Plenty of Marathons this weekend. After a long winter of training in all sorts of weathers, the first big date of the major spring marathon efforts from club members.
Four Squirrels travelled to Rotterdam for the flat course. The group had been training together with three London Marathoners and were all in great shape. Expecting some great times the quartet did not let NHRR down. First home was Adam Bowller, setting a new club MV35 record of 2:38:07. Not too far behind was Matt Sayers, with a great finish, dipping under the minute mark in a new PB of 2:46:48. Stewart Overton narrowly missed getting under 3 hours and finished with 3:00:24. Stewart said afterwards that he was “Happy with a PB and honestly couldn't have given any more”. The last 2km he was “zig zagging and dizzy”. Also suffering the dreaded wall was Ed Price who finished with a new PB of 3:05:54.
Two squirrels ran the Greater Manchester marathon where the weather on Sunday was perfect marathon weather - no rain, no wind to speak of, if anything quite chilly at the start. Nick Malpeli set a new club MV50 record with 2:44:24. His target was to go sub 2:45 and managed the pace with relative ease for 20 miles, but then it became tough. Nick said “The last 6, naturally, became harder and harder, but I didn't slow down too much achieving the 2:45 with over 30s to spare”. Chris Poole finished just under 4 hours with 3:59:40.
Jo Summers completed her 200th marathon in Rome, finishing in 3:57:41 and Niccolo Bassani, ran 3:34:33 in his home city of Milan.
78 runners turned out for NHRR very own First Saturday of the Month 5km around Norton Common Letchworth. Paul Jackson was the first squirrel home and the race winner finishing in 18:39. Other squirrels running were James Keogh 6th (20:34), Richard Harbon 10th (22:21), Marcus Farnfield 15th (23:11), Andrew Cooper 28th (24:53), Andrew Robson 29th (25:36), Caroline Thrussel 33rd (26:12), Adam Wilson 35th (26:30), Andrew Porter 49th (28:56), Carina Quayle 61st (31:16), Helen Cromack 63rd (31:38), Helen Marson-Smith 74th (34:21), Hayley Cocks 76th (38:33) PB. Completing 1 lap was Jo Kenlin and Jo Sopaia. Hayley Cocks was pleased to take 3 mins off her previous PB.
The Summer series of The First Saturday of the month 10km around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park started in this week. John Auld finished 4th with a new PB of 35:37 and won two tickets to the Orbital. John went there looking for a PB to complete a 5km, 10km and Half Marathon PBs set in the training up to the London Marathon in a fortnight.
A scurry of squirrels turned out for the Sandy 10 mile race where NHRR had some fantastic results with ideal cool, still and damp conditions. The course is a tale of two halves, with some quite challenging uphills in the first couple of miles, and then fairly gently undulations until you turn back to the start and come down the hills from the way out. Helen Cairns 1:12:55 was first squirrel home and also was the second FV35. Sarah Mitcherson wasn't too far behind finishing in 1:14:08 and Caroline Thrussell (1:19:33). Lucy O'Connor was the next Squirrel and set a new FV55 club record of 1:19:44. Further finishers were Dervla Downing (1:22:13), Linda Aird (1:22:48). Ian Sutcliffe was next, setting a new MV70 club record of 1:30:29. Completing the NHRR finishers were Brian Judkins (1:47:11) and Vanessa Rolfe (1:49:48). Linda said afterwards “I thoroughly enjoyed the downhill miles and the momentum enabled me to carry on pushing to the finish to achieve my best 10 mile time since I set my PB at the distance in 2011 - and I was only 11 seconds slower than that PB, so well chuffed with that!”
Darren Matussa raced in the 1500m race 5/9 at the Watford Open Meeting on Wednesday evening. Darren finished 3rd with a time of 4:49.71.
Decathlon Sports organised a 5k in Stevenage. The route took you up from Asda car park towards Fairlands Valley Park (under multiple underpasses on the way) then a loop around the park and back down to Asda car park. The course was a little long, coming in at about 5.3km. Stuart cocks came in first for NHRR and in the top 15 at 23.45 actual time for 5k 22.40 giving him another 5k PB! Ellie Scott and Naomi Parkinson ran together and finished 1st and 2nd lady in just under 25 mins. Abbi Cocks came in at 29.30. Hayley Cocks came in 38.44 but 5k time was 36.42. Shani Fielding also got a PB this weekend time was 35.03 and the 5k time was 33.06 taking 2 minutes 58 seconds off. Jo Kenlin did it in 39.55 with 5k time was actually 38.15 also giving her a new PB with 2 minutes 12 seconds off her 5k time. Hayley said afterwards, “training really does pay off we are all buzzing”
Competing at Parkrun this week were Oliver Brady (19:41 at St Peters). Jo Sherry (26:08 at Albert, Melbourne), Chris Poole (28:18 at Markeaton) and Pat Norris (32:47 at Stevenage).
There were some notable runs this week from North Herts Road Runners. Paula Holm travelled to South Africa to take part in the Two Oceans Half Marathon. Despite three moths of injury and being taken ill a few days before-hand, Paula made the starting line - for a 5:50am start! Beginning in the dark and facing extreme hills within the first mile and a half, Paula struggled from the off, completing the course in a creditable 1:43:36, finishing 716th out of 16000. After the race she reflected on the experience “The African spirit, incredible vibe, stunning scenery and watching the sun rise over Table Mountain during the dawn race, made for the most amazing once in a lifetime experience!”
Nearer to home, Jo Summers continued her incredible saga of marathon running, building up to her 200th in Rome very soon. She completed two of the four in the Great Barrow Challenge near Bury St Edmonds, on consecutive days, finishing the first in a comfortable 3hrs 51, which she was pleased with.The second, another scenic, undulating route generally considered to be tougher than the first day’s route, ended up being 30 miles. Jo said, “It took me a while to settle into 30-mile mode instead of marathon, but once I had I just trundled along again and finished in 4.46 which I suppose isn't too shabby for 30 miles.”
Linda Aird travelled down to East London to take part in the Victoria Park 10k, which was being run alongside a half marathon and a 5k race. Despite a congested start, the paths were wide and well-surfaced and the course was flat. Linda commented, “I decided to try and stay with a bloke just in front of me who was running at a good pace. I managed to stay with him for the whole race, playing cat and mouse - sometimes he was in front, sometimes I was - but he finished just in front of me, and we shook hands and thanked one another for pushing each other on throughout the race! I was pleased to finish in my best 10k time for a while - 50:27”.
As usual there were plenty of park runners out and about. Sue and Mark Vaughan ventured across to the Great Denham parkrun. Sue is on the comeback trail after a series of injuries have interrupted her training. On the fast, flat 5K course at Great Denham, Sue blasted off at PB pace and, rolling back the years, negotiated her way round the course in a time of 26:34, coming very close to her parkrun PB set 2 years ago in Bedford. This was a great indicator that recent training is paying off and that a return to form just in time for the imminent midweek league is on the cards. Sue said “I wanted to go out hard and try to hang on, rather than play it safe, and it worked! The course is great and definitely one I will do again!”. Mark won the race in a time of 17:00.
Lindsay Cook was amongst a trio of Squirrels who took on a more local run. Lindsay said, “I slid around Letchworth parkrun for the first time finishing in 33:27. I was pretty pleased with my time, given the conditions underfoot, and also felt very smug in my mudclaws as I got a lot more grip than most of the others there!”
Other parkrunners this week in Letchworth were Richard Harbon in 7th place (23:00) and Rachel Annetts, 55th (33:55). In other parkruns: Ellie Scott was 38th in Norwich (26:07); in Kettering Chris Poole finished 49th (23:20); At Stevenage, Eva McCabe continued her success, finishing 22nd, (1st Lady) (22:13), followed by Stephen Lummis, 56th (25:04), Naomi Parkinson, 63rd (26:01); Lucy Hurley, 65th (26:05); Helen Giffin, 128th (29:16) and Sheila Leavy, 132nd (29:22). At the East Coast parkrun, Joe Sherry finished 48th (26:59) and at Holkham parkrun, Nick Malpeli was 8th (19:09).
Letchworth's only town centre running event is back by popular demand.
The races - over distances of 5k, 1 mile, plus a 1-mile fun run for all ages - will be held on Sunday 17 June. Roads including Leys Avenue, Eastcheap and the Broadway will be closed to traffic, providing a unique opportunity for runners of all abilities to race in the heart of the Garden City.
The event, billed as the Run Round the Garden, was first held in 2016 and is again being organised by North Herts Road Runners. The events will start at 10.00 with the 5k, followed by the 1-mile event at 11.00 and the fun run closing a great morning of running at 11.30.
The fun run will be free to enter, the 5k will cost £8 and the mile event will be £4. There is even a discount price of £10 for those keen enough to enter the 5k and 1-mile double challenge.
Race Director Richard Harbon said 'Run Round the Garden was a big hit when we put it on two years ago and people kept asking when we would be doing it again - so we are! You don't need to be fast - these events offer something for everyone. It will be a fabulous morning of running in the iconic heart of our Garden City'.
Full details and online entry is now open
Andrew Leach was the standout performer for North Herts Road Runners as the Letchworth-based club won an impressive clutch of medals at the Hertfordshire county veterans cross-country championships on Sunday.
‘It was fell running comes to Hertfordshire’ said Leach after dominating the 9km race on the demanding slopes of Royston Heath and taking the county 50+ age-group title.
The NHRR team of Linda Aird, Karen Dodsworth and Miranda Morgan were also crowned county champions as they took the team prize in the 55-plus category.
NHRR celebrated a series of further successes, with ‘supervet’ athletes Brian Bailey and Ian Sutcliffe taking silver and bronze respectively in the 70-plus age-group and Sheila Leavy winning the bronze medal in the 65-plus category.
Earlier in the weekend North Herts took four of the first eight places at the Great Denham Parkrun. Adam Bowller was first finisher in a new Parkrun personal best of 16.35 and John Auld dipped under 17 minutes for the first time with a superb 16.51 for third place. Stewart Overton was fifth in another PB of 17.09 and Darren Matussa completed the quartet with 18.40 and eighth.
Matt Sayers was another Squirrel clocking an impressive new 5k best time as he sliced an impressive 31 seconds off his previous mark with 16.54 at the Serpentine ‘Last Friday’ 5k in Hyde Park.
Several Squirrels were clocking up the miles in final preparations for the London Marathon, with Adrian Sherwood taking first place in the 50+ category at the Dorney Lake 20-mile run. Sherwood clocked 2.17.53 while John Auld said he took ‘a massive confidence boost for London’ after finishing in 2.08.35. Darren Matussa ran the 16-mile option in 1.49.03
North Herts had three representatives at the Bedford 20-mile race, with Jen Naisbitt well on track for London with a new best time of 3.44. Chris Poole and Helen Govey finished in 2.57 and 3.27 respectively.
Jim McConnell enjoyed the Lanzarote sunshine but not the windy conditions as he won the Club La Santa half-marathon in 1.18.20. McConnell reported ‘a decent test of the brain to keep on top of the pace’ as he tackled an uninspiring 3-lap out-and-back course.
Jo Summers competed the ‘Daffodil Dawdle’ off-road marathon in Suffolk in 4.37
Saturday saw seven hardy squirrels take part in the Ashridge Boundary Run a challenging trail race. It’s a 16.3 mile circuit of the Ashridge National Trust estate near Tring with over 1400ft of climbing and a spectacular run along the ridge of Ivinghoe Beacon in the early part of the race.
The Beast from the East made an unwelcome return on race day adding snow and bitter wind conditions for runners, but the real challenge was the mud. Lots of it.
Despite the harsh conditions our Vet Women did really well, Suzy Trott finished 1st in the FV40 category, in 2:29:02 with only 5 senior women ahead of her. Caroline Thrussell running well again after injury was 2nd FV50 in 2:48:16 and Miranda Morgan was first home in the FV60 category in 3:12:01.
Other finishes completing the challenge were Martyn Annetts 2:29:02, Barbara Sayers 2:44:45, Linda Aird 3:04:38 and Carina Quayle 3:31:24.
With a lot of running events cancelled on Sunday due to the extreme weather conditions most squirrels had an unexpected day off from racing. Andrew Drew did make the trip to Hastings for the half marathon finishing in a time of 1:39:29 and Jo Summers tested herself at the BoxFit 5 hour Endurance event, running 27.5 miles in 4 hours and 42 minutes.
Out at parkruns in Letchworh Eva McCabe was first lady in 23:31, James Dalton 9th 23:32, Chris Poole 16th 25:14 and Lewis Green 23rd 26:06. Stevenage results saw Naomi Parkinson 61st 26:16, Ellie Scott 62nd 26:19 and Brian Judkins 134th 34:06. Lucy Hurley finished Gedling parkrun 98th in 32:13, Joseph Sherry was 50th in Luton in 25:39 and Matt Davies finished 4th at Keswick parkrun in 20:06
On Saturday John Auld travelled to Yorkshire to race in the Silkstone Shuffle Series. The course was wet and muddy throughout and the stiles along the course were very slippery but Auld finished 2nd in a time of 28:30.
Husband and wife team Andy and Michelle Grudzinski took to the Thames to run the Meander. Andy opted for the half marathon option whilst Michelle, despite still suffering from a long term injury, opted to run the marathon distance. Even though the pain returned Michelle continued to the finish, even 'taking on all puddles and mud piles as going around them was too much effort' and finished just under 5 hours in 4:54:54.
Several squirrels travelled to Milton Keynes to take part in the Festival of Running on Sunday. Ben Ryan ran the 20 mile race in 3:07:11. Four opted for the half marathon; James Keogh 1:29:18, Katherine Burr 1:38:57; Helen Govey 2:12:02 and Brian Bailey 2:12:27. A further three chose the 10K race: Dave Frampton 43:41; Helen Ferguson 1:05:41 and Clare Hooley 1:20:13. Dave Frampton said after the race "I found the course unexpectedly hilly, running up ''Mount'' Campbell Park at the end seemed very hard work. I was quite pleased though as I was the first vet 60."
Now that the snow has gone Parkruns were being held again. Bedford saw two NHRR runners finish first and second place - Adam Bowller 16:53; and Stewart Overton 17:29. Joy Stroud ran in Poole in 30:53. Mile End saw Chris Poole finish in 23:38; Steve Lummis ran at Canons Park in 23:45; Joe Sherry, Ellenbrook Fields 26:19; whilst Letchworth Parkrun had Eva McCabe 24:24; Lewis Green 26:23 and Patrick Norris 43:01.
With so many Saturday morning parkruns cancelled due to the icy conditions, North Herts Road Runners’ First Saturday of the Month on Norton Common, Letchworth, shone like a beacon in the wilderness. 80 hardy runners and around 20 marshalls and helpers turned out in the snow to put on this renowned local event. Paula Holm, one of the brave runners said, “Thank you so much for making this amazing run happen! The absolute best way to start a Saturday off work! Superb atmosphere and that snowman that appeared from nowhere on our second lap was immense - I love snow and I love running - so this morning was a winning combination!”. Caroline Thrussell, added “thank you to the marshalls , hot chocolate maker and snowman builder. A lovely morning.”. Race Director Richard Harbon commented “A big hand to all those that turned out on the common to marshal, run, cheer and throw snowballs. We had 80 runners, so well done to all.” He continued “It was great fun. One of life's pleasures is running in the snow and we did so in great company this morning.” In terms of the results, the Squirrels had 5 of the first 6 finishers, as well as the first lady finisher. Jim McConnel won the race (18:03), followed by Stuart Overton Stuart 2nd (18:45), in 4th place Matt Sayers (19:21), with Paul Jackson 5th (19:36), Oliver Brady (Jnr) 7th (20:11), Matthew Davies 8th (20:32), Chris Stokes 14th (22:31), Eva McCabe (Jnr) 1st lady and 16th overall (22:39), John Cooper 19th (23:00), James Keogh 20th (23:01), Richard Harbon 23rd (24:00), Lucy O'Connor 33rd (26:19) NHRR, Caroline Thrussel 36th (26:46), Paul Holm 39th (27:25), Linda Aird 45th (28:28), Paul Bowal 48th (29:11), Geoff Murray-Rochard 49th (29:14), Karen Dodsworth §50th (29:24), Sheena Cook 51st (29:31), Andrew Porter 54th (30:15), Katrina Dixon 56th (30:36), Carina Quayle 57th (31:13), Gladys Cheng 58th (31:14), Helen Cromack 61st (32:08), Dan Martin 62nd (32:19), Joy Stroud 69th (33:57), Ali Mottram 71st (34:43), Brian Judkins 75th (35:29), Jo Sopala 79th (42:08) and Helen Govey 80th (42:08 )
London’s newest race, The Big Half, saw several Squirrels taking on the likes of Sir Mo Farah and Charlotte Purdue in a half-marathon around the capital. There were some supreme performances with Darren Sunter (having warmed up with Sir Mo) finishing in 1:15.04, John Auld achieving a Personal Best time of 1:16:40, David Weston, in his first half-marathon finishing in an impressive 1:42 minutes and Lindsay Cook in 2hr 25. John said, “I was planning on getting the sub-78 minutes that I narrowly missed last year. The second half was tough, but then it dawned on me that I was going to be close to sub 77. Towards the end I dug deep and pushed on again and was suddenly in the last 2 miles. Knowing I would be good in the last mile I started pushing. Seeing the clock at the end, I really put the hammer down and sailed under 77 minutes. Mission accomplished!”
Four plucky Squirrels also ran in this year’s Cambridge Half-Marathon with two personal best times clocked-up. Matt Sayers finished in 1:17:16 (PB), Sophie Thrussell, one of the club’s growing number of new members, crossed the line in 1:38:58. Chris Poole ran a PB with 1:40:12 and Sarah Mitcherson finished close on Chris’ heels in 1:41:27. Chris also ran Panshanger Parkrun (the only Squirrel park runner on Saturday) the day before, finishing in 66th place (24:42).
“Beast from the East hits Baldock, however the runners didn't freeze!” was Darren Matussa's summary of Sunday morning's Baldock Beast Half Marathon - referring to the results rather than the conditions. The race is a tough hilly local, multi terrain course. The wind was up and the temperature was down. Squirrels wore a range of clothing from vest and shorts to full length base layers, buff and hats. NHRR carried home a bunch of trophies. The club won both the men and women team trophies. The men's team was Jim McConnel, John Auld, Darren Matussa and Olly Garbis and the ladies were Astrid McKeown, Paula Holm and Sarah Mitcherson. Other silverware won was 3rd place for Jim McConnel. Astrid Mckeown was 3rd lady. On her Birthday weekend, Paula Holm was 1st FV35. Paula said afterwards that her weekend “couldn't get any better”. Sarah Mitcherson was 3rd FV35 and Lucy O'Connor was 1st FV55. Joy Stroud also set a new club FV70 half marathon record, finishing in 2:24:49. Jim said afterwards that it was “a top effort from all who battled today and tamed the beast” - he added “I couldn't wait to get past half way and have the strong wind blow me back down the hill”. NHRR were also had huge support on route from fellow runners either on the cheer squad or as official race marshals.
A scurry of Squirrels travelled to Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath for the National XC Championships. The start of the race is epic. Adam Bowller said afterwards “the start is like nothing I've experienced, big wide start with 2500 runners charging up a hill that narrows, you have to go hard or you'll lose so much ground”. Adam continues to describe “brutal, sapping mud in places” and “you wonder why your putting yourself through it”.
Christian Allen was in the junior men's race, but unfortunately jared his back and had to pull out of the race. Next was the ladies race which featured four flying feisty female squirrels making up a team which finished 101st. First home was Sarah Mitcherson (432nd) followed by Paula Adams (608th), Lindsay Cook (1079th) and Jane Tyler (1095th). Last on the course were the men who didn't have a team due to injuries, but had five men braving the terrain churned up by the 9 races before hand. First home was Andrew Leech (239th) followed by Adam Bowller (323rd), Darren Sunter (475th), Mark Vaughan (792nd) and Johnny Spinks (2153rd).
Three Squirrels ran the Brighton Half Marathon. Colin Calcutt finished in 2:28. Hayley Cocks and Shani Fielding both finished in 3:06. The pair were running their first half marathon and raising money for the Garden City Hospice after completing the clubs Couch to 5km last June.
Saturday morning was rather chilly too, but it didn’t deter the Parkrunners too much. Two Squirrels headed to Bedford and came away with a couple of Parkrun PBs and an NHRR first and second in the race. John Auld finished in 17:16 and Stewart Overton finished in 17:23. Chris Poole ran his 199th Parkrun on a course named after him, Poole, (may be a co-incidence) and finished in 22:27. At Stevenage Sarah Milhouse finished in 25:43, Coach Karen Dodsworth finished in 26:33 and Helen Giffin finished in 29:32. In Letchworth, 5 Squirells ran. Darren Matussa was first home for the club in 22:58. Other finishers were Naomi Parkinson (24:43), Ellie Scott (24:48), Jo Sherry (26:23) and Brian Judkins (33:33).
David Annetts continued his increasingly successful conversion to race walking by winning the London Vets AC title over the 3000m indoor distance.
Annetts took up race-walking after injuries curtailed his running and he has been getting to grips with the demanding technical requirements of the event.
His latest race, held at the Picketts Lock athletics centre in north London and doubling as the Southern Masters Championships, was an ‘A’-graded event where judging is applied strictly and Annetts received two yellow and two red ‘paddles’ for technique infringements. Forced to ease off in the last 800 metres to avoid a third red and instant disqualification, he was delighted to cross the line first in 14.44 – comfortably inside his 15-minute target time.
Annetts said ‘I’ve not had a red in any previous race, but I am at the point in my walking where you really are treading a fine line to satisfy the judges. From that point of view it was a valuable experience to learn from - which I will!’
Meanwhile Darren Sunter sliced a second off the course record for the new Letchworth Parkrun, crossing the line first in in 19.04.
Stewart Overton took a trip to the seaside to race the Worthing Half Marathon as part of his training for the Rotterdam Marathon in April. The flat course produced some fast times and training obviously paid off as Overton finished 25th with a new PB of 80:05. Overton said ‘I was really pleased as I felt strong throughout but I am disappointed to have missed out on sub 80’.
Naomi Parkinson and Lucy Hurley travelled to Stamford for the St. Valentines 30k. It was the 25th year of the event organised by Stamford Striders. Mixed weather conditions meant they ran through sunshine, wind and hail. The hills made for a challenging but scenic course and provided no protection from the bitter wind. However, they finished strongly in 3:16:48. What better way can there be to show your love of running than to run 18 miles through Lincolnshire and Rutland on a freezing February morning?
Seven squirrels opted for a shorter race at the Love Welwyn Garden City 10k. First in for the club was Dervla Downing in 52:29, followed by Hannah Keeble in 53:07. Sam Martin in her first race since joining the club finished in a new PB by more than 3 minutes of 56:19. Other finishes included Chris Poole 1:00:21, Jennie Andrews 1:04:14, Linsey Ashley 1:04:14 and Monica Cullin who finished 2nd FV70 in 1:33.03.
A few took part in Parkruns: At Letchworth finishing 11th was Matthew Davies in 22:47, 67th Sarah Millhouse 28:55, 109th Joy Stroud 33:59 and 128th Lindsey Lucas 39:24. At Stevenage Parkrun Joseph Sherry was 104th in 27:47 and Helen Giffin finished 124th in 28:36. Chris Poole was at Ellenbrook Fields and finished 54th in 25:39.
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