#HerTake: smashing stereotypes, realising our power

April 25, 2024

Photograph of Olive and her team mate on running track

Olive Harvey-Dew finds her strengths through running

I’ve always participated in different sports; both competitively and for fun. I love being active and getting involved in something that pushes me to my limits.

I like the social aspect that comes with being part of a team, having people around you that look out for you and enjoy your company. Also it doesn’t need to be central to your life. As a semi-introvert, that always makes the friendships special in their own way, while not too overwhelming.

I also, on the opposite side of my personality, like to show off a bit.

In school, I loved getting a podium position at the annual sports day. Normally, this would be for competing in the 100m or 200m sprint which I seemed to have a half-inherited and half-learnt knack for. This is probably where my love for running began.

And when I saw the Rio Olympics on the TV in 2016, it sparked a drive in me that’s never really left. Seeing athletes like Jessica Ennis Hill, Mo Farah and Dina Asher-Smith inspired me to see how far I could go.

I’ve been part of an athletics group for seven years now. Although the Olympic aspiration (which so many young people dream of) is not something I want anymore, I feel that running has been one of the main consistencies in my life.

One of my favourite aspects of running is the sense of peace it gives me that I don’t find anywhere else.

Running is not all peace and quiet, it’s a lot of grit and determination

It’s the act of breathing, knowing your body, and trusting that you can do something that may, at first, feel physically impossible. And then comes the calm of actually stopping; having two or three minutes, just being rewarded with slower breaths, and achy legs. This brings me a lot of joy.

Of course, however, running is not all peace and quiet. It’s a lot of grit, determination, pain and resilience, especially when a session involves ten 200m sprints with a two-minute break in between runs. It can feel relentless.

In fact, most of the time, running involves asking ourselves, why the hell am I doing this? And counting down laps till I can get back into a warm car and out of the rain. But I like that too.

As a 17-year-old girl, I’m already associated with weakness. Even as a young child I felt inferior in comparison to the boys. Half of the fight with running is about proving yourself and beating that stereotype: demonstrating girls and women are more than looks and can have a hobby which does, in fact, make them sweaty, cold, tired and, above all, strong.

So running can be both simplistic, basic, human, and at the same time complicated, socially aware and assertive. It’s about showing off emotion, and what makes us alive, as well as giving us a nice pair of legs along the way. And that’s what makes it life changing.

Explore running clubs in Barnet – give your legs a try!

Olive is currently studying A levels at Woodhouse College. She is part of running group which she loves. Olive enjoys writing about topics she's passionate about as well as editing images and film.

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