Blizzard of PBs in Chilly St Albans

The running weekend of 21st / 22nd January got underway on Saturday morning as a handful of Gade Valley Harriers took on various Parkruns. Most of the Harriers were keeping their powder dry (and probably warm) for the Fred Hughes 10 mile race on Sunday but that didn’t stop Vince Ellerby’s weekly trip to Black Park nor did it stop Andy Cook, Helen Cook and Sue Crowther visiting the lovely cafe at Rickmansworth Parkrun. The main Parkrun news was Anthony Fogden who completed his 100th parkrun at Gadebridge.

Should have chosen a busier day for the 100th!

On Sunday, around 40 GVH took on a local favourite race, the Fred Hughes 10, which is hosted in St Albans by the St Albans Striders. One person not taking part in St Albans was Vicky Crawley Wise who had travelled to Farnborough to meet ex-GVH member (and current friend) Lozza Sharma-Smith, to take part in the Farnborough Winter Half marathon. Lozza was taking part in the 5k race as her first race back after her pregnancy. Vicky said, “I wasn’t at Fred today but running in a very chilly Farnborough (doing the Half) with former club mate Laura Lozza who did the 5k (first race after having her baby). My time was 1.48.32 which, considering I had spent all of Friday skiing and my legs were totally shot, was good!”

Sunday morning in St Albans dawned cold. Very cold. On Saturday the competitors in the Fred Hughes 10 had received an email from the organisers informing them that the race would be held over the “alternative”, 2 lap, course because sections of the “original”, 1 lap, course were frozen and unlikely to thaw out before the morning. Having received no notice of cancellation on Sunday morning, the entrants knew that the race was going ahead and accordingly packed warm running kit.

The sun’s out! It is boiling!

The race HQ for Fred Hughes is at St Columba’s College about 10 minutes’ walk from the start / finish line. Most competitors gathered in the sports hall to collect their numbers and usually would have started warming up outside. Instead, the extreme cold meant that around 1000 runners huddled in a large room daring each other to “take that base layer off!” The end result was that around 15 minutes before the start of the race all traffic was stopped on King Harry Street for several minutes while about 800 shivering, seemingly underdressed, people all crossed the road at the same time.

Separate team photo to get the baby in

Just before the race got underway the sun went beyond threatening to break through the early low cloud to actually showing its face. As a result of the improvement (or lack of disimprovement) there was a last minute flurry of discarded clothing, with several athletes using the tree near the finish line as a storage medium. Others were simply pleased that the extra clothing they forgot to bring was no longer going to be needed.

Don’t need that thing, too hot…

When the shivering stopped and the racing started, it was Matt Ashby who again led the way for the Harriers. He completed the challengingly chilly and icy in a superb 58:39, breaking the “magic” hour mark by some distance and bagging himself a brand new PB. Gareth Tucker and James Birnie were next home for the Harriers. They had run in close order to one another for the first 3 miles or so of the course before Gareth slowly (or as James later corrected, “rather quickly”) pulled away. Gareth ended the race in 85th overall position in 1:04:12, while James was 88th in 1:04:28. The extra few years that James carries around the course with respect to Gareth and Matt meant that James scored the highest age grading of all the GVH athletes on the day with 74.16%.

NIce shoes. Nice hat.

Sam Richards was the next Harrier home, finishing in 1:07:58, bagging a new PB for himself by virtue of it being his first 10 mile race. They all count, it’s the fastest you’ve run a 10 mile race. Don’t let anybody tell you that isn’t a real PB! Steve Newing wasn’t far behind Sam as he continued his return from long term injury during 2022.

Stu Gallagher and Phil Mercer, two more who have battled recent injury problems were next home, followed by Martin Pike who recorded exactly the same chip time as Phil but obviously started a bit further back in the field. He also recorded a PB in his first 10 mile race. Merlin Allan was next home in 1:13:06. He scored an extremely respectable age graded 74.42% and a new PB (in his first 10 mile race) but, more importantly, wrested the club V60 10 mile record from his long-time rival Rob Bowler, to make the overall V60 record score now 7 – 2 in Merlin’s favour.

James Felstead and Skip Phillips were next back for GVH before the next PB, (and the next 10 mile debutant) Dan Green, crossed the line in 1:16:50. Roland Kendall also scored a new PB but it isn’t clear if he has run the distance before. Given his status as “club bandit” after scooping the 2022 Handicap Cup, it is plausible that he found some shortcut, perhaps he only ran a single lap very slowly, to his PB glory.

After Roland, Mel Hardy was the next GVH finisher and the first lady for the club on the day. She was also running her first 10 mile race, so any time would have been a PB, so she can be said to have made it hard for herself to bag a new PB by running a superb time of 1:18:02. Simon Wheeler and Rob Bowler were next for GVH. Robert is another recovering from injury and said afterwards, “not a great time but I avoided a PW”. Whilst a PB is obviously a great result, a Personal Worst is not such a desirable finish!

Mel and her “hand of God” moment

Darren Burke and Andrew Watt finished within 6 seconds of Robert on the road but Robert, obviously showing his greater experience had clearly started around 90 seconds ahead of the pair, as their chip times were quite a lot quicker. Darren also picked up a PB, but unlike most on the day has previously raced the distance, he said, “PB for me, knocked something silly like 10 or 15 minutes off it.” Andy Bishop was next home, and the last Harrier to break the 80 minute mark, in 1:19:50.

Sue Crowther has been improving her own times steadily over the past 18 months or so and in so doing has been hoovering up the FV55 club records in what can only be described as a Merlinesque fashion. She duly delivered a new PB and a new club record, finishing the 10 miles in 1:22:43, shaving 28 seconds off the previous mark. Sam Raffety and Michelle Wells were very close on the road to Sue, Michelle scoring a new PB.

Stick together GVH!

Claire McDonnel and Kim Morgan were next home for GVH. Both have been recovering from long term fitness problems. Claire has been suffering from knee trouble while Kim endured a forced absence through a broken toe obtained in what would have been comedic circumstances at home (it is said that her children laughed at the time) had it not been for the obvious pain that ensued.

Katie Ellis, Neil Harper and Anthony Fogen were the last of the Harriers to break the 90 minute mark, although Helen Cook showed her experience in the start pen by splitting them on the road while finishing just outside 90 minutes. Katie and Anthony recorded new PBs with Anthony commenting, “I ran a PB, knocking 2:28 off my previous best. Jack Daniels to celebrate later. Well done to everybody who ran today!”

Matt models what Angeline wants

Kirstie Hardiman, Sarah Shillabeer, Mike Evans, Angeline Cottrill, the lesser spotted Holly Beckett and Christeena Mooney all enjoyed their morning in the sun at St Albans and all were spotted (well, Angeline was) enjoying the home made cakes afterwards. In previous years, the Fred Hughes 10 has not typically handed out medals for finishers, so it was something of a surprise to see Angeline at all. Perhaps she knew something that the rest of us didn’t as, this time, medals were handed out at the finish.

Looking great for that PB!

Gemma Tucker, Mary McCluskey and Ines Trent completed the GVH team on the day with Gemma (1:38:26) and Ines (1:52:54) completing the list of Gade Valley runners to bag new PBs on the day. With so many PBs it is clear that the Harriers took the freezing, and slippery, conditions in their stride. Whilst some say the two lap course is “easier” than the one lap version, it is only used when conditions are bad, therefore none of the achievements should be considered as anything other than having been earned the very hard way.

It is to be hoped that the high turnout of GVH runners, probably encouraged by the return of the “nominated events” format for the club league (which wasn’t practical during the Covid years) is a shape of things to come. Many of the club will be looking forward to the other local favourite races, the Watford Half Marathon (5th February) and Berkhamsted Half Marathon (5th March) where, hopefully, a similar number of Harriers will be joining the fun.

Full Results from Fred Hughes 10

Gun time Chip time Category Pos Gender Pos Age Grade % PB
29 Matt ASHBY 00:58:46 00:58:39 18 29 74.44 PB
85 Gareth TUCKER 01:04:24 01:04:12 29 79 73.09
88 James BIRNIE 01:04:42 01:04:28 30 80 74.61
137 Sam RICHARDS 01:08:25 01:07:58 57 124 63.94 PB
171 Stephen NEWING 01:09:54 01:09:41 55 153 65.71
202 Stuart GALLAGHER 01:11:36 01:11:24 61 178 65.74
209 Phil MERCER 01:11:49 01:11:36 63 183 66.09
236 Martin PIKE 01:13:28 01:11:36 83 205 61.12 PB
270 Merlin ALLAN 01:15:02 01:13:03 9 229 74.42 PB
283 James FELSTEAD 01:15:57 01:15:30 52 237 67.56
320 Richard PHILLIPS 01:17:31 01:15:39 98 260 57.93
334 Daniel GREEN 01:18:06 01:16:50 102 272 56.6 PB
349 Roland KENDALL 01:18:33 01:16:36 96 280 61.99 PB
360 Mel HARDY 01:18:56 01:18:02 23 73 62.07 PB
361 Simon WHEELER 01:18:57 01:17:02 99 288 61.67
373 Robert BOWLER 01:19:24 01:18:58 17 295 68.32
375 Darren BURKE 01:19:27 01:17:31 102 296 60.76 PB
377 Andrew WATT 01:19:30 01:17:38 73 297 62.85
424 Andrew BISHOP 01:21:47 01:19:50 114 328 56.17
476 Susannah CROWTHER 01:24:35 01:22:43 8 122 71.39 PB
492 Samantha RAFFETY 01:25:39 01:23:46 51 130 58.58
501 Michelle WELLS 01:26:25 01:22:51 53 132 60.41 PB
559 Claire MCDONNELL 01:28:33 01:26:42 44 165 64.92
568 Kim MORGAN 01:28:48 01:25:14 66 170 58.79
615 Katie ELLIS 01:31:36 01:27:04 77 199 54.78 PB
633 Neil HARPER 01:32:29 01:28:56 148 424 50.08
652 Helen COOK 01:33:09 01:30:36 22 221 64.84
657 Anthony FOGDEN 01:33:34 01:29:19 32 432 57.98 PB
695 Kirstie HARDIMAN 01:35:24 01:30:58 91 245 52.87
779 Sarah SHILLABEER 01:39:53 01:35:24 105 295 51.46
786 Mike EVANS 01:40:04 01:36:29 141 489 52.71
806 Angeline COTTRILL 01:41:30 01:37:03 98 311 52.89
808 Holly BECKETT 01:41:35 01:37:07 113 312 49.65
822 Christeena MOONEY 01:42:34 01:38:04 104 325 51.82
828 Gemma TUCKER 01:42:55 01:38:26 119 331 48.53 PB
887 Mary MCCLUSKEY 01:50:14 01:45:43 126 373 44.95
936 Ines TRENT 01:57:24 01:52:54 134 415 42.96 PB