Long distance running as part of ongoing marathon training was the order of the weekend for the North Herts Road Runners, with several squirrels recording excellent results in 20-mile races.
Lucy O’Connor, Laura Fairbanks, and Richard Weber headed to neighbouring Bedfordshire to take part in the popular Oakley 20 race – an undulating, rural country road course around villages to the north of Bedford which is a key event in many runners’ marathon training diaries. Lucy reported “challenging conditions in the rain and wind and massive puddles”, but despite the weather all three squirrels achieved new personal bests. Lucy finished the race in a fantastic 2:59:42, knocking 6 minutes off her previous 2022 Oakley 20 time and smashing her existing 20 mile PB by 3 minutes (previously held at Oundle in 2022), while also scoring 1st in her age category (FV60) and winning a county medal for coming 1st in the County for her age category. With all these fantastic achievements, it is not surprising that she summed up the event as “a brilliant day”! Laura described the first half of the hilly race as “physically and mentally tough”, but despite this was the first squirrel over the line in an impressive 2:50:49, which she was pleased with ahead of her upcoming Manchester Marathon entry in April. Richard Weber crossed the line in a brilliant 2:53:35, taking 9 seconds off his previous 20 mile PB at Oundle and slashing nearly 6 minutes off his previous attempt on the Oakley course. He added “though the rain had mostly stopped, the roads were still wet with puddles aplenty, so keeping your feet dry really was not an option. It’s a hilly route … but there are several attractive villages en route, so it was really a pleasure to run.” Also running the Oakley 20 were fellow squirrels Andy Grudzinski, Michelle Grudzinski, and Alice Noakes.
Dave Braybrook tackled the 20-mile distance elsewhere, opting to travel further afield for the Wymondham 20 race in the picturesque market town of Wymondham in Norfolk. He described the event as “a race of two halves” and started strongly, but with a more challenging second loop. Nonetheless, he persevered and still finished in a great time of 3:02:32 and described the race itself as “excellent and really well organised”.
Meanwhile, several squirrels headed to Cassiobury Park in Watford on Sunday to take part in the Herts and Middlesex Vets Cross Country Championships. The NHRR ladies’ team, comprising Barbara Sayers, Linda Aird, and Lindsay Cook, were crowned 2nd team in the Herts County Championships. In addition, Barbara also claimed a bronze medal for placing 3rd in the FV45 age group and Miranda won a silver award for coming 2nd in the FV65 category. Stewart Overton also took part and ran brilliantly, coming in 7th place overall and 5th in his age category in the Herts County Champs, adding “some tough hills and extreme mud made for a challenging morning.”.
The action this weekend did not stop there for the busy North Herts Road Runners! Ruth Summers took on her first half marathon, running the Hampton Court Half along with fellow squirrel Nick Walker. They completed the race together in an excellent 2 hours and 11 minutes, and thanked their coach at the club Cara Sutton “for all her support and fabulous training plan”. Meanwhile, Nicola Withington ran the Hyde Park 11k, in support of the charity Target Ovarian Cancer. The unusual distance of 11k was set because 11 women in the UK die every day from the disease. Despite the “horrendous rain”, Nicola ran brilliantly and completed the run in 65 minutes. Fellow squirrel Neill Withington took on the 5.5k course, which he completed in 40 minutes.
This week’s Parkrun results for the North Herts Road Runners are as follows: LUTON WARDOWN: Kris Whitmore 19:06; FERRY MEADOWS: Scott Reed 28:52; STEVENAGE: Elwyn Howell 21:17, James Poulton 23:19, Mike Phillips 23:54, Rhiannon Botha 23:55; Michael Over 23:55, Andrew Coates 25:18, Sarah Mitcherson 26:19, Jane Clarke 26:24, Paul O’Sullivan 26:55, Anna Greetham 26:56, Matt Roberts 26:57, Natalie Phillips 29:20, Amanda Grieg 30:02, Geoff Pettengell 33:40, Ian Datlen 39:52, Laura Preston 39:55; GUNPOWDER: Darren Matussa 20:15; LOWESTOFT: Chloe Lucas 22:35; ETNA: Natasha Pitman 26:10; LETCHWORTH: Katie Harbon 21:47, James Dalton 21:48, Chris Stokes 22:45, Stuart Cocks 25:06, Jo Harbon 30:08, Jane Robson 31:22, Philip Flack 32:12, Hayley Cocks 38:23; HENLOW BRIDGE LAKES: Richard Barker 23:57, Tim Banting 26:40, Rob Milburn 27:20, Georgia Barker 31:02.
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