I take part in my local Race for Life 5K every year because it’s a fun, easy run for charity, and because historically it has a guaranteed great atmosphere with hoards of supporters.
The event caters for runners, joggers and walkers and encourages everyone of every age and ability to participate.
However, during 2019 my local event in Tunbridge Wells clashed with a holiday abroad, so I ended up going to the Maidstone event instead, which was still great fun. And then of course in 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic happened, and I gave birth! So I hadn’t actually run my local Tunbridge Wells event since 2018 – shocking! Signing up for the 2021 event didn’t take any encouragement – I was so excited to return – and only paid £14.99 to enter.
So on Sunday 5th September, I picked mum up and parked down a side road near Dunorlan Park. We were only half an hour early, but were confused to see that the park was virtually empty of people. We could see the start and finish line, an ice-cream van and registration desk with First Aid, but nothing else. Back in 2018 there had been face-painting, merchandise, hot food, a Rock Choir, and Cancer Research volunteers walking around selling fake flowers. I know that Coronavirus restrictions are still in place for some events, but I was saddened by the stark contrast.
We sort of just stood and waited for something to happen. People gradually trickled into the park, and five minutes or so before we were due to set off, a lady came over a tannoy and asked everyone to enter the starting funnel. In all previous years, there has been different waves/start times for Runners, Joggers and Walkers, but this year, we were all muddled in together. Mum immediately started worrying that she didn’t want to be mixed in with runners.
I was wearing a USA Pro sports bra under an Adidas vest, Nike cropped leggings, Apple AirPods, and Nike Free Run trainers. The weather was slightly warm and muggy, so the outfit was perfect. Sadly though, the atmosphere was not – this wasn’t the Race for Life I know and love, and have been doing for years and years! The event had noticeably smaller amount of participants and supporters – it was the quietest I’ve ever seen it.
After a talk from the woman on stage, we all set off. I separated from mum and was aiming for a good time. However, the route had also changed – it used to be one 5K lap. Now, it was two laps, but felt longer than 5K! The signage was obvious and the marshals were encouraging, though, and I ended up being the first female to finish – there were three men in front of me.
The finish line was a bit underwhelming. I was handed a 2020 (not 2021!) event medal and directed towards a table hosting bottles of water and Soreen malt loaf. I waited for mum and we headed straight for the ice-cream van afterwards, which was the best thing about the day! 😦