When, back in November, I signed up to do this year’s Moonwalk I did have a nagging worry gnawing away at the back of my mind: last year’s was cold and miserable. But surely it would be balmy for the walk this year? Surely it couldn’t be bitterly cold for two consecutive years. And all through our training walks, most of them in the cold or the wet, slipping and sliding through the mud, I had in my my mind that it would be lovely on the actual night. In fact, if it had been held LAST week, it would have been a perfect night for walking a marathon in our bras. But suddenly the walk was upon us and the weather forecast was treacherous. “Showery,” it said ,'”with temperatures as low as 4 degrees.” That and the low level cold I picked up in Germany combined to make me very nervous about Saturday night’s walk. I don’t think I ever doubted that I’d complete the marathon. We had, after all, done three 20 mile training walks, but I wasn’t feeling very well and I had no idea what state I’d be in at the end.
But I had good advice from a friend who did it last year. “Wear layers. A neoprene jacket and a cashmere cardi. You can always strip down to your bra for the end of the walk. Everyone knows by now what the Moonwalk is all about.” I decorated my bra, still with high hopes of somehow entering into the letter of the walk as well as the spirit but a heavy, squally downpour as we waited in the mile-long queue to enter the Moonwalk site finished off that ambition completely. Maybe next time. As we entered the organised chaos of the pink Moonwalk tent, my mood was at a low. So many people. Long queues for everything. Nowhere to sit AND a gust of wind had carried away my space blanket and bag tag already. My gloves were soaked through, I was freezing cold and I was having to deal with this NOISE and bustle. 17,000 women (and some men) in various states of undress and excitement. Rush hour on Thane – Mumbai commuter trains sprang to mind immediately. Anyone who knows us will understand that John and I don’t cope well with this sort of situation and I longed to get out into the relative peace and quiet of the night.
It was when the London Rock Choir sang “Something Inside So Strong,” that my mood lifted. We’d hugged the people around us and stood hand in hand in silence, 17,000 of us remembering why we were doing this: for all those people who had battled, were still battling, breast cancer and their friends and families. Tears of determination rolled down my face but, do you know what? I wasn’t embarrassed. It was an emotional, supportive, wonderful moment and I dedicated my marathon walk to someone still fighting.
There were delays at the start, with people not wanting to wait their turn. I could understand this: with all the queuing, for entrance, food, the loo, and delays so far in the evening, we just wanted to get started and get it over and done with. Evenutually, at around 11.30, we were on our way. This was not a race, more a snake of grim determination to make it to the end in spite of the cold. 26.2 miles (42.6Km) is a heck of a long way. But, as someone said, “It’s just one foot in front of the other. Many, many times.”
Memorable moments for me:
- All the passing motorists who beeped their horns in support and the drunken guys in Chelsea who came out and yelled at us good-naturedly. The guy in the jeep with the Dukes of Hazzard horn who drove up and down the Chelsea Embankment after midnight. He was back again at 6am on the Embankment near Blackfriars.
- The window shopping in Chelsea and Kensington and passing the bright young things spilling out of nightclubs at 2am.
- The lights of London. It’s a very pretty city when emptied of its usual crowds and bustle. The new skyscrapers going up around the place are starting to make it look like Singapore. It’s interesting, though, that the traffic never seems to stop and we had to be marshalled across road junctions by the many Walk The Walk volunteers. The exception to this was the peace and quiet around Buckingham Palace, Green Park and Horseguards Parade.
- The two men, one large one small, in pink cowboy hats who appeared on three occasions during our walk, separated by several hours each time. They sat silently and watched us, smiling.
- The point, at around half way, when we said goodbye to the Half Mooners, who finished their walk at 13 miles. We waved to them then faced the awful realisation that we hadn’t even covered half of our route.
- The Palace of Westminster and the Big Ben clock, at 4.15 just as the sky was starting to lighten.
- Our arrival at Tower Bridge at about 6am. Hot chocolate was waiting for us and people taking their dogs for an early walk had turned out to watch and support. A large chocolate labrador looked particularly bemused.
- As we processed down the South Bank of the turquoise Thames past the Tate Modern and the Wobbly Bridge we looked over to the other side of the river and saw Moonwalkers in the opposite direction knowing that we had been there over two hours before. Wow. I’ll bet that was tough for them.
My right foot gave out at about 23 miles, and still hurts and my chest tightened all evening. I honestly thought that I was about to have an asthma attack at the ten mile mark. But stopping was inconceivable lest I found it impossible to start again. On we ploughed, grim in our determination to beat the unyielding pavements and the freezing gusty blasts, the aches and pains and tiredness and the hunger and the thirst. Some dressed in their underwear but most chose to be sensibly wrapped up. We were a pink parade of hope; a manifestation of defiance, all perfectly well aware of why we were there.
And the last mile. That last mile that felt like three miles. And the stagger to the finish. 7 hours 40 minutes. We did it.
Miraculously, I have no blisters and all my toenails are intact. I hope the pain in my foot is just a passing strain and will recover in time. I am exhausted but I’ll get over that. Inconceivably, I have raised nearly £600, double my target, in sponsorship and donations for people fighting breast cancer and their families. You can still donate, if you want to, by clicking on the pink SPONSOR ME button to the right of this page, which will take you to my Walk the Walk Fundraising Page.
Would I do it again? Possibly. But not for a while.