This weekend I experienced a night that was simultaneously one of the best and worst of my life to date – I took part in the Shine Walk London to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
Although the event started at 9.00pm, the sheer volume of people taking part meant that myself and my friends Carly and Sian crossed the line at 9.22pm, starting our 26.2 mile adventure through the night-time streets of London.
As I’m not naturally a fit person, nor do I particularly enjoy exercise, I was really nervous, but having lost several loved ones to Cancer, I wanted to take on this challenge to support Cancer Research UK.
The walk itself was hard work and I’ve since found out that due to complaints from residents about us walking near to their homes, last minute diversions had to be made which increased the mileage covered. Although there’s been no official word from Cancer Research UK as yet, most of those people taking part who used GPS software measured between 30 and 31 miles! Wowzer! That’s a pretty long way!
Dotted along the length of the course there were ‘pit stops’ where you could grab a bottle of water and a snack, pop to the toilet and seek medical attention if needed. The first place we really noticed others suffering was at the 12-mile point; there were blood covered feet and people passing out around us. The night air was lit up with the blue lights of an ambulance that was tending to somebody who had fallen and hurt themselves. At this point, Sian had to stop and get one of her feet bandaged and, sadly, due to the pain had to stop the walk shortly after.
Although I’ve been fretting about my dodgy knee for weeks, it held up fairly well and although it was giving me issues, I felt relatively ok until just after the 21-mile sign when it started to feel like the finish line was never going to appear. My knee hurt and kept giving way, my feet were burning, and even my arms and chest were aching for some reason. Carly didn’t feel much better. But, we decided we had got that far and there was no way we weren’t going to finish it.
As we crossed the finish line (10 hours, 16 minutes and 48 seconds after starting – they said to expect a 9-12 hour timeframe so I’m quite pleased!) I suddenly felt the fatigue and emotion hit me and as the Shine Walk team member placed my medal around my neck, for a second I thought I might shed a tear or two. As I looked around, there were dozens of people laying on the floor, exhausted or asleep, some covered by silver foil blankets. It was really moving to see the pain people had put themselves through and as I briefly caught the eyes of others, there was a moment of solidarity between us and a feeling of “We did it”.
By the time I got home, I had been awake for over 26 hours and felt like a broken woman. Everything hurt, I could barely walk, and most frustratingly, I couldn’t sleep! Despite climbing into bed and willing myself to get a little shut-eye, every time I drifted off my dreams were about my aching muscles and I’d wake up again. So, giving up, I had a cold shower (it’s supposed to be the best thing… it didn’t feel like it though!) and got dressed to go for a meal with K’s family as it was his Dad’s birthday.
At the time of writing this, I have raised £415.00 for Cancer Research UK which I am really proud of and I want to say a huge “Thank you” to each and every person who has donated. We have reached a point in our battle against Cancer where we can say that just as many people survive it as are lost to it, so with a little more time and research, I honestly believe a day will soon come where we can say we’ve beat it and it’s a curable disease.
For me, the most poignant part of the whole night was when we walked past the Cancer Research UK laboratory and their staff came outside in their white lab coats with ‘Thank you’ signs, cheering us on. The walkers reciprocated with clapping and shouts of thanks for the work they do which really resonated with me and cemented in my mind the reason why I was walking.
I’ve made a YouTube video of the walk so you can see what went on, which you can view by clicking the image below:
Immediately following the event on Sunday morning, I said I was never going to Shine again, but, I’ll be honest, there’s a chance I just might…
(Of course, I couldn’t walk around London after dark without taking lots of photos, so here’s some of the sights we saw…)