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.
In a busy week for the North Herts Road Runners, the ladies team notched up some fantastic times racing in Norfolk, and the club’s legendary First Saturday of the Month race finally returned.
After the 2020 races were cancelled, 11 ladies from the North Herts Road Runners were delighted to finally get the chance to race at the rolling parkland of the stately home Holkham Hall in Norfolk on Sunday 4th July. Katie Harbon was the sole squirrel to take on the challenge of the half marathon distance and ran a superb 1.26.18 to finish 6th in the race and 2nd lady overall, merely seconds behind first place. Despite the grey and damp conditions, running in a torrential downpour and having to contend with a tough, undulating course, with many off-road sections, Katie was thrilled to podium and said, “I loved my first race back after 14 months and am delighted to be so competitive. Can’t wait for my next race in 2021!” By 1pm, the weather had improved, with blue skies and a rise in temperatures seeing the remaining runners set off to tackle the 10km distance. Despite some testing hills, the North Herts Road Runners team did brilliantly, with Tash Pitman finishing fourth overall and first in her age group in 43.32, followed by Helen Cairns (47.55) and Jane Clarke (48.05), who took second and third spots in their respective age groups. Next across the line was Karen Dodsworth, smashing her target and third in her age group in 56.00, followed by Jo Harbon (56.28), Sue Vaughan (58.45), Miranda Morgan (1.05.17), Vanessa Rolfe (1.10.00), and Joy Stroud, who won her age category in 1:15:36. The team exuded great team spirit, with everyone cheering on the sidelines, maintaining social distancing but really relishing a return to racing in real life after 16 months of virtual races.
Closer to home, Steve McKeown was delighted to report a trio of consecutive wins at the Hitchin Sprint Triathlon (a 400m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run), coming in first overall in 59:49 – a new course record! Other squirrels competing in the event were Natalie Lawrence (1:00:33) and Oliver Starr (01:38:28).
Also this week, the North Herts Road Runners were finally able to restart their legendary and popular free monthly 5km event in Letchworth for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. Following a test event last month for club members only, the squirrels held their first public event of the First Saturday of the Month 5k on Saturday 3rd July, successfully attaining the required approval to host the event several weeks before parkrun! Despite the overcast and very muggy conditions, the runners were out in force to complete the picturesque circuit on Norton Common. There were 47 finishers in total, with Richard Poulter first man home in 19:06, and Kat Gourd first lady in 24:14.
Within the club, the runners have also had another busy week of excellent social runs, with Mike Bullock and Susan Mansfield organising another fantastic and scenic run, this time an 8.5 mile route starting from Woburn and heading out into the surrounding countryside, parkland, and around the edges of the safari park, with excellent opportunities to spot elephants, giraffes, and rhinos through the fences of the park – animals not usually found roaming in the local countryside! July has also seen the start of the intra-club “Squirrels cup”, in which runners compete in cake-themed teams of three to run the fastest 5k distance during the month.
On the weekend that should have seen the North Herts Road Runners hosting our Greenway challenge half marathon, which was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, plenty of squirrels were out competing in other events.
Lucy O’Connor took part in the gently undulating Milton Keynes marathon on Sunday. Her time of 4:12:05 was a marathon PB, having knocked 9 minutes off her previous marathon time which she ran back in May. Lucy was grateful to those who came to support her, and said “it was wonderful to see a friendly face, especially at mile 22”.
Andrew Porter and Sue Foot did the Maverick Frontier Chilterns marathon, which covered a total distance of 27.3 miles. It was a very scenic route, starting and finishing at the Chiltern Way Academy in Wendover. There were some tough climbs and Andrew slipped on one of the descents and landed in a bed of stinging nettles which resulted in the whole of his arm turning red and sore. It was a very well organised event and there was a large shiny gold medal at the finish.
The virtual Midweek League continues this week, and the Blue and Green groups took part in a 10k time trial on Thursday night. 19 runners took on the flat Brandles road loop in Letchworth, and Midweek league rep Pete Sibbett said “everyone smashed it”. Also running Thursday night was Richard Weber who managed a 47:32 personal best for the 10k distance.
Lindsey Lucas, Helen Marson-Smith and Jo Sopala used their Saturday social to put a time in for the Virtual Midweek League race. The recent weather meant that progress was slightly hindered by the flooding on the Letchworth Greenway. What initially appeared to be an ankle-deep puddle soon turned into a knee-high pool and led to a reroute over the fields. The threesome were happy to wear the club vest again and focus on smiles for team spirit. Jo finished in 1:17:27 with Helen just behind in 1:17:28. Lucy wasn't far behind either with 1:18:43.
News, Notifications and Race Results