It was a dark and stormy night..........No really, it was. After a quick trip down the M4, and parking at Furniture City, we joined a queue of Princess Leia's, Aliens, Space Cowboys, and some fantastic metallic leggings. Arriving in the pink-tented Moonwalk city, it was a mad dash for the main tent as all of the 17,000 walkers were the recipients of a sudden and forceful downpour.
Walk the Walk is a charity marathon for breast cancer research, funding, and support. Having grown from a small event, the charity now hosts walks across the world both through the night and morning. For the MoonWalk, you can participate in either a half or full marathon through the city at night. Part of the fun is that everyone is meant to walk in bras, having decorated them, as a show of support for the cause.
The tent was full of volunteers and walkers, eating dinner, getting massages and removable tattoos, and socializing. So much chatting and laughter came out of the tent that at times between the number of bodies in one place and the roar of the crowd it was almost unbearably real how many people know this cause.
We sat amongst the crowd and I watched as women and men shed their self-consciousness and flaunted their artistic prowess with unique designs, fun fabrics, cupcakes, and flowers on their bras. It was a moment of bravery: forgetting those feelings of insecurity and the nerves that come with being proud of your body no matter what its condition.
Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with a form of childhood cancer. I was lucky—my treatment went well, I was never re-hospitalized, I never had a re-occurrence but I lost my hair. All of it. The hair that I had grown long since I was very little, that I was so proud of, and that I thought I couldn’t live without was the first outward sign of being sick. We first cut it to my shoulders and then we shaved it off completely after I couldn’t stand having it fall out anymore. I usually wore a bandana to school to hide my head, but my first day back I took the bandana off: I was delighted and surprised to see how my fellow 11 and 12 year olds came together and supported me. They made it so I didn’t feel like “the sick kid”. That kind of group support is what many cancer patients fear they won’t have, and you find during treatment that it is the groups of people in your life that help to get you through. It has been 10 years since I finished chemotherapy with the support of my family, friends, and doctors.
As we walked around that tent, and I saw the faces of men and women who understood what it is to know that disease. We were led in a moment of silence as all the MoonWalkers reflected on three women who had signed up for the walk in October, but lost their battle with breast cancer in the intervening months. It’s serious this cause—it used to be that cancer happened to someone you knew through someone else. Now it’s your mum, your brother, your cousin. Your child.
Leaving the starting line, we walked through crowds and along the bank of the Thames being supported by people all across the city. Through the first long mile, we had car after car honking at us and yelling out to us. Through miles three to five, we trudged—around the Thames and up to Hyde Park. Our feet ached, Sean’s cricket-weary body was kept from bollards by a few well-timed “look out!”s, Lisa powered ahead, and we stopped at more than one red light. Then the tough part came: from mile five through ten, we walked around Hyde Park, South Kensington, and then the rest of the Park around to Hyde Park Corner. Without tourist views, we relied on each other and told stories, getting to know each other. The walk became a union of individuals fighting to keep breast cancer research supported and at the forefront of people’s minds.
At mile ten, we were cold and tired, as was the rest of the 17,000. But as we progressed, we saw those who were walking the full 26 miles and couldn’t believe that they were able to keep going through the rest of the walk. The last few miles of the walk were a show of teamwork and solidarity. The discomfort…the blisters—nothing in comparison to cancer treatment—but those aches and pains made us feel like we’d conquered something important, and that we’d done it as a team. Without Sean to chat to, or Laura’s smile to keep up morale, it would have been harder mentally than it was.
That’s the moral of the story here: physically we were shattered. Sitting felt like the best thing I’d ever done. But mentally I didn't feel full of despair or discouraged. I felt like I had succeeded with my team and that we had accomplished something that people don’t do on an everyday basis. Half-marathon or full-marathon, it is something to be proud of: we challenged ourselves and succeeded with the help and support of each other. Our team raised £1,335.00 with the help of our families and friends, our thanks belong to them for their love and support.
"I'd like to congratulate all the six team members (Penny, Nicole, Sean, Laura, Lisa and Katherine) who put their feet and legs (and most of their body) on the line in this charity event. You raised a tremendous amount for a great cause and we're all really proud of your efforts." James Bessant, Park Street People Director: