Dirty Weekend for Harriers Women Before Club League Returns

The Gade Valley Harriers Parkrun tour continued on November 19th with a visit to Church Mead Parkrun in Amersham Old Town. According to Church Mead’s information page, “The course is run entirely on trail paths. Some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain.” According to Harriers Michael Linden and Nick Crowther, the course is, “ridiculously wet and difficult. How on Earth is the course record 17 minutes?”

Miserable weather

It clearly wasn’t that difficult for Michael as he finished 2nd overall, only 8 seconds behind the first finisher, in 20:08. Nick wasn’t far behind, finishing 5th, while Vince Ellerby also finished in the top 10. Steve Newing, Roly Kendall and Simon Wallis made up the Harriers men while Sue Crowther finished 2nd in her age category, just ahead of Helen Cook.

There was also a healthy turn out of Harriers at Gadebridge Parkrun, led home by Anthony Fogden in 28:00. Chisteena Mooney was the first Harrier woman home, in 29:26, finishing just ahead of James Birnie, who was running with baby buggy again. The wet and slippery conditions made running with the buggy “extremely difficult” (I might have used a different adverb at the time) according to James.

Ashleigh Taylor was running for the first time since the late summer after suffering an injury and was joined by her friends Gemma Tucker, Ines Trent and Mary McCluskey. She might have regretted choosing such a wet weekend for her comeback but still managed to find a finishing burst to lead the group home.

Also on 19th November, 3 GVH women opted for a Dirty Weekend as they took on the Dirt Half Challenge. This race starts in the historic market town of Leighton Buzzard and follows the picturesque autumnal canal towpath north to Stoke Hammond with stunning views, climbing through beautiful countryside to Great Brickhill. After passing through the scenic Rushmere Country Park and the Greensand Ridge, the route returns to the start via the canal towpath.

Claire McDonnell makes no secret of her love for trail racing and was the first Harrier to complete the 13.1 miles course. She completed the challenging, and very wet, course in just over 2 hours, finishing 13th in her age category in 2:01:05. Good friends Helen Terry and Karis Thomas ran the whole course together with Helen just crossing the line first, according to the official results, in 2:31:45, one position and one second ahead of Karis.


On Sunday 20th November, Sam Sparks was also taking on a challenging race. This time it was the Wendover Woods 10k. Although not a trail race in the strictest sense, the paths around the woods are far from smooth and can certainly get very dirty when the rain comes down, as it did that day. Sam said that she “took it easy and loved every minute of it” as she finished just inside the top 100 overall, 6th in her age category in 1:07:15.

Also On November 20th Priscilla Prathak took on a solo racing mission. Well away from the miserable UK weather and the hills of Wendover, she chose to run 26 miles in the Cypriot heat of the Larnaca International Marathon. She said afterwards, “I ran my 8th marathon last Sunday in Larnaca under the Sun! I was 2nd in my age category, that’s because there were only 2 of us!” As my illustrious step-father said many times “it isn’t your fault if the faster runners didn’t turn up!” Take the silver medal with everybody’s congratulations.

No time to describe the trip

On Sunday 27th November the GVH Club League returned for the second race of the season, the Hatfield 5 (mile) race, which would have seemed familiar to anybody who has previously run the St Albans Summer Solstice or Easter 10k races, as all 3 use part of the Alban Way, a disused railway line between St Albans and Hatfield.

Unlike the club handicap, which rewards creative accountancy and a degree of skullduggery in the handicap assessments, the club league rewards only running ability as competitors are ranked by finish position to earn points over 12 races towards the female, male and age graded trophies. Bonuses are also awarded for Personal Best times so some Harriers took advantage of the rarity of 5 mile races to claim a PB for their first outing over the distance.

Still miserable

Matt Ashby earned maximum points by finishing first in a superb time of 29:05 while Michael Linden also ducked under the half hour mark, finishing in 29:39. Both suffered from having raced the distance before, however, as neither managed to beat their existing PBs. Gareth Tucker was the next finisher just ahead of Martin Pike who was running his first 5 mile race and thus banked the PB bonus.

Steve Newing and Andy Bishop were next home for the Harriers before Jenny Stubberfield picked up maximum points in the female category just ahead of Kitty Cole (running her first 5 mile race), Isabel Wilson and Helen Cook (who earned the PB bonus by beating a previous mark) and Anita Fenoughty who was also running the distance for the first time. Chris Howe, Mike Evans and Karis Thomas were the next finishers before Mary McCluskey picked up the PB bonus in her first race over 5 miles, just ahead of Gemma Tucker.

Full Results From Hatfield 5

Position Gun time Chip time Category Cat Position
33 Matt ASHBY 00:29:15 00:29:05 Senior Men 16
42 Michael LINDEN 00:29:47 00:29:39 M40 17
65 Gareth TUCKER 00:31:35 00:31:26 M40 25
71 Martin PIKE 00:32:00 00:31:50 Senior Men 30 First 5 mile
109 Stephen NEWING 00:33:59 00:33:49 M40 37
194 Andrew BISHOP 00:37:31 00:37:04 M40 56
243 Jenny STUBBERFIELD 00:39:25 00:38:51 Senior Women 13
284 Kitty COLE 00:41:10 00:40:35 Senior Women 12 First 5 mile
293 Isabel WILSON 00:41:46 00:41:25 W60 6 PB
300 Helen COOK 00:42:12 00:41:38 W50 18 PB
384 Anita FENOUGHTY 00:45:24 00:44:09 W50 32 First 5 mile
385 Chris HOWE 00:45:24 00:44:29 M40 84
388 Mike EVANS 00:45:31 00:44:23 M50 69
441 Karis THOMAS 00:47:34 00:46:19 Senior Women 26
469 Mary MCCLUSKEY 00:48:48 00:47:34 Senior Women 25 First 5 mile
471 Gemma TUCKER 00:48:57 00:47:43 Senior Women 26