Why the Herts 10K holds a special place in Harpenden man’s heart

Paul Sutton in the Herts 10K - picture by SussexSportPhotography

Paul Sutton in the Herts 10K - picture by SussexSportPhotography - Credit: Sussex Sport Photography.com

The Herts 10K is Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s flagship fundraising event with thousands of runners coming back year after year. And while the event is one of the largest 10K runs in Hertfordshire, it is still very much a community event.

Paul Sutton's t-shirt.

Paul Sutton's t-shirt. - Credit: Archant

Paul Sutton from Harpenden has already undertaken two long-distance challenges this year for Rennie Grove Hospice Care. And on Sunday (October 8) he’ll join thousands of others at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden for the charity’s 12th annual Herts 10K.

Whilst Paul enjoys keeping fit and pushing himself to achieve physical challenges, there is another reason why he pounded the capital’s streets in this year’s London Marathon; pedalled 100 miles between the city and Surrey in the Prudential Ride London just a few months ago and why he’s returning to run in his sixth consecutive Herts 10K.

In 2011 his wife, Antonella, received a diagnosis of endometrial cancer. She had surgery straight away but in January 2012 the couple were told that her condition was terminal. They were referred to Rennie Grove, who visited them at home. The charity’s occupational therapist arranged specialist equipment to make Antonella more comfortable and the Rennie Grove physiotherapist helped to reduce the fluid building up in her limbs with regular massage.

Paul recalls: “The Physio taught me how to do the massage for Antonella, which helped me feel empowered and truly involved in her care. She and the OT offered not only concrete assistance but also emotional support and coping strategies.

“Antonella didn’t want to talk about her condition and by June or July of 2012 I was struggling to hold it all together. They suggested I attend a six-week course of counselling at Grove House, which was so helpful because it got me back to a point where I could be there for Antonella. Thanks to all those interventions on the part of Rennie Grove, we were able to have her with us at home until the end.”

After Antonella’s death, Paul had further counselling, which he says he found “really valuable.”

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“Alongside this I had rediscovered running and was amazed at how therapeutic it could be. I would run the same route each time and it was my safe space. The regular rhythm was reassuring and would send me into an almost hypnotic state. Running got me through those toughest of times and enabled me to keep caring for Antonella. I even ran that route on the day she died; I found it such a comfort and source of strength.

“The Herts 10K holds a special place in my heart because it prompted me to turn my life around,” explains Paul. I realised that I needed to be fit and healthy because my kids only had me now. So that first Herts 10K in 2012 was a life-changing moment. There’s a real warmth and a great atmosphere on race day; the course is fantastic and it’s just good fun. It’s my favourite run.”

Paul says that running and keeping fit – setting and achieving goals – helps him to keep moving forward. And being able to fundraise whilst he’s doing it for the charity that helped him and his wife at the most difficult of times is an added bonus.

“Every single engagement we had with Rennie Grove was incredibly positive and helpful. You sense that they genuinely care and to feel this when you are going through such tough times is crucial.

“You need a human face and this is what they offer alongside professional, expert care. I recognise how important the fundraising is to make sure they can keep on caring and so I’m really happy to be able to use my new-found fitness to support this wonderful service in our local community.”

Join Paul at the Herts 10K on Sunday. Online registration has closed but you can register on the day between 8.30 and 9.30am.