Arrows Invitational 5k

Run Report - Elisabeth Grover

When Andy first mentioned the Harpenden Arrows 5k Invitational to our HEADWAY group, I was a little apprehensive. Running clubs can have a reputation for being a little exclusive and created for athletes with a level of ability that I can only dream of. Having said that, I like to challenge myself and I knew the route around the Rothampsted fields, so that helped allay my nerves a little. I knew there would be friendly faces when I got there, and it would be nice to meet other people from the other RUN Harpenden groups, so I signed up.

When I arrived in Rothampsted Park, I was relieved to hear that others felt a little nervous too. I know that a ‘race’ can often cause some anxiety and parkrun has this effect on some. I feel fortunate that I don’t have the same anxieties about parkrun, probably because Luton Wardown and St Albans parkruns are familiar to me and I know that there will be lots of different abilities attending on a Saturday morning. This 5k felt like a different kettle of fish.

We were blessed with a beautiful evening, the warm, summer light felt good on our faces and it was life-affirming to see so many different people from the local running clubs amassing in the park.  What always amazes me is the diverse nature of running. I spotted people in the 20’s to 60’s and all ages in between, along with different body shapes and mixed abilities getting involved. We were all made to feel welcome as we dropped off our bags and got ready to run.

Lining up at the start was a little daunting. THAT HILL!!! Surely, we could start on a downhill to help with our confidence? Having said that, those hills are a great analogy for running (and life). You need the uphills to make the downhills more pleasurable, just as you need the off-days (when you can’t get out of bed) to fully appreciate the great days. Life is a series of contrasts (surely that’s a Plato quote?).

And we’re off. The sprinters sprinted, the joggers jogged, and the shufflers shuffled with John, the tail runner, keeping us company at the back.  Within a kilometre we had spread out and I enjoyed a meditative run alone with my thoughts with the faster runners within sight. The marshals were warm and encouraging and it was lovely to have a little chat as I travelled on my little adventure around the course. Marshals can make such a difference when you’re at the back of the group.  Seeing a smiley face cheering you on can boost your confidence when you can’t see any of the runners in front of you.

Coming to the top of the park, I felt an immense sense of pride as there was a large crowd waiting for me. It doesn’t happen to me very often; most people have gone home by the time I finish my races and the organisers are taking down the finish line. It felt great to come home to a loud cheer with people calling my name and I felt very moved by the support.

After the event, we were welcomed to the ‘after-party’ – a veritable feast of tea, cake, pizza, crudities. In the words of my favourite actor ‘Leslie Nielson in Airplane “It’s the wrong day to give up dieting”. So much effort had gone into creating a lovely buffet and a friendly face offering you a cup of tea. I was very grateful to those who had given up their evenings to feed us. It was heart-warming to meet other runners and feel the warm glow of achievement when people you aspire to offer you words of encouragement on your running journey.

I’m a passionate believer that running is for everyone and that self-confidence is the key that unlocks this. Let’s ditch those negative thoughts that can float around your head such as:

  • What do I look like when I’m running? (no-one is watching as they are all worried about their own performance!)
  • How slow am I? (there’ll always be someone slower)
  • Will I be last? (does it really matter?)

Lose these thoughts and you can find such pleasure in the simplicity of the sport. The Harpenden Arrows 5k Invitational provided us with an opportunity to share our pleasure with other people, walk away with a huge sense of pride and a very large slice of lemon cake (thanks, Graham!).

RUN Harpenden