Research UK London Winter 10K on Sunday. Jillian loved both races, saying,“the First Saturday race was a lovely snowy morning and I ran with my dog Poppy – we got a new course PB of 22.55 (including an unplanned ‘dog business’ stop!). On Sunday around 20,000 runners raced with me through central London, starting at Trafalgar Square and finishing at the Cenotaph memorial along Whitehall. It was a beautiful blue sky day, nice and cold and dry: perfect running conditions. I was really hoping to achieve my first sub 47min 10k – and I was so pleased to find out my chip time was 46.57!”
On Saturday, also in London, John Rayner travelled to the home of the 2012 Olympics for a 10k race around Queen Elizabeth Park. John said,“This is a monthly race which I also did at the start of February last year. It is a flat 3 lap course, I went for a warm up lap to discover that the route had changed to avoid a footpath closure. I'm pleased I did this or I would have been in for a shock during the race! With my family watching I set off too fast and soon found myself in the lead. At the end of the first mile I was overtaken and wasn't able to keep up as we hit a head wind along the canal under the Olympic stadium. From this point on I held on to second place. With half a mile to go 3rd place briefly caught up with me but I had enough left to push on.” John finished in a time of 36:30, which, although it was a minute slower than last year felt like a positive result given all his injuries in between.
Ed Price ran the Chichester 10k on Sunday morning which was also the Sussex 10k Championship and a qualifying event for England Masters (the first three in each age category qualify to run for England at a future 10k race). On a flat and fast course, and in perfect running conditions, Ed managed to finish in 34:10, one second slower than his PB. Ed lamented “I was the 9th MV40, so no chance of an England vest, but I enjoyed the race and loved running amongst (and behind) so many quality runners.”
4 Squirrels ran in ParkRuns (Ian Datlen, Steve Brenton, Joe Sherry and Chris Poole) and 23 Squirrels turned out alongside Jillian at the First Saturday of the Month in a field of 86 runners.
Sunday was the final race in the Three Counties Cross-country league. After some superb performances in the previous races, North Herts Road Runners were in a great position. The ladies team championship was really tight and it was down to a last race shoot-out with Wellingborough and District. Whoever won this race would win the league overall.
On the day, the ladies' performance was heroic. They stormed round Delapre Estate to take the victory on the day and overall title. In total, a scurry of 29 Squirrels headed to Wootton and came back with the overall combined team champions plus the ladies team champions, while the men’s team finished as runners up. Ladies team captain, Katie Harbon described the feat as “a season long effort supporting each other and backed up by the rest of the team who may not have scored directly but helped us score points. Everybody ran strong and gave it everything they had. The dedication and passion is what makes us the best team in the league.”
Andrew Porter was the first 70-year-old in the league after 5 races. Speaking to Andrew afterwards, he described the event as a “fantastic run - the course was demanding but there was plenty of support from NHRR and others.” He also said that he “was surprised to receive the age category award” and thanked the organisers for an excellent race series.
Andrew's wasn't the only individual championship title won by a North Herts Road Runner. Natalie Lawrence was the winner of the ladies open and Astrid Mckeown was the first V45. Amongst the men, the first in the 30-35 category was Tom Webb while Matt Sayers was the first V40.
On Saturday, five squirrels made the trip to Parliament Hill in London for the South of England Cross-country championships. Over 1100 runners start at the bottom of the hill and charge up to the top before completing three laps of a challenging course. Adam Bowller had a great run and was delighted to finish 92nd. Not too far behind was Darren Sunter finishing in 197th and Matt Sayers in 281st. Matt Sayers was running the infamously tough course for the first time and was pleased with his run. Speaking with Adam afterwards he said it was humbling to run in the 125th edition of the prestigious championships, adding: "I'm delighted to finish in the top 100. Fifteen kilometres of challenging terrain can feel daunting but the great support on the course helps inspire you to push on."
Chris Poole ran his 250th parkrun at Severn Bridge near Newport, the only parkrun in the world that is completely on a bridge. The race starts in England before heading into Wales and then returning. Chris' first parkrun was in July 2013 at Heaton Park, Manchester. Reflecting on the run, Chris said: “With a belly full of vodka red bull I trotted round the course and was instantly hooked”. Chris has now run 250 parkruns at 164 different venues around the world in five different countries. His time has improved from 32 minutes to 21 minutes. A group of friends from all over Hertfordshire made the journey over to South Wales the night before, completing the incredibly friendly and windy parkrun at the Severn Bridge. “An excellent setting with cracking views across the estuary”. It’s an out and back course, where Chris and friends got blasted by the wind in both directions.
Freezing temperatures made for chilly racing conditions for Road Runners in forest, farmland or rural hills this weekend.
Six squirrels braved the cold of the Fred Hughes 10 mile event in St Albans. First home for the club and 4th lady overall was Astrid McKeown in a fantastic 1:08:16. Speaking after the race she described the morning as ‘freezing, but beautiful’ and had thoroughly enjoyed the ‘very undulating, rural course’. She said that “the race entry was a Christmas present from her husband as I have not raced much recently and he took over the child care for the morning so I could do something I love”. The second Road Runner was Helen Cairns 01:19:20, followed by Drew Norton 01:20:23, Naomi Parkinson and Lucy Hurley 1:27:24 and Adam Wilson 1:28:48.
Four (self described!) ‘completely bonkers’, hardy squirrels made their annual pilgrimage to Wales for the Buff Winter Trail Wales half marathon held at Coed y Brenin, despite weather warnings of freezing temperatures and snow. Racing conditions could not have been more different for Michelle and Andy Grudzinski who last week raced in temperatures of 27 degrees! All four relished the undulating, but scenic, race through the Coed y Brenin forest. Andy was first home for the club in 2.37.31 (just 4 minutes off his personal best), Paul Bowal was next in with 2.56.29 and Michelle and Ashley Murray-Richard in a very respectable 2.59.05.
Marathon runners Miranda Morgan and Sue Foot completed the Boggle Marathon. The challenging route covered 27 miles along hard packed-track trails, grassy tracks and plenty of fields across farmland picking up a nice lot of mud along the way. Sue said “apart from two or three wrong turnings we managed to keep pretty much to the route and finished in 5.58”.
North Herts Road Runners were out in force at Parkruns throughout the country this weekend, while others rested from racing with all eyes on next Sunday’s fifth and final Cross Country league race, with the Squirrels currently top of the table!
North Herts Road Runners flew around Ampthill Park on Sunday in race four of the Three Counties Cross Country League. The squirrels won both the men’s and ladies team event keeping them top of the league overall with one race to go.
Cross country captain John Auld couldn’t have been happier with the result. ‘I am absolutely delighted that we got a well-deserved clean sweep of victories today! Exactly the results we wanted. A superb team performance by all.’
There were 37 runners who toughed it out in windy conditions over a challenging course. The women’s team totally smashed all the competition finishing 35 points clear of nearest rivals Wellingborough and District. Natalie Lawrence was first home for the team followed by Katie Harbon, Astrid McKeown, Paula Adams, Jane Clarke and Caroline Thrussell. They are now joint top in the league competition with it all to race for in the last race.
It was a close competition between NHRR and Ampthill and Flitwick Flyers men’s teams with the squirrels winning with just one place making all the difference. Tom Webb lead the men’s team home finishing in 3rd place. There were more strong performances from the scoring team with Adam Bowller 5th, Jim McConnell 7th, Darren Sunter 9th, Matt Sayers 10th, Ed Price 19th, Stewart Overton 22nd and Mark Vaughan 25th.
Having won the combined men’s and women’s competition in all 4 races so far, NHRR are firm favourites to retain the title at the final race in two weeks.
Michelle and Andy Grudzinski headed for some sunshine miles on the Caribbean island of Turks & Caicos. Their holiday happened to coincide with the TCI Move-a-thon which included a marathon. Michelle finished in 4:54:26 2nd female and 3rd overall and Andy finished in 5:31:23 6th overall. Michelle did confess, ‘The total Marathon field amounted to 7 people! In fact, the locals seemed to think running, let alone a marathon, was a stupid idea; Andy doesn’t disagree.’ Andy responded that, ‘In Michelle’s words - we were not last, and it is not our fault no one else entered. She’s going to be living off her podium finish for the rest of her life.’
David Annetts competed in the first race of the Enfield Race Walking League (5 miles) on Saturday. Good conditions and recent training and coaching sessions gave Annetts the confidence that he could extend his race pace and was rewarded with a personal best winning time of 38:54.
Jillian Boys doubled up this weekend not only competing in the cross country at Ampthill but also racing the ‘Fido’s Forest Frenzy’, which is a purely canicross race. Canicross is racing with dogs. The event was set in the beautiful Thetford Forest and run over a course that was approx 12km. Boys ran with both her dogs Poppy & Lulu the chocolate labs. Boys said, ‘They were absolute superstars and did me proud as we finished in 2nd place in a chip time of 56.54!’
Matt Sayers also doubled up this weekend by winning his Parkrun debut at Letchworth in a time of 18:26.
‘Gritty and attritional’ was Tom Webb’s verdict on a close-fought Herts County Cross-country Championships race, as only the narrowest of margins prevented North Herts Road Runners from regaining the Herts County mens’ Cross-country title they last won in 2015.
After a tough battle over a demanding 12k course in St Albans’ Verulamium Park, the Squirrels saw their six-man team’s finishing positions total 105 points – just two more than the 103 registered by new champions Watford Joggers.
Webb secured an impressive fourth place in the individual standings and had great support from Jim McConnel (8th), Matt Sayers (12th), Ed Price (24th), Mark Vaughan (26th) and Stewart Overton (31st). ‘I enjoyed it’, said Overton after giving his all on the final circuit of the undulating 3-lap course - ‘my heart rate felt steady but the legs couldn’t take me any faster’.
Webb, McConnel and Sayers saw their performances rewarded with invitations to represent Hertfordshire at the prestigious Inter-counties Championships at Loughborough in March.
Ellie Webb flew the North Herts flag in the ladies’ Championships and finished comfortably in the top half of the field in 37th, while Eva McCabe finished 8th in the under-17s race.
It was a weekend of double success for Matt Sayers as he had warmed up for Sunday’s cross-country by winning the Road Runner’s regular First Saturday of the Month 5k in an excellent time of 18.02. An impressive 92 runners braved the chilly conditions to complete their first ‘FSOTM’ of the year. Elodie Levis of Team Trident was the first lady in 23.59.
Serial marathon runner Sue Foot spent New Year’s Day tackling the Flitch Way Marathon – an out-and-back route between Braintree and Bishop’s Stortford. She was pleased to finish in 4 hours 36 – ‘nine minutes faster than the marathon I did four days earlier’.
Lindsay Cook was delighted to hit her sub-30 target at the Bakewell Parkrun with a 29.14 finish time – ‘a great start to my new year of running!’.
A first 90%-plus age grading was David Annetts’ reward as he continued his successful conversion to race walking at the Lee Valley New Year Open Meeting. Annetts completed the 3000m race in 13.43 for an outstanding second place and said he was particularly pleased as he ‘had narrowly missed the 90% grade as a runner’.
Some stunning results, a popular annual club tradition plus plenty of Parkruns, near and far, made for a busy week for the North Herts Road Runners.
“It was a perfect way to end the racing year,” said speedy Squirrel Stewart Overton at the end of Sunday’s 10-mile road race in Buntingford. The race is now a well-established part of the local running calendar, and knowing that this challenging course is on the horizon has helped many a road runner to stay on the straight and narrow over the festive season. But it proved to be no trouble for the North Herts Road Runners, as they won the overall men’s team prize, and came away with three age-category podium finishers.
Caroline Thrussell was the first Vet 55 Woman, continuing an impressive run of recent results to finish in a time of 1 hour and 13 minutes (beating her own club record for the 10-mile distance by five minutes). Adrian Sherwood ran 64:43 to finish as second Vet 50 Man, while Mark Vaughan was the third Vet 40 and finished in 58:17. Joining Adrian and Mark in the winning men’s team were Overton and Matt Sayers, who both also ran the 10-mile distance in under an hour. The team just finished ahead of rivals Trent Park, who had taken the top spot by a small margin the year before. Another fourteen Squirrels took part at Buntingford, including Lucy O’Connor, who was running this race for the first time, and was pleased to finish in 1:27:53, and David Weston who ran 69:32, knocking no less than six and a half minutes off his previous best for the distance.
The exertions at Buntingford capped off a week that had started with the Letchworth-based club’s annual ‘Mulligatawny Run’. This is a club tradition, in which a group of club members run together over the hills at Pegsdon before enjoying some festive cheer (and some actual Mulligatawny soup!) back at Lilley. “Super muddy but beautiful views,” was long-standing club member James Walsh’s summary, adding “the views at the top were worth it.”
Sue Foot ran the Great Barrow Triple Tipple Marathon on Friday 28th December. This was the first day of a three-day event held each year in Barrow Suffolk. “The event is famous for its checkpoint at mile 20 where you can choose from a very welcome selection of liqueurs!” said Sue, who nevertheless managed to finish in an impressive time of 4.45.
Christmas week also saw the Squirrels test their mettle at Parkruns aplenty across the UK. Close to home, club coaches Karen Dodsworth and Pete Sibbett, along with Mark and Sue Vaughan, ran the Great Denham Parkrun on Christmas Day – and all achieved significant results! First to finish for the club was Mark Vaughan who was third in the race, winning the V45 age group in 17.19. Pete Sibbett went sub-20 for the first time this year clocking 19.46 to win the V55 age category, and Sue Vaughan ran 26.27 to win the FV50 age group. Coach Karen Dodsworth also finished third lady in 25.01 and won her age group, FV55. Also in Bedfordshire was Hayley Cocks, who ran Luton Parkrun and was pleased to finish fifth in her age category.
Further afield, Ellie and Tom Webb took on the sandy Exmouth park run in Devon. Despite having to deal with the sand which had been washed up along the course by waves and wind, Ellie ran the course in 22:28, while Tom finished in 16:25. Lindsay Cook took advantage of a Christmas trip to the Peak District to take part in the Parkrun at Bakewell. “You can really feel the downhill and it makes for a nice fast finish,” said Lindsay, “I was 230th in 30:23 which I was pleased with.” Meanwhile, spurred on by his exertions at the Mulligatawny Run, James Walsh travelled to North Wales, and took part in the Penrhyn Parkrun in Bangor, running the course in 20.59. “Held in the impressive setting of Penrhyn Castle,” said James, “the run has its start and finish line immediately under the castle's portcullis!”
North Herts Road Runners completed Parkruns in almost every corner of Great Britain as members of the Letchworth-based club combined Christmas visits to family and friends with participation in the popular 5k events.
Parkrun has become an international phenomenon over the past 14 years, with 577 venues in the UK – plus many more in a further 19 countries - hosting the free weekly events at 9.00am every Saturday. These include local events in Letchworth Garden City and Stevenage.
This weekend 23 Squirrels turned out at 10 Parkruns in England, Scotland and Wales with Lucy Hurley in South Wales for Aberbeeg Parkrun, where she completed the course in 23.43.
Steve Williamson travelled north of the border to take part in Falkirk Parkrun and finished in 22.26, while Brian Judkins took on what he described as ‘one of the tougher Parkrun courses’ at Wakefield Thornes, finishing in 33.06
After plenty of rain over the previous few days, Clare Hooley reported an ‘absolute mudfest the whole way – not a day for a fast one’ at Cambridge Parkrun, where she finished in 38.56 and James Keogh recorded 20.24.
Lee Hayes attributed his impressive second place in similar ‘Glastonbury-style’ conditions at Letchworth Parkrun to the ‘correct footwear – a few people were running in plimsolls, I reckon!’ Hayes recorded 20.23, with Emily Hutchinson next and first female finisher in 20.38. Chloe Lucas continued her return to regular training after time overseas with a finish time of 24.35 on what she described as a ‘very muddy’ course and Andrew Underhill completed the run with daughter Gracie in 33.58. ‘Not bad for an 8-year-old, he said. ‘She smashed it!’.
Other NHRR Parkrun ‘tourists’ over the weekend included Nick Malpeli at Markeaton , Derby, Chris Poole at Houghton Hall and Naomi Parkinson at Great Denham (both Bedfordshire), Jodie Brumhead at Mole Valley and six Squirrels at Stevenage Parkrun.
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