Pregnancy and pre-race accidents could not stop North Herts Road Runners from making a clean sweep of the ladies’ podium places at the Baldock Rat Run – an event raising vital funds for Garden House Hospice Care.
Despite falling over and arriving at the start line bleeding, Tracy Pitcairn stormed around the 5k route to set a new course record time of 20:36. Paula Holm followed her with 21:38 and 35-weeks pregnant Rhia Botha completed the trio of podium-topping Squirrels with 22:04.
North Herts’ men also showed great form over the multi-terrain course around Ivel Springs and the Greenway, with Tom Webb winning the race in 16:50 and John Auld, who said he had ‘done my due diligence by practising the two sets of steps at speed’, taking second place in 18:34. ‘It was a good blast’, said a ‘very pleased’ Auld.
Kat Hinitt, Dave Braybrook and Andrew Coates made the long journey to Newcastle to take part in the postponed 40th edition of the iconic Great North Run. After a night out carb-loading in ‘the toon’ (an ‘eye-opening experience in itself!’ according to Hinitt) and a rather unique hotel experience in which they were the only guests in a hotel opened just for them, the three Squirrels had to tackle an ‘unplanned morning lock-in’ at their accommodation but arrived at the start line raring to go.
The usual Great North Run route had been altered due to Covid, so the famous finish by the beach at South Shields was replaced by an out-and-back undulating route along a closed dual carriageway through the ‘scenic’ industrial outskirts of Newcastle.
The three Squirrels gave it their very best, with Dave smashing his previous personal best in 1:38:57, Kat finishing in 1:53:35, and Andrew comfortably beating his target time with 1:59:53. Kat reported ‘an amazing atmosphere, with a huge amount of support and entertainment throughout the course to boost/distract the runners’. All three agreed that it was a fantastic experience to run this legendary race with more than 50,000 other runners of all abilities, and they had a wonderful weekend embracing northern culture.
Paul O’Sullivan modestly reported he ‘managed to win’ his age group at St Neots Tri, describing his category as 'old blokes who should know better!'. Finishing 14th overall out of 100 starters, he clocked 45 minutes for the 10k run and is ’really hoping NHRR sessions can improve that significantly and get me back near 40 mins for first time in a few years’.
Anna Gibson (53:28), Lucy O’Connor (55:29) and Brian Judkins ((1:13:49) ran the inaugural Heritage Shuttleworth 10k Hoohaah. Lucy described the ‘friendly, well-organised’ race as ‘a very scenic, quite hilly trail run within the lovely Shuttleworth Estate’. Lucy was first in her age category (F60) and Anna second in hers (F35).
North Herts Road Runners very own First Saturday of the Month 5km was back for the September event. It was another fantastic Saturday morning and the weather was beautiful. There were 58 runners round Norton Common in Letchworth. NHRR secured the podium of James Fox, Adrian Sherwood and John Auld finishing in 17:09, 19:55 and 20:06 respectively. 20 squirrels ran in total.
Others finishing were James Dalton (20:58), Mike Over (21:36), Ian Datlen (22:18), Anna Greetham (22:50), Paula Holm (22:51), Kat Hinitt (23:58), Rhia Botha (24:49), Helen Cains (24:52), Jillian Tooley-Boys (26:14), Caroline Thrussel (26:39), Ellie Scott (26:48), Georgina Quayle (27:04), Andrew Coates (28:11), Gladys Cheng (28:19), Anna Priestley (29:35), Philip Flack (29:53), Dawn Power (31:45), Carina Quayle (31:57), Tracy Pitcairn (33:21) and Geoff Pettengell (33:38)
A scurry of squirrels took part in one or more events in the Bedford Festival of running. The event had a 5km, 10km, two half marathons and 20 mile distances to run across Saturday and Sunday.
Katie Harbon won the ladies Twilight 10k finishing in 37:20. The half marathon was won by Mike Roberts with a new personal best time 75:35.
Running in his first race since early 2019 Ben Ryan also ran in the half marathon. Mike passed him during a loop section and exchanged words of encouragement which spurred Ben to keep going and finish in 1:47:34 - which knocked 2 mins off his previous personal best. Ben said that there was a great atmosphere at the event and it felt awesome to be racing again.
Elwyn Howell spent the weekend at the festival competing in the 10km on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday. Elwyn finished 3rd in his age category with 48:19 in the 10km and 4th in category with 2:01:34 for the half marathon. He proclaimed that it was a great event and well organised all weekend.
Richard Webber did the 20 mile race at the festival, finishing close to his personal best time for the distance in 3:03:52. Lucy O'Connor achieved a new personal best of 3:05:48 and finished 1st in her age category. Anna Gibson also ran a great time of 3:12:01. Brian Judkins did the 10km event and finished with a great time of 1:04. Richard said afterwards that it was a warm day which didn't help him and he didn't mind admitting that he struggled in the last 4 miles and had to resort to walking on occasion. He was relieved to finish.
Dan Mallett also spend the weekend at the festival. He ran the 5km on Saturday morning in 26:10 and then went back in the evening to run the 10km in 51:33. He then returned again on Sunday morning to run the half marathon in 2:07:26. He was very happy with the results considering the heat and the multiple races entered.
James Keogh took part in the multisport aquathon event named the Duck N Dash at Letchworth Open Pool in Norton Common. James finished the 400m and 5km run in a total time of 32:40 and was 17th.
11 squirrels ran at 8 different Parkkruns across the country. Charlotte Hannah Coles ran 25:19 at Bedford. Steve Williamson ran 22:55 at Kettering. Vincent Wright and Jane Clarke ran 19:30 and 22:28 respectively at Stevenage. Jennie Fraser ran 27:42 at Ayr. Glyn Blakey ran 22:03 at Keswick. William Harrison ran 20:12 at Mersea Island. Phillip Hawkes (20:53) and Lucy Hurley (26:42) ran at Letchworth and Mark and Sue Vaughan ran at Rothay in 18:18 and 29:45 respectively.
Pictures by BedfordRunFest
Pictures by BedfordRunFest
This weekend saw a flurry of squirrels take part in many different races, varying in distance and undulation, with PB’s flying everywhere!
The Great Hertfordshire Area of Natural Beauty Run which is a charity event organised by the 2021 club charity, The Garden House Hospice, saw North Herts Road Runners compete in both the 10k and Marathon. Jillian Tooley-Boys and Elwyn Howell took part in the 10k where Jillian finished 1st lady in a superb time of (58:22), and Elwyn in (52:50). Jillian was hoping for sub 60 and was ‘chuffed to bits with result’. In the marathon, Sue Foot and Andrew Porter may have had to do a bit more navigation than expected, with a couple of misleading arrows along the way causing slight confusion with the route, but they enjoyed the fantastic Herts and Beds countryside and finished in a time of 06:08:00.
Elsewhere, the Thorney 5 miler which is described as a ‘Pancake flat out and back road race’, saw three North Herts Road Runners finish the presumably PB course. Richard Weber, Lucy O’Connor and Brian Judkins all headed to Bedford and did NHRR very proud. Richard Weber finished in a time of 36:56 which was a fantastic PB. Similarly, Lucy O’Connor also smashed her PB and finished 1st in her age category.
Meanwhile in the city, four North Herts Road Runners headed to compete in the London Big Half Marathon, which although saw less crowds and less atmosphere, was still a fantastic race to compete in. Ironically, in his last major race before covid and first major race post lockdown, David Weston felt empowered by his fellow North Herts Road Runners and flew round the course in a phenomenal time of 98 minutes. Also taking part was Matt Sayers, Shaun Allin and Dave Edwards, who finished in 1:18:50, 1:36:00 and 1:34:43 respectively. Matt explained, ‘although I was disappointed with my time, I’m grateful to be running races again and it was a good dress rehearsal for my return trip to London on 3rd October’.
Helen Cromack took part in the Oundle 20 miler as part of her training for the Brighton marathon. Helen described the course as undulating and finished in a time of 03:45:48. A great time considering it is the furthest Helen has ever run!
Vince Wright headed to Kings Lynn and competed in the GEAR 10k. Considering Vince is returning from injury he ran a smashing time of 38:41, matching his personal best.
The virtual midweek league continued this week with 17 squirrels submitting a time for the final race. The final result saw both our women’s and men’s team come 4th, which put us in 4th place overall, and 2nd in the masters, ladies’ and men’s. Next year when we get back to racing properly we will be defending out division 1 title, so we’re looking forward to seeing record turn outs and great racing.
Parkrun was again a very popular option for many North Herts Road Runners with members venturing near and far. Martyn and Rachel Annetts competed at Bedford in (21:27) and (28:01) respectively. Steve Williamson was the only NHRR representative at Kettering in a great time of (25:11). More locally, seven North Herts Road Runners headed to Stevenage where Ellie Scott lead the group home in 23:54. Followed by Paul Bowal (25:12), Anna Greetham (25:52), Andrew Coates (25:52), Sue Vaughan (27:55), Philip Flack (28:03) and Jane Clarke (42:05). Across the border in Cambridgeshire, Brian Judkins ran at the popular Wimpole Estate event, finishing in (37:33). Meanwhile, Helen Cairns competed at Folkstone in a time of (23:47). Further afield in beautiful Norfolk, Andrew Underhill dipped well below the 30 minute mark, completing the run in (28:44). At home in sunny (sometimes!) Letchworth, ten runners stormed the undulating course. Adrian Sherwood finished first NHRR in a time of (20:24), closely followed by James Dalton (20:39), Philip Hawkes (21:37), James Poulton (23:53), Ian Datlen (23:55), Charlotte Hannah Coles (26:48), Georgina Quayle (27:08), Carl Goodrum (27:11), Bob Davis (28:22) and Carina Quayle (34:36).
Three squirrels headed to Highfield Park on a very damp Sunday morning to take part in St Albans Summer 10km hosted by Active Training World. The race started in a time trial format, with the fastest predicted time athletes setting off in wave 1 at 9am, followed by a second wave at 10am. This allowed for social distancing and the starting pen resembled a Formula 1 grid! Team captains John Auld and Tash Pitman started in the 9am wave heading out towards Hatfield along the flat, tree lined former railway line, Alban Way before looping back to St Albans. John finished in 39:16, 5th in the 30-39 age category and 18th male finisher. Tash finished in 42:22, 3rd in her age category, just 15 seconds short of the 2nd place and 6th female overall.
Russ Hagan cheered on his team mates in wave 1, before lining up for the wave 2 start at 10am. The rain had cleared at this point, which saw favourable race conditions help him to a fantastic personal best time of 51:40, achieving 6th place in his age category, a whole 3 minutes ahead of 7th place! Great racing from the squirrels. Russ Hagan said "It was so good to be back in a race again, I ran the St. Albans 10K for the first time a couple of years ago and got a PB so was hopeful I could better it. “
Saturday saw our First Saturday of the month 5k race take place on Norton Common. Fifty-Two runners took part with Peter Clarke coming in first with a time of 18:40 and the first lady, finishing in 8th place was Tracy Pitcairn with a time of 21:25. Three buggy runners took on the bumpy terrain of Norton Common, Tom Webb and daughter Olivia led the pack finishing 2nd overall (19:03). Second place was Dave Braybrook with Leo (24:41) and third was Jillian Boys with Mable (30:41). This monthly event is open to all runners and is totally free. See our website to register.
The Squirrel Cup concluded at the end of July it was very tight at the top of the leaderboard with Team ‘Rock cake’ made up of Chris Stokes, Susan Mansfield and Caroline Thrussell taking the top spot with a time of 01:05:08. They were closely followed by Team ‘Cream Horn’ who took the Silver medal and Team ‘Battenburg’ in Bronze position. This fabulous competition ran through the month of July and was expertly organised by Mike Bullock.
Sunday 26th September will see the return of the Standalone 10K. There are still places available and members are asked to volunteer for marshalling.
The North Herts Road Runners saw out July in style as they celebrated numerous successes at their run of the month 10km race in Bedford
The squirrels were out in force on Friday 30th July for the popular AAA Bedford 10k, which was the nominated “run of the month” for the club. The mainly flat, scenic race started at Bedford’s Priory Park, heading out along cycle paths out towards Danish Camp and back, skirting the Great Ouse. It also served as the Bedfordshire 10km County Champs, so a very strong field of runners toed the start line looking forward to a mass start “normal” race. Men’s team captain John Auld agreed that it seemed very close to a normal event, although women’s captain Tash Pitman noticed that the athletes were more spaced out than in pre-COVID times.
Among the excellent turnout of 17 squirrels, there were some superb individual and team performances. The men’s team of Andrew Leach (34:02), Matt Sayers (35:35), Stewart Overton (36:12), and Nick Malpeli came second (37:19), behind a very strong Huntingdonshire AC, with Andrew Leach winning the M55 age category. Not to be outdone, the ladies A team of Tash Pitman (42:33), Astrid McKeown (43:32), and Tracy Pitcairn (43:57) came second to Bedford Harriers, with Tracy also winning the F35 age category. The squirrels’ success did not stop there, with the ladies B team, Lucy O’Connor (49:17), Anna Gibson (49:36), and Deborah Smith (56:03), claiming third place on the podium. Impressively, it was Deborah’s first ever 10km and even though she admits she was “pretty nervous”, she was pleased with her steady pace and finished with a huge smile, completely smashing her target of under an hour. Several of the runners achieved impressive personal best times, including Dave Braybook, who was “over the moon” to see his previous personal best tumble from 50:22 pre-lockdown to a fantastic 43:30. Richard Weber also recorded a fantastic personal best of 45:49 in his first proper 10k race since the lockdowns. Other squirrels who took part were John Auld (38:25), Pete Sibbett (43:19), Richard Thackeray (44:58), Andrew Porter (56:43), and Brian Judkins (1:08:41). All the runners were hugely grateful to fellow supporters from the club who came along and gave the runners a boost to help them sprint over the line.
Meanwhile, Kat Gourd ventured into London for the London Landmarks Half Marathon on Sunday 1st August. The closed-road race was one of the first mass, large-scale running events to take place since the easing of restrictions, with more than 11 000 runners taking part. The race started near Trafalgar Square and took the runners on a well-planned, albeit slightly squiggly, sightseeing route of various key landmarks around central London, including the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral, with a huge amount of support, entertainment, and music throughout. Although the weather became increasingly warm during the event, mist showers and plentiful drinks stations were provided to help keep the runners cool on the 13.1 mile route. As the sole squirrel taking part in the race, Kat was thrilled to achieve her fastest ever half marathon time of 44:06.
Saturday also saw the second week of the much-awaited return to the weekly free parkrun 5km races across the UK, with North Herts Road Runners embracing the opportunity to take part in events both near and far. Nine squirrels ran at Letchworth, including Ian Datlen who was fifth overall in an impressive 21:02, followed by Vincent Wright (21:20), James Dalton (21:36), Matt Roberts (22:49), Kat Gourd (24:17), Rhia Botha (24:43), Eleanor Biggs (26:29), Carol Goodrum (30:02), and Brian Judkins (39:43). Meanwhile, five other squirrels ran at Stevenage, with Tim Banting completing the course in 24:51, followed by Russ Hagan (25:20), Charlotte Coles (26:30) and Phillip Flack (27:00). Across the border in Cambridgeshire, two squirrels ran at the popular Wimpole Estate event (Jillian Boys 27:42 and Lucy Hurley 28:07), and Carl Haskell ran at Storeys Field (23:29). Further afield (indeed, much further afield in some cases!), Chris Poole ran at Long Eaton (24:35), Glyn Blakey completed Keswick parkrun in 22:44, Ian Harvey ran at Weymouth (21:06), and Jane Clarke ran at Lands End (24:02).
After fifteen months training alone or in small groups, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions earlier in the month enabled North Herts Road Runners to finally gather together in person as a club in Broadway Gardens on Thursday 29th July. It was perfect ice-cream weather and to celebrate meeting together again, the club hired the local vintage ice cream van, “Ice Baby” and treated members to delicious ice creams and sorbets. Astrid McKeown, our club chairperson excitedly welcomed around 85 members back together, leading the clubs first in person announcements since the pandemic began, following her monthly You Tube announcements which did a great job in keeping the Squirrels’ community together.
There was a real buzz among our members who relished the opportunity to chat with their running friends after such a long time apart as a big group. One of the major announcements was the return of the club’s flagship race and ever popular Standalone 10km on Sunday 26th October, which was run virtually last year and saw 800 runners raise £4,000 for the charity Headway Hertfordshire. The race is reliant on club members to volunteer to marshal and help organise the event, so Richard Harbon, the club’s Race Director explained how to sign up to volunteer.
After announcements some members went straight to enjoy ice cream and catch ups with their running friends, while others did their dedicated training sessions before heading back for some cool ice cream refreshment. One group even decided to do an ice-cream relay, starting with ice cream to fuel a first 5 km run round West Letchworth, with a break for another ice cream before tackling a second 5km taking in East Letchworth before heading back for an ice cream finisher to cool down and enjoy a stunning sunset.
The Doug Anderson 5km was on Wednesday in Bedford Park, Bedford. The met office had issued an Amber extreme heat warning and the temperature at 7:30 was 27 degrees, with 'feels like' 30 degrees. None the less, 8 North Herts Road Runners squirrels participated amongst the 291 finishers. It was a great club event and the first one available in some time. The heat made it very hard and the water on the course was very much appreciated. It was great to sit in the garden of the local pub afterwards with some team mates and recover some fluids over a chat. Matt Sayers said “the race was great, but my highlight was the post race pint.” Despite the heat there was some fantastic performances. The mens team of Tom Webb, Mark Vaughan and Stewart Overton won the mens team competition. And the team of Mark Vaughan, Stewart Overton and Matt Sayers won the veteran mens team competition. Despite the heat, Mike Banister ran a personal best time for 5km. In the individual competition, Matt Sayers won the over 45's mens and Mark Vaughan won the over 50’s mens competition. The whole team celebrated by picking up Sue Vaughan!
First home was Tom Webb who finished 4th in the race with 16:28. Not too far behind was Mark Vaughan who took 7th place in 17:11. Finishing 11th and 12th in the race was Stewart Overton and Matt Sayers who worked together brilliantly and both finished in 17:31.Mike Banister made the top 20, finishing 19th with 18:16. John Auld finished 36th in 19:14. First lady home for the club was Natalie Lawrence in 19:47. Sue Vaughan completed the squirrels turnout finishing in 28:10.
Parkrun was back this week in many places across the country and there was a good turn out from NHRR, 24 in total - most of which ran the local course at Letchworth. Paula Holm said that the event was very well organised and everybody was socially distancing and giving each other space. She “was delighted to run the slightly longer course and come home first lady”. Other courses ran by Squirrels were Oxford, Stevenage, Wimpole Estate, Keswick and Market Rasen Racecourse.
Carl Haskell ran at Oxford with Abbie Haskell and Vicky Haskell. They finished in 25:37, 56:50 and 56:51 respectively. Ian Harvey ran at Stevenage finishing in 21:16 with Georgina and Carina Quayle also finishing in 26:21 and 30:00 respectively. Vince Wright and Jillian Boys ran at Wimpole Estate finishing in 21:55 and 27:06 respectively. Glyn Blakey ran Keswick in 24:28. Andrew Underhill ran Market Rasen Racecourse in 20:59. 14 squirrels ran at Letchworth, James Fox lead the way finishing in 17:39 followed by James Dalton (21:44), Matt Roberts (23:06), Paula Holm (23:07), Kat Gourd (25:24), Steve Benton (25:56), Rhia Botha (26:04), Ellie Scott (26:20), Christian Allen (27:37), Bob Davis (29:02), Amy Murch (30:36), Carl Goodrum (31:33), Philip Flack (31:43) and Brian Bailey (38:15).
‘There’s nowhere to hide on the track, so it was really inspiring to see them put in a solid effort’ was John Auld’s pithy report after leading the track-side support for four of his North Herts Road Runners team-mates as they tackled the 5,000 metre distance on the hottest day of the year.
The valiant quartet of Andrew Leach, Mark Vaughan, Nathan Pask and Stewart Overton were taking part in the MK5000 series of races at the Stantonbury Track in Milton Keynes. With conditions officially rated at 27 degrees, but ‘feeling more like 30’ according to men’s team Captain Auld, ‘it was so hot that all the racers struggled. Even the supporters struggled and were looking for shade wherever possible’.
Despite the furnace-like conditions, super-veteran Andrew Leach still recorded a scorching 16:45 time, with Vaughan and Pask not far behind with 17:23 and 17:28 respectively. Stewart Overton completed the NHRR turnout with an excellent 17:52.
Competitors and supporters alike enjoyed what Auld described as a ‘carnival atmosphere’. ‘It wasn’t a day for times’, he reported’ ‘but a good chance to show some NHRR spirit and determination’.
With most peoples’ eyes on centre court and Wembley, races were few and far between. Others were taking part in the fantastic Fountain to Fountain 18 mile charity walk raising vital funds for two local Hospice charities.
Three squirrels scampered down the A1M to Hatfield to take part in the London (?!) Vitality 10,000 at Hatfield Park. Sisters Linsey and Jennie described the course as amazing and beautiful with a great atmosphere, a fab medal and t-shirt. They were raising money for the charity MIND, a charity close to their hearts. They said they “were not there smashing PBs but were having a blast running together.”
Joining them was Squirrel Steve Brenton who used the race as part of his marathon training. He was pleased to get himself a new PB for the distance of 45:17 on such a nice course, but having just returned from holiday, found that he had tired legs and didn’t enjoy the hill at the end!
Other Squirrels are busy trying to clock up their fastest 5km times for the highly -acclaimed Squirrels Cup and enter their speediest runs for the Virtual Midweek League. Elwyn Howell was first off the blocks for both!
With the countdown to the releasing of restrictions, the return of Parkrun is nearly upon us as are more frequent races for the competitive ones among us.
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