More than 350 people descended on Astley Cooper School in Hemel Hempstead on Sunday (9 July) to take part in the Hemel 10k and 1.5k Superhero Fun Run. Organised by Rennie Grove Hospice Care, the annual event attracted first-timers and past masters alike – all raising funds for families affected by cancer and other life-limiting illness.
The start line of the Superhero Fun Run bristled with Batmen; Incredible Hulks of all shapes and sizes gave it their all around the two-lap course and Wonderwomen wowed the crowd with their super powers. Five-year-old twins Marcie and Harri Golfetto from Flamstead were resplendent in Supergirl costmes, with Marcie just pipping her sister to the post for the best-dressed prize of a rock climbing voucher, presented by Deputy Mayor of Dacorum, Cllr Rosie Sutton. Mum Toni, who took part with dad, Dan, and sons Raffi (8) and Luca (7), channelling Batman and Superman respectively, said: “It’s our first time here – we saw the leaflet about it and thought it looked great fun!” She added that Marcie takes swimming lessons at Dacorum Sports Centre, where she’ll also be able to claim her prize and turn her Supergirl skills to climbing.
Supergirls teamed up with Batmen again in the Bowers’ team. The family-of-four from Hemel fancied doing something fun together whilst raising money for a local charity. Clare and Phil ran the 1.5k route with Erin (7) and Adam (5).
Other first-time superheroes included the Tao family from Apsley. Two Tao Supermen, aged two and six, were joined by a friend of the family – Batman.
Other caped crusaders included father-and-daughter team Darren and Connie Mae Walker from Hemel. Dad Darren said: “I heard about it on the radio and a couple of friends had taken part last year so we thought we’d give it a go. Connie Mae has already raised £70 and we think she could top £100.” After the 1.5k fun run, Darren was considering taking on the 10k too, as part of his training for the Great North Run later this year.
The perceptive bat ears had tuned into Heart radio, with whom Rennie Grove had teamed up to promote the event. Heart Angels joined breakfast show DJ Daniel Fox in congratulating runners on the day. Daniel, who compered the whole event from start to finish, said: “This is the third or fourth year I’ve hosted this event for Rennie Grove and it’s been fantastic seeing it grow. This has definitely been the hottest year yet!”
A family-of-five from Hemel agreed: Cathy, Neil, Jessica (6), William (3) and James (9 months) were repeat customers back for more fun. Dad Neil took part in the 10k last year and returned this year to take on the fun run with the whole family. Mum Cathy recalled: “I was heavily pregnant with James last year but the eldest two were really keen to do the fun run so we promised to come back and James got to take part too in his pushchair!”
Surging ahead in true superhero style were first and second placed friends from the same road in Hemel: Jack Willington (12) and Ashton Isaac (9).
Their counterparts in the 10k were Tom Dell from the Vale of Aylesbury Athletics Club, who finished first in just 36 minutes 27 seconds, and Phil Oddy of Dacorum & Tring Athletics Club who followed him home in 37 minutes 53 seconds. Tom said: “It was hot out there but it was good. I’m used to running on and off road.”
Others who felt less at home on the multi-terrain route included Londoner Christabel Nye, who travelled out from the capital to run with a friend. She said: “It was like uphill cross country! It was a very pretty route though – and now any other 10k I do will seem easy in comparison!” Despite the heat and the challenging, hilly course, Christabel clocked her second best time over the distance.
Christabel cheered home her friend Catriona McIntyre, who was part of a five-strong team of teachers from Astley Cooper School, where the Hemel 10k started and finished. Mike Stewart, Adam Tyson, Craig Hardy, Mark Gatenby and Catriona cover P.E. Geography, R.E. and drama between them at the Hemel secondary school. They found the route harder than they expected but their training, driven by their motivational What’s App group and a healthy dose of competitiveness, stood them in good stead despite some illness and injury.
Anna Ward was the first woman to cross the line, finishing in seventh place overall in 41 minutes 36 seconds. Three generations of her family took part in the event: Granny, Dad, Harry (6) and Luke (4) all took on the 1.5k route. Anna said: “It was good fun and a lovely course. There was a bit of everything in there!” Harry displayed his fun run medal proudly: “I did it without stopping or walking,” he said happily.
Other teams with success stories that spanned the generations included the Boyalls from Hemel. Dad Tim ran the London Marathon for Rennie Grove this year, after his mum visited the charity’s Day Hospice for five or six weeks before she sadly passed away just a couple of weeks before the marathon. His son, Paul, returned home from university with a challenge: to run a 10k in under one hour – with Tim as official coach and mentor. The pair had been doing 5k park runs in preparation and Paul was delighted to run his first 10k in 66 minutes on Sunday. “I’m definitely going to carry on with my plan to beat one hour before the summer’s over,” he said. His dad was still up for the challenge too: “We might find a flatter course for that one!” he joked.
A six-strong ladies’ team comprising Tring residents who train at the same gym crossed the line together in their custom-bought vests proclaiming the pastimes that brought them together. ‘Crunch over brunch’ exclaimed the turquoise tops: “we like to work out together but we love our ‘team eats’ even more!” they explained.
Kate Grigg, Rennie Grove’s Head of Fundraising in Herts, said: “We’re so grateful to everyone who helped to make this event a success. Our corporate sponsors - Specsavers, Grant and Stone and OM Interactive - ensured that more of the monies raised by our runners can go directly towards patient care. Our wonderful volunteer marshals gave up their Sunday morning to keep runners on track and cheer them to the finish. And last but by no means least – our amazing runners. They are all superheroes in our eyes!”
Rennie Grove’s next active event is the Chilterns 3 Peaks Challenge on Sunday 10 September. Find out more here.