The third for me has to be the London Moonwalk 2013.
Readers of my blog will know that I was excited to do my “double” this year. My personal challenge was to run the Brighton Marathon and then four weeks later, walk the London Moonwalk. Both personal challenges and in turn raising a few pennies for two well deserving charities.
The Brighton Marathon was the first run I have done of this distance which made the experience was not only exhausting, but extremely exhilarating. Exactly the words I would have used to describe the Moonwalk the first time I did it.
I am the kind of person who likes to be alone when faced with a challenge. I am never one to have a friend with me at an important doctor’s appointment, and I shooed my Mum away whilst I was in labour with my two children choosing only my husband to be present because he had to be! It does not bother me to eat dinner alone in a restaurant, nor to sit alone in the cinema. May be that is a compliment to myself, that I enjoy my own company.
The latter may have been the reason that for the second time in as many years I decided to take myself off to London, spend the evening among a crowd of thousands and spend the night walking 26.2 miles around London – alone.
This was perhaps many of the factors pertaining to why I didn’t find the Moonwalk that interesting this year. I find it hard to say that. I know there are thousands who enjoyed the challenge and have registered their interest straight away when they returned from the walk. After all, the reason I chose to do the walk alone this year was because I really enjoyed it alone last year right?
The first problem I found was that the venue had changed. Normally the walk starts in Hyde Park, which was me is extremely easy to get to by train. This year the walk started at Battersea Power Station, not so easy.
I decided to use a clever website that allowed you to book someone’s drive for the night and then walk from the house to the start line. This meant that I drove from home; through the centre of London to park up in a residential area I didn’t 100% trust. I was aware of the neighbours looking at my car, and then looking at me wearing my t-shirt that guaranteed to most that I would be away from my car for at least 6 hours of the evening, with the said car sporting a Home Counties radio sticker in the rear… I double checked the locks and set out on my way to the Power Station.
Typically of me I was early, so I joined the back of a very long queue. I kept myself busy by looking at the fantastic ladies (and men!) and the efforts they had made with their bra’s, I also did my good Samaritan bit by taking photo’s of the groups of ladies who were struggling to get photo’s together.
Finally the tent doors opened and we were on our way. I had a bit of a star-struck moment when I brushed against Nina Barough (the founder of the Moonwalk back in 1996) but that soon went when she raised a megaphone just above my ear to welcome the Moonwalkers (she is quite short and I am quite tall so the end of the megaphone met quite beautifully with the bottom of my ear!).
Being one the first into the tent meant that I could head straight to the massage section and get warmed up. This brings me onto my next problem. It was VERY cold. So the thought of taking off my t-shirt to expose my carefully decorated bra was not very appealing, and given the sights before me the other ladies were feeling the same. But I managed to prise my shirt from me to enter into the spirit of things to get a massage done, and get a temporary tattoo applied.
I calculated that I had about 3 hours in the tent to occupy myself before we set off for the walk. I knew of about 10 other ladies there that night who were doing the walk. I should have text them to find out their location and met up. I should have been social and I SHOULD have made more of an effort to soak up the atmosphere, but I didn’t. I sat on the ground, shivering and read my kindle. Stopping only for minutes at a time to glance at the time and check my phone.
At this point it sounds like I was having quite a miserable time. This isn’t true. I was just cold, and dare I say it, a little lonely. I just wanted to get going, complete the walk and get home to bed.
There was a poignant minute’s silent for absent Moonwalkers, a quick cuddle with strangers next to me and I was on my way to the start line. I would like to add again that it was EXTREMELY cold. There had been a heavy downpour an hour before so the ground was damp adding to the coldness. I don’t normally feel the cold too much but even I couldn’t bring myself to take my t-shirt off. As I looked around me it was clear that I was one of the brave ones. People were wearing their coats, gloves, hats and scarves. To the spectator this didn’t look like a mass event that was raising awareness by having people wear brightly decorated bra’s, this looked like a big crowd of people walking through London, for reasons unknown.
This brings me onto another problem. As I said earlier the event is normally held in Hyde Park. This is a busy park in London and as you pound for the first two to three miles of the walk there are a large group of people to support you. Many are there to support friends and family who are walking, but many are also passers by who are enjoying their nice day at the park and are hanging around to see what the event is all about. The change of venue to Battersea meant that the only supporters were the ones for the friends and family. So as we set off (at this point I really had to stop myself from breaking into a run to get warm as quickly as possible!) to the sound of a claxon and pleads from Nina to take our shirts off to expose our bra’s, it was head down, walk fast and lets get the job done.
In past Moonwalks, the route has always been breathtaking. Not to say that is wasn’t this time round, it’s just that in my opinion they got it round the wrong way Historically you were taken round the monuments of London first (Big Ben, Embankment, Buckingham Palace) where the crowds were in abundance and cheering you on. The second part of the walk is normally spent watching drunks fall out of nightclubs, and avoiding the puke and leers of the young men out and about. That in itself is quite amusing. Having this round the other way, made the walk quite boring for the first half. There wasn’t even the token group of lads to wolf-whistle you along (may be it was the fact that we all still had our tops on!), just long dark streets with the odd car rolling by to give you a beep. This too was quite concerning. There were points at the start of the walk where I was walking in down a back street alone, with only a few lamps to guide me along. It was then that I realised the risk I was taking being alone, and this made me walk that bit quicker.
I seemed to be “cat and mousing” with a lady for a good two miles around this time. She would reach me and then pass me, only to slow to get a drink or some food which is when I would catch her until she slowed again. It was at the stage where were walking next to each other that we began to strike up conversation. It is amazing the things that you will find to talk about to a stranger when you have to. We were both alone, both cold and both bored. Before long we had put the worlds to rights and we were at mile 22 where she stopped for the toilet and I carried on the last 4.2 miles back alone again.
I was grateful for the distraction but now I just wanted to get the walk done. I was aware that I would then have to walk the 2 miles back to the car from the finishing line and drive home from London (the lady I was walking with was from Scotland, she was flying home that afternoon, it stunned me that people would make all that effort!), so as much as I was annoyed at my extra journey I found comfort in the thought that I would hopefully be home and tucked up in bed in a couple of hours.
I crossed the finishing line alone, without any jubilation and scowled at the lady who tried to give me a medal for the Half Moonwalk (13.1 miles). I glanced up at the time and realised that I had completed the walk in just less than 6 hours – exactly the same time as I had the year before. Yet, the feelings I were experiencing were completely different.
Last year I hung around the tent. I got a hot chocolate and I stretched my legs out in a short walk back to the other walkers to cheer them on, proudly flashing my finishers’ medal. This year I continued to walk to the exit and hot-foot it back to my car. Once home I showered quickly and climbed into bed with a sense of satisfaction that it was done.
Before the walk, I had been toying with the idea of it being my last Moonwalk for a while, and my feelings throughout the event and after confirmed this for me. I cannot work out if it was the event that has lost its sparkle or me who has lost enthusiasm. Deep down I suspect a bit of both. Either way it does not take away the amazing achievements of all the walkers on the night, not to mention the volunteers who stood in that cold weather cheering us on.
I always said that one year I would like to volunteer for the event which I will think about for next year. I do know for certain that I don’t think I want to walk it for a while.
Where you there? What did you think of the event?
So for now, its time to hang my marathon trainers up and look forward to my balmy summer evening runs and early morning gym sessions.
Winter training – DONE!