Closer to home…..
Thirteen lucky Squirrels took part in the Hitchin Town Centre 5k on Sunday, with age group category wins being awarded to Linda Aird, Oliver Babik and Tracy Pitcairn.
The friendly and well-supported race consisted of two laps around undulating Hitchin town centre, with some challenging tight turns and the occasional narrow pavement that runners have to negotiate with caution – along with a few cobbled streets to keep things interesting! Unlike Berlin, this is neither a fast nor particularly flat course, but nevertheless good finishing times are still possible, as the Squirrels showed. Taking part were:
Meanwhile Kris Whitmore decided to run the Bedford Autodrome Marathon on Sunday morning despite a haphazard training block; saying he entered it purely as a mechanism to get a ‘Good for Age’ place for the London Marathon 2025. Kris needed 3:10 to apply but realistically 3:07 and said any semblance of a plan went straight out of the window as the strong winds made him choose to sit in a pack of better runners for protection and so it became an exercise in hanging on at the end but hang on he did to claim an excellent time of 3:05:20.
Mel Flyn ran the Leighton 10 Miler following on from her recent success at the Hatfield 5K Series. Mel ran this as part of her training for the Great Eastern Half in two weeks’ time; describing the course as very windy and hilly.
Further afield in Australia Lindsey and Viv Lucas continue their tour Down Under and Park Run adventures. This time their Park Run in Fremantle Western Australia, consisted of running to an old power station and back, a quick run to the beach and back and then a longer run of 1k along the sandy beach to the finish, which Lindsey described as being really hard work. Fortunately, Park Runs in Australia start at 8am which meant they had time for a 1.5k warm up, the ParkRun, back in time to the campsite to pack up their campervan and be on their way, all by 10am!
The Park Run round up for Saturday 23 September is as follows:
North Herts Road Runners saw a great turn out of thirty five runners last Wednesday at the third and final race in the Hatfield 5k 2023 edition. The race series championship requires consistency as athletes need to run in all three races to enter the final rankings, with their best two times contributing to the final series position. There were quite a few North Herts Road Runners with eyes on some series silverware and they weren't disappointed, winning 5 individual and two series medals. Rhia Botha won the individual female veteran 35 category, with teammate Jane Clarke scooping 3rd and both delighted with personal best times in the final race. Rachel Arnott was awarded third female veteran 45 and Caroline Thrussell second in the veteran 55 category. Pete Sibbett was thrilled with third in the male veteran 60 category, with a promising return to form after a string of injuries. The teams also performed strongly in the series with our Ladies Team of Rhia Botha, Sophie Thrussell and Rachel Arnott finishing second overall and our Men's team of Tom Doble, Kris Whitmore, Ian Datlen and Mike Over claiming third on the podium.
Peak District Canicross: Squirrels and Their Furry Companions Conquer the Trails at the Outside Hope Round
Stevenage 10k Challenge: Conquering Hills and Rekindling Determination
Four squirrels took part in the Stevenage 10k race, organised by the Stevenage Striders. Despite the undulating course, the event impressed with its enthusiastic and friendly marshals, as well as the generous rewards of medals, T-shirts, goody bags and delicious cake at the end. James Dalton was pleased with his personal victory of avoiding wrong turns during the race, which he considered a feat in itself. Despite finding the St Martins Way climb challenge, he was the first squirrel to cross the finish line in an impressive 41:24. Dervla Downing was not far behind, finishing in 50:11. Inspired by their enjoyable experience the previous year, Georgia and Richard Barker also signed up to run, although Georgia faced an unexpected hurdle when her legs, tired from recent body pump and body combat classes, found the race’s uphill sections an even bigger challenge. However, they pushed on and reached the finish together, in a respectable 1:02:58. All promised to return in 2024.
A little side note about squirrel camaraderie and mutual support, Andreea Weisl-Shaw had also signed up to do the race but, having been asked to step in as church organist for a local church, was unable to attend on the day. However, she got permission from the race organisers to do the race virtually, and was delighted that her fellow squirrels stepped in to help: Georgia and Richard kindly agreed to collect her medal and T-shirt at the race, while Jenna Manggos offered to run the 10k with her. Jenna and Andreea completed the 10k in a more leisurely 1:06:29 around Letchworth, but they were happy with that given that this was a chatty run and Andreea’s first 10k in months, and the best part? Georgia and Richard brought back not just a medal and T-shirt, but lots more goodies including a backpack given by Decathlon, thus proving that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and that squirrels stick together in and outside of races.
International Adventure: Making History at Wilson Inlet Heritage Trail Parkrun, Australia
Sometimes, the running stars align, and they did just that for Lindsay and Viv Lucas during their trip to Australia. Having hoped to squeeze in some runs and explore the world of Parkruns “down under”, they were initially disappointed in the Northern Territory, where the heat and wildlife. However, a move to Perth offered more hospitable running conditions and their serendipitous moment arrived when they camped in Denmark, Western Australia, and discovered the Wilson Inlet Heritage Trail Parkrun close by. The thrilling part? This Parkrun had only started two weeks earlier, on the very day Lindsay and Viv embarked on their Australian adventure. It got even better as the Parkrun began right at the entrance to their campsite. Imagine the excitement when the Squirrels donned their NHRR t-shirts, becoming the first international visitors at this brand-new Parkrun. The trail led them through the picturesque Australian Bush, and thankfully, no snakes were spotted. With just over 60 runners in the field, Lindsay achieved her first-ever 1st place in her age category, making this international adventure truly memorable.
The second Hatfield 5k race hosted the Herts Veteran’s County Championships on Wednesday evening and drew a competitive field despite the extremely hot and humid conditions. North Herts Road Runners had 33 runners racing with the Men's Vets Team of Stewart Overton, Shahab Ahmad, Matthew Sayers and Kris Whitmore delighted to be crowned county champions. In the individual county competition Stewart was second in the men's veteran 40 race in 16:44, with Astrid McKeown racing strongly to finish 3rd in the women's vet 45 event.
Stewart Overton 16:44, Thomas Barclay 16:56, Shahab Ahmad 16:58, Matthew Sayers 16:58, Kris Whitmore 18:22, John Auld 18:50, Ian Datlen 18:54, Michael Over 19:00, Darren Matussa 19:14, Tom Doble 19:16, Rhia Botha 19:38, Ian Harvey 19:50, Sophie Thrussell 19:53, David Edwards 19:58, Astrid Mckeown 20:15, Peter Sibbett 20:17, Rachel Arnott 20:45, Jane Clarke 21:06, Lee Varley 21:24, Richard Harbon 21:41, Andrew Wallis 21:47, Steve Tracey 22:11, Caroline Thrussell 22:33, Joanne Hoare 23:55, Mel Flynn 25:01, Helen Cairns 25:01, Lucy O'Connor 25:15, Ellie Frid 25:27, Anna Gibson 25:51, Lindsay Cook 30:12, Karen Dodsworth 30:14, Joanne Sopala 32:16, Sheila Leavy 39:38
Wow! What a weekend North Herts Road Runners have had. There were seven events that North Herts Road Runners took part in to claim PB’s, club records, team prizes, long distances and lots of fun in the process.
Hatfield 5k - Race 1
Earlier in the week, NHRR headed over to Hatfield to compete in the 1st of three, flat, fast 2 and a half lap 5k’s. It was also the senior county championships meaning the field was fast and the competition was tough. However, NHRR smashed it, winning both the men’s and women’s races, 1st men’s team and 2nd women’s team. Katie Harbon came in as first woman with a PB and club record of 17:07 and was joined by Rhia Botha and Sophie Thrussell to bring home the team silver medal. Rhia finished 2nd in the V35 category, smashing 20 minutes in a great time of 19:42 and Sophie came in as 7th senior female overall in a time of 20:03. In the men’s race Ben Hadman finished 1st in a huge time of 15:30, followed closely by Tom Webb, finishing just 2 seconds later in a time of 15:32. Matt Sayers dipped just under the 17-minute barrier in a phenomenal time of 16:56 and Shahab Amad closed the victorious men’s team in a time of 17:18.
Overall, 39 squirrels competed, and all had a great run with incredible times. Elliot Jackson beat 18 minutes in a time of 17:53, followed by Kris Whitmore in 18:03. Micheal Over managed to scrape just under 19 minutes with a PB of 18:59 and Ian Harvey in 19:32. David Edwards and James Walsh also beat the 20 minutes barrier with times of 19:41 and 19:44 respectively. Mike Phillips crossed the line in just over 20 minutes with a time of 20:04, followed by Peter Sibbett in 20:21. Rached Arnott finished close behind in 20:23 finishing 4th in the FV45 category and Jane Clarke in 21:05 and 6th in the FV35 category. Steve Tracey followed in 21:08 as did Andrew Wallis in 21:29, Richard Harbon 21:42, Richard Weber 22:36, Caroline Thrussell 22:48, Andrew Coates, 23:32, Joanne Hoare 23:36, Ian Datlen 23:41, Lucy O’Connor 24:15, Helen Cairns 24:10, Chris Cope 24:27, Ellie Frid 24:51, Anna Gibson 24:56, Susan Foot 26:55, Hannah Keeble 27:01, Linda Aird 27:13, Karen Dodsworth 27:41, Lindsay Cook 28:57, Ian Sutcliffe 29:28, Miranda Morgan 29:28 and Sheila Leavy 39:00.
There were plenty of events to choose from at the annual Bedford Running Festival over the hot weekend. The festival's first race saw runners toe the line at 3pm on Saturday and four North Herts Road Runners raced, with Elwyn Howell first squirrel home in a new personal best time of 20:55, his first time under 21 minutes. He was followed by Stephen Doran in 29:08 and then by Nicola and Neil Withington with Nicola pacing her husband to a personal best time of 30:53.
The next race was the Twilight 10k at 5:30pm and again four squirrels took part. Caroline Thrussell finished first in her age category in a time of 47:47. Dave Braybrook clocked 47:27, Steve Brenton 49:02 and Vanessa Rolfe 1:12:51.
Very warm conditions presided over the Sunday races with both the half marathon and 20 mile races starting horn sounding at 9:30. In the half, Ben Ryan was first squirrel home despite a week of jet lag in 1:46:33, Richard Weber 1:53:16, Anna Gibson 2:01:35, Lucy O'Connor second in her age group in 2:02:21 and James Humphreys 2:02:16.
Sue Foot headed to Dunstable for the Dunstable Downs marathon challenge. Sue described it as an undulating trail marathon with some steep hills over the Down and plenty of recently ploughed fields to plod through. Sue was pleased to finish the scenic route in 5hrs 44 mins.
Further afield, Matt Roberts and Anna Greetham ran the Tribe X Maverick Run Free in Surrey. A hilly trail run with around 605m of elevation over the 22.85km course through an Area of Outstanding Beauty saw around 400 runners complete the long and short courses. They completed the long course in 2 hours 38 mins coming 102nd and 103rd out of 166 runners. Post-race pizza and beer made for an ideal end to a great day. Anna said it was an amazing day and highly recommends the event!
Duck and Dash
The annual ‘Duck and Dash’ also took place over the weekend. This race consists of a 400m swim followed by a tough 5k run around Letchworth Common. Sophie Thrussell took 3rd in the female open category, putting herself in the running for an England call up.
It was a family affair for Shahab Ahmad who persuaded his exceptionally reluctant wife Deborah to take part as a team in the relay event. They came away with the win following a fab performance by them both. Shahab also cheered on his son in his first ever multi-sport event, the Tri-Start for 8-year-olds.
Anderw Robson competed in the solo event and following a 4-year break from multi-sport was delighted to cross the finish line. The event saw another husband-and-wife duo take part in the solo events, with Richard finishing 4th in his age category and Jo finishing 7th in her category. Katie Harbon and Barbar McNally also took part in the team relay event and finished in 2nd place, just behind Shahab and Deborah.
The Bank Holiday weekend saw many North Herts Road Runners members focussing on training, rather than racing, as they prepare for the Hatfield 5k race series that marks the start of the autumn season.
Plenty of them included a Parkrun in their weekend programme, with 33 turning out for the popular 5k events across at home and abroad. The largest contingent tackled the hilly course at Letchworth Garden City, where Vince Wright led the squirrels home in 18:55 and Katie Harbon was the first female finisher in 20:10.
Other squirrels took their running shoes on their travels, with Tom Barclay second finisher at Jersey Parkrun in 18:03 and George Wright completing the Zuiderpark course in The Hague in 24:17.
On Wednesday evening, twenty three North Herts Road Runners headed down the A1M to Ridlins Athletics Track in Stevenage to race the Resolution 5k August event. There were four pace graded races throughout the evening, with squirrels in every race. The event is great for supporters who fill the stands to cheer the runners on each 400 metres. There was plenty of support from those who had come along specifically to cheer and also from team mates in different waves, really showcasing the club's great team spirit.
The Squirrels team of Stewart Overton, Ian Datlen, John Auld and Rhia Botha won the team event, almost 5 minutes quicker than second placed Fairland Valley Spartans team of Nick Gill, Mike Jeffs, Ashley Johnson and Yuko Gordon.
There were a few personal best times from the squirrels with Mike Over finishing in a new best time of 19:23. Rhia Botha was excellently paced by David Edwards to a best time of 19:32 and second female overall. Her splits were super consistent before a pick up in the last lap to finish. Jane Clarke and Cara Sutton also achieved personal best times in 21:34 and 25:12 respectively.
Several squirrels also placed well in their age categories including a few winning. Stewart Overton was first V40, Pete Sibbett was first V60, Lucy O’Connor was first V55 and Monica Cullen was first V75. Miranda Morgan ran a superb tactical race - and finished with a brilliant sprint to take the win in her race with the whole crowd cheering! - Full results below
Squirrel in Regents Park 10k
On Sunday Shahab Ahmad raced in the Regents Park 10k on a route past London Zoo and won the event in a blistering time of 35 minutes and 50 seconds.
A quiet week of racing with many Squirrels enjoying the summer holidays saw just one Squirrel in action!
Thirty seven squirrels were in parkrun action this weekend:
This weekend was a quieter one on the race front, and some might say it was for the better, given the unseasonably chilly and wet conditions. However, this was no deterrent for the sturdy squirrels who braved the inclement weather both away and closer to home, showcasing their unwavering spirit that wouldn’t be dampened even by the most challenging conditions.
Amidst the rain-soaked challenges, squirrels also attended a number of Parkruns. Most worthy of mention is Philip Flack’s momentous personal milestone, his 100th Parkrun, made all the more special by the fact that he achieved it on the muddy course at Letchworth, thus clearly showing the enduring passion, resilience and commitment of our runners, who turn out to do what they love regardless of the weather, rather embracing the elements with open arms.
Thursday saw Ed Price, Ben Hadman and Tom Webb made their way down to the London Marathon Community Track at the Olympic Park to take part in the Twilight 5000 event.
Ed ran in Race 6 (paced for a 16:20 to 17:00 finish), along with around 25 others. In such a large field of runners with very similar ability levels, the first kilometres were characterised by crowded lanes, ebbs and flows in pace, and nervy manoeuvres.
As the laps ticked by things opened up. Thanks to the pacers, a fast field, and vocal support from a large and knowledgeable crowd, it was possible to get into a groove, and let the laps tick by. Despite this, Ed found himself falling slightly off the desired pace with three laps to go, but was able to dig in and put together a faster last lap, taking five places and finishing just one second off his target in 16:41.
A fairly small field meant quite a lot of solo running and being drafted for 22 laps!! Before a couple of last k pickups meant Stuart finished 3rd overall and 1st V40 in a time of 34:48
Away from the track Ian Datlen finished 3rd Place Overall at the Lee Valley Sundowner 10k. A mostly flat Off Road, Multi Terrain 10k, with 70% paved 30% Trail/grass course. Ian said ‘ I had to dig deep to keep going after I got dropped by the leaders 3km in, but I held on for my first ever Podium!’ Ian finished in a time of 39:10.
Whilst you squirrels were asleep in your bed, Andy Grudzinski and Jennie Fraser ran a marathon instead, the torches, including the spare, were donned with care. With hopes that the elevation would be gentle and fair. It was an out and back and the South Downs offered no slack. With 3,500 fl to conquer, they ran the first half together without a falter. With aid stations full of Freddos and melon. They’d settled into a pace but when midnight struck, they took a photo and tried their own luck. Jennie returned in a time of 5:47 and Andy 7:16. Jennie commented “she was surprised how quickly she managed it given the terrain and the pitch black!”
Proving squirrels are not just good runners, Sophie Thrussll was the 1st lady in the 2k open water swim at Grafham water.
And finally, one of the most anticipated events in the running calendar is the Annual Sheepy Shuffle. The Sheepy is a virtual 5k or half marathon which raises funds for the 55 woollies at the Mirkwood Rest Home for Retired Sheep and Squirrels have been taking part in the Sheepy since the inaugural run in 2020. Mirkwood was founded by runner Andy Bailey and the running community have taken Andy and his sheep to their hearts. Today saw Squirrels Richard Weber, Sue Foot, Anna Gibson, & Miranda Morgan run the half. Linda Aird, Brian Judkins, Lucy O’Connor and Jo Kenlin walked the half and Brian Bailey, Sheila Leavy and Monica Cullen walked/ran the 5k. This year’s route was the Letchworth Greenway followed by coffee and cake at Standalone Farm.
Thursday evening saw 14 teams of Squirrels descend on Fairlands Valley Park to compete against runners from Herts and Bedfordshire running clubs in the annual 3km relay competition hosted by Stevenage's biggest running club, Fairlands Valley Spartans. The race is a four leg relay around the lake in the park. Each leg is 3km and 4 members must complete a leg to make up team. There were awards for the top three teams in Mixed, Womens and Mens categories.
North Herts Road Runners enjoyed great success on the night. Provisional results show NHRR women’s senior and women's veterans teams both finished second in their categories, while the mens veterans finished 3rd overall, but claimed the county silver medal.
Women's senior team, Team Grey Squirrels were Katie Harbon (second fastest and one of only two women to complete the 3km in under 10 minutes); Hannah Ridley, Rhia Botha and Astrid McKeown. Vet women, Team Black Squirrels were Rachel Arnott; Paula Holm, Tash Pitman and Jane Clarke. Vet Men's team, Team Red Squirrels were Ed Price; Matt Sayers; Shahab Ahmad and Steve McKeown. Men's Team Captain John Auld commented "it was a great team outing, similar to an end of season party which is accessible to all, regardless of speed or age".
Silver in Bedford
Rhia Botha was out racing the ATW half marathon in Bedford in Sunday. She took a fantastic second place in a time of 1:34. A fantastic achievement to podium on a course Rhia noted for its “many 180 degree turns”, ultimately it was shy of a PB but Rhia places yet again in a strong summer of running.
Elsewhere Philip Flack returned to the Millennium Country Parkrun, Forest of Marston Vale, for the second year running. A Parkrun claimed to be the longest Parkrun name in the world! Philip was delighted to finish in the top half in 27:31 (To be confirmed as a club record for M70-74 Parkrun). This was 4 minutes faster than last year and cam with it the honour of 'sounding the gong' for a course PB, a local ritual. Philip said “I have to give massive thanks to Karen Dodsworth who has been coaching me this year and enabled me to do this.”
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