30 St Albans Striders took part in the first of 3 races in the Hatfield 5k series hosted by Garden City Runners on Wednesday which incorporated the Hertfordshire 5k senior champs. The females secured first team place with Megan Walker (17.47), Hannah Burkhardt (18.47) and Lily Seach (18.53) who finished 3rd, 4th and 6th respectively. The males achieved 3rd team place with Jonny Pennell (16.16), Adam Yorwerth (16.33), Barnaby Walker (16.50) and Callum Bond (16.51). Top 3 age category positions were achieved by Andy Jordon, Lucy Waterlow, Nicky Laitner, Andrew McKillop and Kate Dixon.

Saturday saw the return of the St Albans Stampede event at Heartwood Forest. This is an ultra running event organised by the Striders where the aim is to cover as many laps of a 4 mile circuit as possible over a 12 hour period. The beauty of this event is that it is accessible to wider group of runners since it provides the flexibility to run as a team rather than solo. It also has the added challenge of the last lap having to be run in the dark. It is also a real community event with 80% of the 250 or so runners coming from the local area with teams from Garden City Runners, Harpenden Arrows, Wheathampstead Warriors as well as the Striders.

It was pretty much a clean sweep of the medals for the Striders. Out of the 53 individuals who were brave enough to tackle the challenge alone, Jacob James achieved the highest number of laps with 16 (64 miles), followed by Callum Bond with 15 laps in what was his first ultra. The pairings category was won by Chris Dennell and Matthew Nicholson who managed 21 laps between them. Matt Holman, Jonny Pennell, Stephen Buckle and Sam Dear won the team of 4 category out of 30 teams covering an incredible 28 laps and Simon Frazer, Jonathan Scott, Jim King, Stephen Hosty, Max Campbell, Michael Martin, Gareth Beavis, and Sebastian Rowe won the team of 8 with 27 laps. Matt Holman recorded the fastest lap of the day with 22.11 and Lily Seach ran the fastest female lap in 27.02. Sarah Bruce Green from Wheathampstead Warriors was 3rd overall in the solo category and 1st female achieving an impressive 14 laps (56 miles).

A huge thank you goes to race directors Bernadette and Robin Newby for organising such a fantastic, fun and memorable event. Recognition also goes to the marshals and other park users who were amazing with their encouragement to runners as well as the catering volunteers who kept the runners properly fuelled during the day. A percentage of the revenue and all the donations received for the catering goes to a local charity which for this year is The Hertfordshire Children’s Trust.

Although we are clearly very proud of the Stampede, it is difficult to compare it with the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) which is considered by many as the most prestigious trail running race in the world with a demanding qualification criteria. The race starts in Chamonix and crosses 3 countries (France, Italy and Switzerland). Christian Kurek completed the route of 171km including 10,000 metres of height gain in a remarkable 38 hours and 58 minutes. He finished 735th, ahead of around 1,000 other finishers plus hundreds of others who failed to complete the course.

There was a strong turn out at the ‘Big Half’ in London on Sunday with 20 Striders and sister club AC competing. Matt Cooper led the team home, finishing in 55th place overall out of over 15,000 runners covering the 13.1 miles in a time of 1:11:40. He was followed by Jonathan Yeates (1:14:28) and Scott Saunders (1:20:30). Leading the females home was Hannah Carruthers (top 2% of female field in 1:35:04), followed by Emily Hickey-Baird (top 4% of female field in 1:40:10) and Stacey Harris (1:43:53).

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