A record number of runners were greeted with clear blue skies as they limbered up for the third Ashridge Trail Half Marathon yesterday (Sunday).
More than 500 people signed up to take part in the event, which raised money for the Tring-based Rennie Grove Hospice Care.
The charity cares for patients throughout Dacorum who are suffering with cancer and other life-limiting illness, as well as providing support for their families.
Among those tackling the challenging multi-terrain route was Tasha Allen, who was doing her first half marathon in memory of her Grandad John.
John was cared for at home in Gadebridge, Hemel Hempstead, by Rennie Grove nurses before he passed away in January last year.
Family and friends – including her Nanny Betty – turned out in force to support Tasha in her challenge, from which she hopes to raise more than £700.
Tasha, who lives in Leighton Buzzard, said: “The Rennie Grove nurses who cared for my Grandad were fantastic.
“Not only did they make sure that he was comfortable at all times, but they were also a great support for my Nanny Betty and the whole family.
“I did some running last summer but only really started seriously in January.
“I had already decided that I wanted to take part in a race to raise money to support Rennie Grove so when I saw this race advertised it seemed like a sign and a great opportunity to give something back.”
Martin Anderson, a police officer from Hemel Hempstead, was running as part of his 56-week-long challenge to run a marathon a week in memory of his mother, Syliva Blake.
To complete week 10 of his challenge, Martin ran the Ashridge Trail before going on to do another half marathon route to reach his weekly marathon target.
Tackling the challenge for the very first time were Paul Paprotny and Natasha Penrose from Hemel Hempstead. Natasha, who has already completed a number of five and 10k runs, encouraged her partner Paul to sign up with her for his very first running event.
Other participants from Hemel included experienced cyclists and triathletes Carol MacDonald and Sandra Mogan, who are due to do the charity’s new Hemel 10K challenge which takes place on 12 July.
A group of keen runners from Aldbury – some of whom are part of Tring Running Club – signed up for the first time to take part in the event after seeing it advertised locally.
Howard Clark, Victoria Plant, Anthony and Julia Kent and Lucy Guest were attracted by the fact that it was a local run with the added challenge of it being an off-road, trail route.
As a local doctor who frequently refers patients to the Rennie Grove service, Lucy in particular was pleased to be running to support the care the charity provides for local people.
After a thorough warm up by personal trainer Paul Rose from Wild Training in Berkhamsted, all participants lined up and the event got underway.
First across the finish line was Adam Hill from Clapham, in a time of one hour, 29 minutes and 54 seconds.
He said: “It was beautiful. I really loved running off-road – it makes you never want to run on roads again!”
Second place went to Ian Hammett from Bedford, who said: “It was an awesome route with lovely scenery.
“All in all it was a great event and a great run which I was very happy to complete alongside some really great guys.”
The first placed lady was Wendy Walsh from St Albans, who completed the course in one hour, 40 minutes and 31 seconds.
She said: “I loved it. It was a superb course and I’ll definitely be back to do it again.”
Gillian Barnett, Rennie Grove’s Director of Fundraising and Marketing, said: “We were absolutely delighted with the turn out for this year’s Ashridge Trail Half Marathon and hope that the event will raise £25,000 to help our nurses carry on caring for local people.
“I would like to thank everyone for their support and reserve a special thanks for our team of volunteer marshals who help ensure the safety of our runners and give them such a big lift by cheering them along the way.
“I would also like to offer particular thanks to Tring Running Club who provided fantastic support for this event. Co-ordinated by Nigel Kippax, they helped us sign the route, provided back-marker runners and helped take the signs down again.
“Without help like this we would not be able to stage these events. A huge thank you to everyone involved.”