Helen runs the Love Luton 10K (She still hates running!)

Sunday 29th October

After a restless night, my alarm went off at 6.30am on race day. Thankfully the clocks had gone back which meant I got an extra hour in bed, so it didn’t feel like I had lost sleep, and it also meant that it was lighter, which made getting up a lot easier!

The early start meant I was able to eat some breakfast in plenty of time before having to run as I knew I couldn’t run on an empty stomach; two weetabix and a slice of toast followed by a banana and washed down with a Lucozade sport drink and two ibuprofen! Why ibuprofen you ask? Well my running buddy from work said that a lot of runners take ibuprofen before a run as it helps to relax the muscles, so I thought I’d give them a try. Anything that might help I was willing to try!

Once breakfast was out the way, it was time to get kitted up in my runner’s leggings, double layered socks (another runner’s tip!) and my trainers plus my Luton Town shirt, which the football club very kindly donated for me to wear. All runners had to collect their registration packs on the morning of the race, and having never done anything like this before, I was unsure how long this would take so I got a lift up to the athletics track at Stockwood Park so I was there for 8am. The last thing I wanted was to be late and then get myself in a panic so thought it best to get there in plenty of time.

It was a chilly morning up at Stockwood Park, and because I was on my own I hadn’t take a fleece or anything to keep me warm; I knew that once I started running I’d get too hot to wear it, and didn’t want to have to run with anything tied round my waist, so I just had to man up and deal with it! Luckily the sun was out and shining brightly. I queued up to collect my race pack. One of my friends from the gym was there working and handing out the packs, so it helped to see a smiley face! Armed with my envelope, I then proceeded to pin my number onto my shirt, and put my race chip onto my trainer. All I had to do now was wait to start! The nerves had kicked in, and I was paranoid about needing to pee during my run, so I managed to get two toilet visits in between 8.15am and 8.45am before going to line up in the crowd for the 9am start. I lined myself up a little way back from the start line as I had it in my head that it would take me approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete the 10k route – I left the front for the serious runners!

I was hoping and praying that I could make it round and do the full distance without stopping or slowing down to a walk. This was also the first run I’d done without a running buddy or without headphones (they didn’t advise you wore them for safety). As silly as it sounds, I’d found that if I had someone to talk to whilst running, it helped me control my breathing; if I was on my own with headphones on I got the same effect through singing, either silently if at the gym, or out loud (badly!) if running outside!! So I figured I was just going to have to run along looking like a madwoman who was either talking to herself, or singing badly with no music to sing along too!

I began to get cold whilst waiting so I was quite relieved when the race started at 9am on the dot. This was it, I was off on my first ever 10k run! The start was very slow, as everyone was bunched up and there wasn’t much room. I ended up being behind a man with a walking stick, and I thought to myself, ‘if he believes he can do – then so can I!’. Our run started off on the far side of the running track, so once we got round that and then up and onto the road in Stockwood Park, the crowd started to disperse which made running a lot easier. I remembered another runner’s tip that I was given, and that was not to start off too fast, so I managed to settle into a steady pace and started to slowly overtake people. I felt comfortable as I came out of the park and out across London Road and onto Cutenhoe Road. I got a bit of a confidence boost as I overtook people who seemed to be huffing and puffing or who were already stopping to walk as I was actually ok at this point. People had come out of their houses and were on their drives waving and cheering us as we went past which also helped give everyone a boost! I was so glad we had to go down Cutenhoe Road and not run up it! I made sure I didn’t let the fact I was going downhill speed me up at all, in fact, I probably slowed down a little, again, another little runner’s tip! Once on Park Street, it was straight on towards the town, and here I started putting another runner’s tip into practice – hunting people down!

It sounds mean, but it basically just meant that I picked someone out in the distance, say a lady in a pink top, and made it my aim to slowly catch them up and overtake, and once past, pick someone else. Apparently it helps take your mind off the long term distance and gives you something to aim for, so once you get to your ‘hunted’ person, you feel like you have achieved something. And it certainly worked! Once along Park Street, I ran through the town, where yet more people were along the route cheering the runners on. I got a cheer from a lady who works at Keech Hospice Care that I know from volunteering for them. “Go Helen, you’re doing great!” she shouted as I ran past! Next to cheer me on was our board members Nigel and Cynthia – giving a wave as I ran past. I took off past the Galaxy and out onto Old Bedford Road. Along here was the first drinks station and I grabbed a cup of water as I ran past. Turns out it is incredibly difficult to drink from a plastic cup whilst running, as I know from the face full of water I got. As I was determined not to slow down to a walk, I decided I didn’t need a drink, so I chucked the cup to the kerb and carried on! Still hunting people down, I enjoyed the downhill run along past Popes Meadow, and as I approached the entrance to Wardown Park, the first runner was coming back out and on his way back to town! I clapped him and said ‘well done mate’, but he totally blanked me – how rude! Heading along the rest of Old Bedford Road I think I slowed down a little as, although it isn’t necessarily noticeable, the road does goes up hill, but it is a slow and steady incline, so slowing my pace down seemed to help. The legs were beginning to feel tired but I kept telling myself that I was doing this for charity – “I’ve raised over £2000 and I can do this!”

The second part of Old Bedford Road didn’t have many people out cheering, so it was a quiet stretch to run along, and the gaps between the runners was quite big, but I was still hunting people down and making steady progress. One man was out at the roundabout by Sixth Form College offering Jelly Babies for a sugar hit – and loving sweets, I wasn’t going to turn down that opportunity, so I grabbed two as I ran past! Eventually I turned down onto Kingsdown Avenue and it wasn’t until this point I realised how breezy it had been running along. Down this road it felt a lot easier so I managed to pick up my pace a little more and hit the 7km marker. From here the nerves kicked in again – everything past this point was further than I had ever run before! But I was still feeling fairly comfortable, making sure I was controlling my breathing with some deep breaths to get the air into my lungs. Down and turning left onto New Bedford Road, I realised I was virtually on the homeward stretch and heading back to town! I finally manage to overtake a lady I’d had in my sights to hunt down; she’d been running at a pretty steady pace similar to me. I had a little burst of pace and overtook some more people, before waving to Mike Hooker who had stopped by the side of the road in his car. Down and into Wardown Park, and I picked up a little more speed, past the next drinks station and back out onto Old Bedford Road. It was time to tackle the hill up past Popes Meadow, but I took in the runner’s tip of smaller steps and not looking too far ahead, and I managed to overtake four people – of which two had slowed down to a walk. The two still running had running club vests on, and I had managed to overtake them, me, who hates running had just overtaken two serious runners! Secretly inside me I was shouting “Yes!” and it gave me a new lease of life!

Huffing and puffing now, I passed the top of Cromwell Hill, and the safety steward said “come on girl, you can do this, not far now”. And I though “do you know what, he is right, I can do this!”. The end was almost in sight – and I knew that once I got along Old Bedford Road, I was very, almost, nearly there. I picked up speed and glanced at my fitbit – which read 52 minutes… I realised I could actually do this in just over an hour!

Still going at full speed, I continued to hunt down people, and before I knew it, I was back by the Galaxy – all I could hear was cheering, clapping and whistles… I was so nearly there! Past the Whitehouse, my legs started to feel like jelly and felt like they were about to give way, but I told myself I couldn’t slow down, so I powered on through, with one last lady to hunt down! I made it over the finish line just ahead of my last hunted lady and suddenly heard my friend shout “Helen, you did it!!!! Under an hour, well done!”. I was grinning from ear to ear, and got a hug from my friend before she presented me with my finishers medal and goodie bag. I was sooooo happy that I had actually finished and was still standing! I queued up for my official timing slip – all the time hoping that the timing chip on my trainer had worked! Whilst queuing, I spied my Dad looking ever so chuffed waiting for me, so I made my way over to him and got the biggest hug! After obligatory photos of me with my Dad and my medal, we headed to the other side to find Nigel and Cynthia who were still there to support me and made our way over to the Whitehouse. I saw Christine from Keech again, who also gave me the biggest hug to congratulate me on my run. I told her how much I had raised so far and she was over the moon with my achievement. Once at the Whitehouse, it was time for a traditional cooked breakfast – after all, I had earned it! I wasn’t the only one who had that idea either!

My final race stats were as follows:

Total run time: 55 minutes 47 seconds

103rd finisher out of 278 runners (overall starting position: 165th)

24th female to finish out of 141 (starting position of gender: 79th)

6th out of 19 in my gender age category (starting position in my category: 10th)

Footage of me crossing the finishing line here

So – the run is done! I still can’t stop smiling – I feel such a huge sense of relief that I could do it, and also to have smashed it in less than an hour, which I never thought I’d ever do! The adrenalin and support along the route definitely helped I think, and the thought of breakfast at the end!

Even now, I still feel so proud of myself for what I achieved, for someone who struggled to run and who really hates it – I think I did pretty well! I can’t say I love running now, but I do still want to keep doing one lunchtime run a week, as I worked so hard to get this far, I can’t just let it just drop now. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll attempt to run the Love Luton Half Marathon instead and raise money for next year’s chosen supporters’ charity! Maybe!

To date, I have raised an incredible £2443.26 – which has absolutely blown me away! My initial target was £500 so to have got almost 5 times as much is amazing! So a huge, huge thank you goes to every single one of you who very kindly sponsored me. I may not know you all, but I could hug you all – your support meant so much to me and it will be of a great help to our Supporters’ Charity of the Season, Keech Hospice Care.

It’s not too late to donate to this very worthy charity, and you can still do easily so by visiting my JustGiving page www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ltst4keech
Alternatively, you can text the words ‘LTST62’ plus your chosen amount (ie. £1, £5, £10, £20 etc.) to 70070. For example: LTST62 £10 to 70070.

Thanks again for all your support!


Helen ‘Still Hates Running’ Gatward





  1. Les Miller says:

    Helen “Hates Running” Gatward is now officially Helen “Two Breakfasts” Gatward !

    2017 – Love Luton 10k (tick !)
    2018 – Love Luton Half Marathon ?
    2019 – Virgin Money London Marathon ?

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