The legendary annual Baldock beast half marathon took place on Sunday 26th February, on a beautiful sunny morning with clear blue skies and refreshing (if chilly) winds – a far contrast from the tempestuous conditions seen in the past few years and a welcome relief to runners and organisers alike!
23 squirrels from the North Herts Road Runners completed the notoriously challenging race, with a an exposed and undulating course that starts at the Old Wallington Road in Baldock before heading out to the local villages of Wallington, Roe Green, and Redhill. William Harrison was first home for the club in 1:31:40, followed by James Dalton (1:34:35) and Michael Over (1:41:43) – a superb set of times that earned the trio the winning men’s team accolade. Meanwhile, Dervla Downing was the first female squirrel home in a fantastic 1:47:11, with Kat Burr (1:48:34) and Kat Hinitt (1:49:16) following close behind and helping to claim the ladies’ team prize – a double victory for the North Herts Road Runners! Fellow squirrel Caroline Thrussell, completing the race in a brilliant 1:52:18, also claimed first prize in the FV55 category.
Richard Weber, who achieved a personal best on this course and his second fastest half-marathon time ever, crossed the line with Dervla Downing, and despite the classic beast challenges of “fighting a biting cold wind, whilst also climbing a hill” was thankful for the improved weather conditions’ compared with the autumn’s stormy race, adding: “Thanks to Dervla for running with me throughout and spurring me on, and it was nice to cross the line together.” Downing, for whom the beast was only her second half marathon post-injury, agreed: “It was perfect running weather and great to be back running with so many squirrels. It was my second fastest time for this race, and it was lovely to share the podium with the two Kats as part of the first ladies’ team.”
The full North Herts Road Runners results for the Baldock Beast are as follows: William Harrison 1:31:40, James Dalton 1:34:45, Michael Over 1:41:43, Dervla Downing 1:47:11, Richard Weber 1:47:11, Shaun Allin 1:48:07, Steve Brenton 1:48:31, Kat Burr 1:48:34, Kat Hinitt 1:49:16, Caroline Thrussell 1:52:18, Laura Fairbanks 1:52:23, Lucy O’Connor 1:52:58, Tim Banting 1:54:36, Alice Noakes 1:56:02, Jennie Fraser 1:58:16, Andrew Coates 1:58:31, Anna Gibson 1:58:35, Adam Wilson 2:01:12, Jonathan Nichol 2:02:09, Gladys Cheng 2:03:58, Michelle Grudzinski 2:05:44, Andy Grudzinski 2:07:39, and Carina Quayle 2:25:20.
The half marathon action this weekend did not stop there! Just down the road, several squirrels opted to run in the Welwyn half marathon on Sunday instead. Ryan Nichol was first over the line club in a brilliant 1:26:51, while Elwyn Howell notched up yet another personal best of 1:42:00. Mel Flynn, who finished in 2:10:35, said that it was “a nice route, although trail shoes may have been a more appropriate choice to deal with the muddy sections!” They were joined by Gubir Singh Parmar (2:14:19), Charlie Jones (2:15:50), and Helen Giffin, who ran her first half-marathon in 31 years in an excellent 2:18:02. Further afield, Nick Malpeli and Matt Sayers ran the Wokingham Half Marathon. Sayers completed the race in 01:16:14 (107th), while Malpeli finished in 01:18:53 (172nd, and 2nd MV55) – a new personal best, which he said should qualify him for the England Masters Half Marathon team running at Chester in May. Meanwhile, Dan Mallett headed to the coast for the Brighton half marathon, which he completed in an impressive 1:40:47 – his second fastest half marathon time and only a little shy of his personal best. He said “Overall the race was very flat with a nice gust of wind behind us most of the way providing a nice boost. The crowd support was amazing as usual, would definitely recommend anyone who hasn’t done it give it a go!”
In a very busy weekend for the North Herts Road Runners, the racing action was not limited to Sunday. On Saturday, a scurry of seven hardcore squirrels headed to London for the National Cross-Country Championships at Parliament Hill. John Auld, the club’s cross-country rep, described the race as “An epic, iconic event with the best cross-country runners in the country as well as many others such as ourselves just hoping to test ourselves and enjoy the challenge.” Fortunately, the weather on the day was fantastic, but the course was “absolutely brutal… with thick mud and hills and laps. There was mud in places that came up to your mid shin and you lost sight of your shoes. Every step was a lottery of wondering if you’d still have a shoe on when you stepped out - and there were shoes stuck in there!” In the field of senior (1010 finishers), Carina Quayle was first lady home for the club, finishing 960th in 58:28, and very closely followed by Lindsay Cook, who was 961st in 58:30. The junior men had 211 finishers, including Matthew Ronayne 203rd in 46:02. In the senior men (2087 finishers), Mark Vaughan was the first squirrel home, finishing 672nd in 54:58. Vince Wright finished 924th in 58:27, John Auld was 1305th in 1:03:49 and James Walsh was 1578th in 1:08:37. Auld added that he was “genuinely proud of actually finishing the race as it was so tough. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of the day, but really pleased with my effort and I had tremendous fun with some fantastic team mates.”
Also in London, on Friday lunchtime three squirrels descended on Hyde Park for the Serpentine Last Friday of the Month 5k. Ladies captain Tash Pitman led home the females in a brilliant 20:09, shaving off more time in her quest for a sub-20 minutes 5k. Stewart Overton led home the males in 16:37 with Darren Matussa following home in 18:36.
Last but not least, 18 squirrels also took part in various parkrun events on Saturday, including Andrew Leach who came first at Bedford in a fantastic 17:12. The full parkrun results for this week are: BEDFORD Andrew Leach 17:12; STEVENAGE Tracy Pitcairn 24:41, Barbara Sayers 24:55, Michael Over 25:16, Andrew Coates 26:05, Kat Hinitt 26:05, Sue Vaughan 29:25; WIMPOLE ESTATE Lucy Hurley 31:26, Sue Boys 34:59, Jillian Boys 36:01; LETCHWORTH James Dalton 21:48, Steve Brenton 26:05, Alan Hazlehurst 28:25; GREAT DUNMOW Joseph Sherry 27:22; HENLOW BRIDGE LAKES Daniel Martin 22:56, Brian Judkins 34:06.
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