Well I’ve done it! Completed my first London Playtex Moonwalk. It took over 8hours, so needless to say my knees are very stiff and have got some juicy blisters to nurse. It’s the first Moonwalk I’ve done and I have to say I’m up for another – it’s a truly fantastic, fun, moving and uplifting experience.
I travelled up to London with Sarah, another moonwalker with whom I did my practise walk the ‘Long One’. We arrived at Hyde Park Corner around 19:25 and queued up. The queue grew very quickly and that’s when it dawned on me there weren’t many chaps taking part – but I kind of hoped that would be the case. 😉
I was blown away on entering Playtex city, the tent was huge, big enough to house all 15,000 walkers. The central isle of the tent was flanked by coloured flags matching the four colours of the starting groups. There was a stage at one end featuring Tina May and Richard Sheldon accompanied by the BBC Big Band, and later on BLAKE, amongst others. Paul O’Grady made an appearance in a very fancy bra featuring sequencing LEDs – very cool! Paul and Sara Cox took part in the Half Moon. Walkers take on wither the Full Moon or Half Moon, full or half marathon. I did the Full Moon.
We were given a choice of a rice or pasta dish and a flapjack. I went for pasta before donning my outfit, the bra, the lights and ribbons. A constant stream of walkers entered the tent as we were getting ready, like an incoming tide of pink hats. A great deal of imagination had gone into some of the costumes and bras. Decorated bras everywhere, feathers, lights, you name it! The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation.
At about 11pm a warm up act came on to get people ready for the off, yellow group first, followed by green , then orange (including me) and finally pink. Sarah made her way to the start with the Yellow group, leaving me behind to warm up some more, whilst waiting for Orange group to be called up. Orange group got going at 23:45 with me crossing the Start line at 23:48. It was a slow cosy shuffle to the start line and beyond for a while, until we hit the open (closed really) road around Hyde Park.
Walking in amongst so many people is bizarre. All the pink hats swaying from left to right created the illusion of a pink sea. Half Mooners wear white hats, and so I guess they were the white horses. The first mile or two was spent getting used to the idea that this is it and I was finally on my way, having spent some 3 hours waiting to start. I was complemented on my feathery bra, a theme that spanned the night and it was nice to be welcomed to what is a predominantly women’s event. Breast cancer affects men too, not to mention women close to us, so it’s great to have been given the opportunity to take part.
Around mile 3 I met Deborah, another lone walker. We got chatting and since we had a similar pace, stuck together for the rest of the way. I say similar pace, I was not quite as quick. I thought we were going quite fast, but not so, only 3 miles an hour to start with. This largely due to sheer number of walkers and crossing roads. Still she didn’t mind staying at my pace, something I’m very grateful for. To say Deborah was a lone walker was not true, she had a banana with her for quite sometime, slowly going blacker and blacker, until she finally consumed it, but I forget when.
We circled Hyde Park, before making our way down to Westminster, then along to Vauxhall Bridge, over and back on the South Bank, then beyond to Battersea Park, Chelsea, Westminster again then Hyde Park. My memory of the route is a little blurd, as staying awake through the night whilst walking a long way plays with the mind. I know we passed many iconic London landmarks such as The Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, The Globe, Tower Bridge, Battersea Park, The Mall, Horse Guards, Harrods, Kings Road. We passed many supporters along the way, including some bemused inebriated folk who were very complimentary and supportive.
Walking along way is hard enough, but staying awake through the night is really hard, especially for someone who likes his sleep! I swear my stomach went to sleep for a bit, as it felt rather nauseous for a while around 3am. So I munched through sports bars and chocolate to get me through.
I forget when, but dawn did arrive and it helped enormously, as you start to realise you’re half way. I wasn’t a big fan of the mile markers, as I prefer to not know how far I’ve walked. The reason being, I’m a bad estimator of distance and when I do find out, I’ve always walked further than I think. Deborah and I didn’t see the 14 mile marker, so when we saw 15miles, it was a very pleasant surprise!
As soon as we hit 20 miles the end seemed in sight. “Not far now”, I kept telling myself. I was growing tired, so much so, I got disorientated and thought we had to cross the river again to get back, which would have been odd, since we were already north side – the right side for Hyde Park.
The volunteers on the night are amazing stars and unsung heroes – they stayed up all night, constantly praising our efforts and cheering us on – vital work, as they make you smile, which seems to do more to fight pain than ibuprofen! I made a point of praising them too, as it’s no mean feat to do what they do.
Well done to all the organisers – you did a great job! It can’t be easy with all those walkers.
I’ve got some photos below, though not many, as it’s hard to concentrate on walking that far through the night. I know that sounds mad, but it’s true, you get drawn into focusing on finishing the walk.
To those who sponsored me – a BIG thank you – Your generosity ensured I hobbled to the very end, and it will go on to help in the fight against breast cancer.
I hope this gives some idea of what it’s like to do the Moonwalk, and maybe inspired you to join the next one, as there’s no knowing what it’s like until you’ve tried it. Well done if you too completed the walk, I’m sure you’ll be applying again – I know I will – see you next year!