I am most pleased to report that Emma, Gemma, Jo and I conquered the London Moonwalk last weekend (11 May 2013)!
For those of you who don’t know, the London Moonwalk is an event which takes place every year to raise funds for breast cancer causes. Nearly 18,000 participants this year power walked a marathon (26.2 miles), which we chose to do, or a half marathon (13.1 miles) whilst wearing decorated bras to raise awareness for breast cancer.
I wanted to blog about my experience of taking part in the Moonwalk mainly so that I could let all the generous people who sponsored us know how much we appreciated their donations (they really kept me going during the many ‘walls’ I hit along the way), and also to spread the word about this unique event. For more information visit the Walk the Walk website.
My Mum was due to be part of our team, but unfortunately during training was diagnosed with sesamoiditis and was advised to rest. It was such a shame as I know she really wanted to be part of it, but she was still very supportive of us and was there with us in spirit on the night (she said she couldn’t sleep for wondering how we were doing and whereabouts we were).
We did plenty of training, starting early in the new year with some short walks (in all weathers, including sleet and snow!), building up our distance and speed each time. The training walks were the best part for me – it was lovely to catch up with the girls regularly and was a good reason to get out for a walk during my lunch break at work too. I always felt much better and more productive on the days I did. I really feel that entering the challenge and working towards and achieving a goal brought us closer together as friends (ahh!)…we got ample opportunity to catch up on each other’s’ news – it’s a wonder that we never ran out of things to talk about or songs to sing to keep us going (our walking repertoire included 80s classics, hymns and current top 40 hits).
Once I got over the initial weeks when I really wasn’t too keen on getting up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and going out, I soon began to look forward to the training walks and got quite a buzz from them. Our last training walk was the longest at 20 miles, which we did two weeks before the big day. The training plan advises that ‘if you can do 20 miles, you can do 26’, so after a very tough 16 miles the previous week we were pleased to find the 20 not so bad, and finished feeling confident about the challenge ahead. (It has been pointed out to me since the weekend that when they say ‘if you can do 20, you can do 26’ this by no means = ‘you will do it easily’! How true!).
We got together to decorate our bras the weekend before the walk. The theme was ‘Shoot for the Stars’ and Emma had managed to find some fab star printed fabric in pink, black and white, as well as some star sequins that we used. See the pic of our creations below:
I spent the week before the Moonwalk in a pretty strange (rather bad) mood…looking back I think it was nerves and apprehension, the fear of the unknown. I was still feeling decidedly out of sorts all day on the Saturday, both physically and mentally. Who would have thought it would have such an impact on me! On the day we arrived in London in time to have dinner and indulged in a pre-walk ‘carb feast’ at Zizzi, where we bumped into many other Moonwalkers who had had the same idea.
We then made our way over to Battersea Power Station where the walk was starting, and found ourselves at the back of a very very long queue to get into the big pink marquee that had been erected as a holding place for all the walkers. Rain had been forecast on and off all day, but it was due to be dry from 9pm. At about 8.30pm, whilst standing in the long long queue, we got absolutely drenched when the heavens opened. It was a race to get our ponchos on (provided in our Walk the Walk packs), and much hilarity ensued. Our grins turned to grimaces when the rain stopped and we realised that we were pretty sodden, including our vital walking apparatus (feet), and very cold. I think at that point we all wanted to turn around and go home. This was illustrated by the fact that when we managed to bump into some friends who were doing the Half Moon, I was extremely and out of character moody and rude (my apologies again Kat, the Moonwalk apprehension got the better of me!).
We got our bearings in the marquee and found the professional photographer, where we did the quickest strip in history to have our team photo taken in our bras and pink tutus, followed by the quickest re-dress you have ever seen, such was the level of our self-consciousness. Not everyone was so shy – there were plenty of creative bra decorations and many amusing sights to see, from feathers and MIB (Men in Bras) to pink wigs and glitter aplenty. We got some temporary pink tattoos put on our faces and we were ready for the off. After much hanging around and goings on on the stage that we couldn’t see (or really hear) it was time for us to set off. We passed the starting line at 10.52pm, taking in the many people braving the night-time elements in just their bras, compared to us who each had about five layers on by this point (which is the way it stayed, despite our intentions of walking in our bras for the last couple of miles).
An initial highlight was seeing British comedienne Jennifer Saunders, who was walking the Half Moon with a team called ‘Jen’s Big Tits’! As you may know, Jennifer was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago and after a tough and private battle with the disease, she was given the all clear in June 2010. It was great to see her walking, and Gemma being a big fan was particularly happy to see one of her idols.
The first few miles were hard for me – I wasn’t feeling quite right and was quite overwhelmed by the whole experience. I really didn’t think I would get very far and was very tempted to jump into one of the patrol cars and ask for a lift back to Battersea! But after a few miles I found my stride and it got slightly easier. We passed ‘Made in Chelsea’ types outside bars/clubs, a rather attractive bunch of firemen standing outside their station, and plenty of cheerful marshals who all cheered us on enthusiastically.
Miles 1-6 weren’t too bad, then they started to pass somewhat slower. When we reached mile 10 we were pleased to have got to double figures at least. Just after mile 13 was our self-imposed first loo stop (we didn’t want to stop before halfway) and we were feeling decidedly chipper considering it was 3.00am and we had been walking for four hours. Then things got really tough. Our route took us along the embankment of the Thames, and at one point we thought we must have surely missed a mile marker, only to realise we hadn’t (that was surely a distance measuring mistake by the organisers?!). We then walked back on ourselves on a massive loop around the City, before popping out back on the Thames at the Tower of London at mile 21. At this point one of our team hit a big fat ‘wall’ and we thought she wasn’t going to be able to carry on, but after some time, hot chocolate, plenty of water and with the aid of her space blanket she somehow got up and carried on.
The last five miles were a more or less straight walk back to Battersea along the South Bank. We watched the sun come up over the Tower of London (and Emma pointed out that I had ticked two things off my Bucket List – completing the Moonwalk and staying up all night and watching the sun come up, hurrah!). The South Bank is my favourite part of London and I was looking forward to finishing our challenge there, but walking along it at 5.00/6.00am on a Sunday morning, with 20-odd miles behind us, I barely remember any of it! I thought I would take photos as we went, but we just wanted to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and getting my phone out of and raising my arm was just too much effort at that stage given the waves of tiredness hitting me like the metaphorical sledgehammer. Stopping for photos wasn’t an option – I don’t think we would have got started again!
You may have got the impression by now that I found the Moonwalk very very very (very) hard! But there were many high points as well, and we kept each other going with chat, funny stories, pointing out landmarks and commenting on the places and people we passed. We finally crossed the finish line at 6.52am, our completion time therefore being exactly eight hours. The relief to have made it to the morning, to be able to stop walking and to be bathed in beautiful warm sunshine was incredible. We were a mixture of dazed, confused and euphoric as we made our way back to London Victoria (where we stopped off for a well-deserved McDonald’s breakfast!). Pretty soon the experience took on a surreal dream-like quality – ‘did we really do that or did we dream it?’. But do it we did, and we have the blisters and aching legs to prove it!
We have all said that we don’t want to do it again, that it was a one off, but perhaps it is one of those experiences like childbirth (not that I know about this first-hand) where the memory of how hard it was fades and you go on to do it again?! We will see what next year brings…But for now I am looking forward to a much anticipated holiday (which will be the subject of future posts I’m sure).
Thank you so much to those of you who sponsored us. Individually my total was just under £350, and as a team we are well over the £1,000 mark which is just brilliant.
Until next time, love and Moonwalking, sm x