Herts Ad reporter Laura Roberts keeps on running at Herts 10K

Not many people would enjoy spending their Sunday mornings running six miles through fields, bridleways and muddy dirt tracks with a group of like-minded people all sweating and panting… but for me it was an absolute joy with the added bonus that each step was raising money for a very worthwhile cause.

Organised races can be a solitary experience with everyone’s mind set on achieving their personal best (PB) but the atmosphere as we lined up in our pens was full of excitement and camaraderie. People of all shapes, sizes, ages and differing levels of fitness were talking to one another and encouraging one another as we got set to start.

Before we set off, the organisers took a moment to remind us what this was all about and refocus our excitement and nervous energy. Sarah Toll, a Grove House patient and breast cancer sufferer, gave us a poignant and motivational speech, and helped set the tone. This was not just about running, it was about the great work that Grove House does everyday: making the darkest days a family goes through that little bit easier. This was our motivation and now we really were ready.


At precisely 10am on 10/10/10, we were off! With such powerful numbers before us and such a good cause to support, the only way was forward.

The initial part of the multi-terrain race was tough. The fields were wet from the recent rain and there were, we had been warned, some holes, so we had to be careful. Once past this, I settled down and into the gentle rhythm of feet, birdsong and big gulps of fresh air.

As the white t-shirts snaked their way through the Harpenden countryside, the friendliest marshals I’ve ever encountered in an organised race made sure we kept going with shouts of encouragement. It was just what we needed.

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As we hit the first hill, which stretched on for longer than many of us expected and hoped, the pace slowed for many. I misjudged the length of the hill and powered through the first half with a burning chest and as I reached what I thought was the top I felt good… except it wasn’t the top, it was a plateau before the road climbed again. Birdsong was replaced with heavy choral panting. Gasp!

I felt the tiredness sweeping through the runners but tried to fight it and running through the housing estate was a great aid. Families gathered on their drives and some were sat in chairs to cheer us on – it was a fantastic pick-me-up and I felt my bounce returning.

Suddenly the finish line beckoned. We heard cheers and announcements being made and those looking for PBs switched up a gear and others pushed on, knowing they were less than 10 minutes from finishing. I tried to switch up a gear but ended up coming down quite a few as the exhaustion set in. As the finish line came into view, I found my last reserves to sprint for it, and I was doing quite a convincing job, until several people actually sprinted past me and made my efforts look like a rather quick jog!

Crossing the finish line was far more emotional than I had anticipated. Families directly affected by Grove House’s good work wept at their achievements and others who had set themselves the physical and mental challenge of completing a 10k celebrated their hard work. It was moving and wonderful – something everyone should experience.

I didn’t run my best 10k time, but it was close. I finished the race in 51m 42s, which is five minutes faster than my previous 10k but also two minutes off my PB. However, I was sweaty, out of breath and quite muddy – which, oddly enough, I really enjoyed!

Now to next year, when I hope to knock a few minutes off my time and see even more people running this well-organised and inspiring race!