It was a quiet weekend of racing for GVH with no marathons and no ultra marathons. Only a handful of people were in racing action on Sunday but there was a large turnout at Cassiobury Parkrun on Saturday for the 5k baseline run.
Through the summer the focus for the club shifts to a training regime to improve speed on the shorter distances of 10k and below. To promote engagement in the program head coach Ed Price encouraged the members to run at Cassiobury Parkrun to lay down their benchmark 5k performance. The goal is to improve that 5k time as much as possible through the 2 months or so of the program and to return to Cassiobury Park to measure the improvement.
And so it was that over 40 GVH runners gathered in the warm sunshine of Saturday morning in Cassiobury Park. This Parkrun used to be 3 laps of a relatively flat course entirely on the paths in the park (at least it was when I last did it, in 2015). With the growing popularity of Parkrun everywhere the course changed at some point before Summer 2022 to 2½ laps of the same loop but starting on the grass outside the loop and finishing on the grass inside the loop. Presumably this change was an attempt to thin the field before it gets to the fairly narrow paths. In that respect the change either failed, or they need to consider starting even further away from the paths, somewhere down near the canal.
Despite the problems with congestion in the early part of the run, several GVH runners posted very quick times, thereby scuppering their chances of earning any prizes for improvement through the summer. Matt Ashby was first finisher overall in 17:54 with Stu Gallagher second (18:19). Gareth Tucker and Phil Robbins were 4th and 5th and Andy Wells and Lewis Ellerby were 7th and 8th, making it 6 of the first 8 finishers for the club. Nick Crowther, Gwyn Pritchard and Steve Newing also ducked under the 20 minute mark.
Naomi Carey was the first of the GVH women to finish, in 22:55. She managed to stay just ahead of James Birnie who was running with young Will in the pram. “Believe me, I really tried to catch Naomi, but she was too quick!”, I said at the time to nobody in particular. It was pointed out (by an unusually talkative Gareth Tucker) that if he were to run the end of program 5k without the pram that he would get called a bandit, “not really because I write the reports” was the obvious response from James.
Kim Morgan and Susie Ivin put in strong performances, finishing 15th and 18th overall female, respectively, just ahead of Sue Crowther and Helen Cook who finished 1st and 2nd in their VW55 age category. Michelle Wells also ran strongly, finishing in 26:00 to set a new PR for the Cassiobury Parkrun. She was just ahead of Jon Roberts whose time of 27:18 was also, like James, affected by him running with his son (though not in a buggy as Jon’s son is a lot older), and thus putting him at risk of later accusations of banditry.
Holly Beckett and Jane Percival ran strongly to finish under 28 minutes while Mary McCluskey felt that she was returning to somewhere near her best form, recording 28:14 and declaring that her target for the 5k improvement program was to better her Cassiobury Park PR, which stands currently at 27:11. Gemma Tucker and Ines Trent both managed their fastest runs at Cassiobury with Ines managing her overall 5k PB, finishing in 30:02. She was a little disappointed not to break the half hour mark but it surely only a matter of a very little time before she does that.
On Sunday there wasn’t much racing action but Stu Gallagher and Helen Terry managed to find what little action there was. Stu took on the Hackney Half Marathon while Tracey stayed more local with the Wheathampstead 10k.
Stu has recently been on a steep upward trajectory, proving once again that he has an amazing capacity to quickly get back into shape and run fast, having lost around 20 kg and gone down 3 jean sizes since late April. He followed up his Cassiobury PB on Saturday with a very strong run in Hackney. The heat told in the end, however, and he was disappointed to finish just outside his PB in 1:25:11. He said later, “Bit gutted, the heat got to me the last 4 miles. I planned to push on at that point and go for the PB, but there was nothing left in the tank.”
The Wheathampstead 10k fun run is a lovely local event that starts and finishes on the playing field near Wheathampstead village centre. The course is all off road, climbing out of the village into the surrounding countryside and using the Ayot Greenway, the old course of the Wheathampstead to Welwyn Garden City railway line which has long since been converted to a path and cycle way. Before the 10k got underway, Helen’s two children, Wil and Jess, ran in the 2k fun run. Will completed the course in 10:37 while Jess managed 12:30. They finished 5th and 28th in their respective categories. In the 10k event Helen completed the challenging course in 1:02:44, placing her 31st in her age category, 194th overall out of over 400 finishers.
Full Results From Cassiobury Park (for those that Parkrun tags as Gade Valley Harriers)