Night Walk to Fight Cancer

Every angel must fly - your outfit is unlimited as your imagination
Every angel must fly – your outfit is unlimited as your imagination

This Saturday night, as you turn in, give a thought to the 15,000 walkers who’ll be lining up for the 18th London Moonwalk.

They’ll be setting off from Clapham Common round about midnight in decorated bras to fight breast cancer.

With the last ones expected back between 11 o’clock and midday on Sunday, it’s safe to say some will be walking non-stop for around 12 hours!

They’ll be going through highs – and lows – as they tread mile after mile over the Full Moon marathon distance – 26.2 miles (you can do the Half Moon if you prefer), and not having the usual sleep can do crazy things to their minds.

I found out abou t the Moonwalk when I interviewed Beth Graham and Reggie Pugh (Photo: BBC)
I discovered the Moonwalk when I interviewed Beth Graham and Reggie Pugh (Photo: BBC)

Trust me – I’ve been there! I did the event twice – in 2004 and 2006.

Despite clocking up the necessary miles in training, nothing prepared me for the mental and emotional impact it would have on me, but this in itself contributed to the sense of achievement that will stay with me for life.

I first found out about it when I was working as a broadcast journalist for the BBC’s regional internet sites in the East Midlands.

Celebrities do it too - here's TV presenter Lorraine Kelly
Celebrities do it too – here’s TV presenter Lorraine Kelly

Moonwalk founder Nina Barough is Leicester-born and I interviewed a couple of her Nottingham-based friends as they prepared to join her power-walking the Paris Marathon.

On my first attempt I travelled to and from London with another woman from the East Midlands who was significantly faster than me, so she went on ahead.

Walkers get tired - but keep going!
Walkers get tired – but keep going! (Photo: BBC)

You do need to “hook up” with other people, I find, if only for moral support – they will help you when you’re feeling low and vise versa.

With me that sense of what-on-earth-was-I-thinking-of-when-I-signed-up-for-this didn’t really kick in until well after we’d completed the half distance.

It hit me when we got to Battersea Park… even the very words – Battersea. Park. impact on me, even now!

Events like this help bread down taboos
Events like this help break down taboos (Photo: Daily Mail)

The first time, I undertook the event as a journalistic venture and had a rucksack containing recording equipment plus a utility belt Batman would envy.

Everyone who takes part gets a bra which they can then customise any way they like.

I encountered one woman taking a sitting break under a bridge in the early stages – hers depicted photos of George Bush and Tony Blair with the caption “What A Pair of T*ts”.

“So you’re anti the Iraq war?” I asked her.

“‘Fraid so,” she replied.

The event is the brain-child of Leicester-born Nina Barough
The event is the brain-child of Leicester-born Nina Barough

Not wanting to enter into the finer points of current events, I kept on walking. And kept on, and on.

By the time you get to the Embankment the mile markers seem further and further apart and you daren’t risk sitting down for fear you won’t get up again.

You play mind-games with yourself, try out mental arithmetic, play out songs in your head (my favourite was “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave from 1977 – something I couldn’t have predicted!)

What a way to see London!
What a way to see London!

I did hook up with two women who were friends and they let me walk with them. They did, however, decline my request for an interview afterwards!

One looked close to tears on a number of occasions – blisters, leg ache, it wasn’t clear – I just remember her saying decisively “Not since giving birth can I ever remember being in so much pain.”

My second go – and I’m surprised that there was a second time, believe you me – involved me joining Paula Dear, another BBC journalist who’d already done the event, and three of her friends.

Moonwalk - park
Park life – you’re all in it together

This time wasn’t nearly as traumatic, not least because I was in a group from start to finish.

Instead of nuts and raisons (which had remained untouched in my bum-bag), I snacked on chocolate and found it a lot more satisfying!

I even half-walked-half-jogged the final stages (it started and finished in Hyde Park then).

Regarding bras, and the issue of modesty – if, like me, you don’t like showing off your cleavage, then there is no pressure to do so.

My decorated bra (dyed purple with black-fringing) remained covered under a sports top during my second Moonwalk and I felt a lot more comfortable.

Paula and her friends all had camoflage-print bras, but again, these were “camoflaged” – under t-shirts.

Wonder if these bra cookies featured in the fundraising?
Wonder if these bra cookies featured in the fundraising?

It really does come down to how you feel. The pink bra logo features on the t-shirt anyway so the message isn’t lost.

One thing I really love is that events like this are demystifying cancer, breaking down taboos, and getting people talking – and that can only mean we’re one step nearer a cure.

On the all-important fundraising issue, Walk The Walk grants funds to other charities and organisations including Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

And last week – WalkTheWalk officially hit the £100m fundraising mark.

So think about these intrepid walkers as you turn in for the night – and Good Luck to everyone taking part!

For WalkTheWalkAmerica – just click here.

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