London – The Moonwalk marathon, what a way to see the city at night!

Heading for the Big Pink Tent

Heading for the Big Pink Tent

The London Moonwalk is an annual event and this would be my second one. It’s a tough challenge to walk twenty six point two miles but when you don’t start until midnight and you’re dressed in leggings and a decorated bra it is more like torture and should probably be banned under the Geneva Convention. Still, it is to raise money and awareness for breast cancer and it’s a novel way of seeing London.

Number pinned, costume on, room showered with fallen stars

Number pinned, costume on, room showered with fallen stars

Moonwalks are always themed and this year the theme was Fly Me To The Moon, which meant anything loosely connected with space or sic fi. My costume was black with lots of stars, a Moon, planets plus a few rockets and aliens thrown in.

Battersea Power Station from the train

Battersea Power Station from the train

We actually passed Battersea Power Station, the starting point this year, on the train. The sky over it did not look promising and I was glad I had my windproof waterproof coat with me. When we got to the front entrance to the iconic London landmark we were disappointed to see a long pink and white queue going right along the block and round the corner. There were mumbles from some of the group. Those of us who’d done the Moonwalk before were not surprised, the queues last time were legendary.

A long, long queue

A long, long queue

Around the corner it became apparent that the queue stretched right along the block and round the next corner too. The grumbles grew louder. By the time we found the end of the queue we had walked almost a mile and of course that meant we had to shuffle another mile in the queue to get in. Still we were looking right at the back of the building with the four tall white chimneys towering above us and, through a small arch, we could actually glimpse the big pink Moonwalk tent. At this point the gates hadn’t actually opened so the queue was just getting longer and longer. Lots of people walked past grumbling loudly and saying how unfair it was and a few tried to cut into the line but they got short shrift from everyone already queueing.

Battersea Power Station from the Moonwalk queue

Battersea Power Station from the Moonwalk queue

Once the queue did start to move it moved quite quickly thank goodness. We shuffled forwards at a relatively speedy pace. There was a lot of good natured banter and complements on costumes. It seemed everyone had interpreted the theme in their own way. There were quite a few Princess Leia’s and aliens, one woman had a silver sprayed bin made into a space helmet. I didn’t envy her trying to walk in that and hoped, for her sake, she was only doing the Half Moon.

A mad dash for the tent

A mad dash for the tent

Finally we got through the gate and had our numbers checked. Just as we were strolling towards the tent the heavens opened. A real deluge. The Walk the Walk Official shouted, “run for the tent,” and started rushing people inside. We made it just in time to save us getting soaked to the skin but I suppose the people further back in the queue weren’t so lucky. The rain just kept falling.

There was a very emotional minute of silence announced by Nina Barough. Three women, all victims of breast cancer, had signed up for this Moonwalk believing they would be able to complete it. All three had actually died. Friends or family had chosen to walk in their places and were somewhere amongst the heaving crowds. That really bought home exactly what we were all doing this for.

My start time was supposed to be just after eleven so when my friend Mr Bumble decided to see if the loo queues were still bearable I said I’d go too to have one last almost indoor wee before I set off. I didn’t particularly want to go but it seemed like a good plan to try. As it turned out it was a lucky move and also lucky I didn’t really need to go. When we got outside people had started to line up for the first start, mine. Thank goodness I decided not to bother with the loo queues and to join the group at the start line. I’d been there hardly any time at all when Nina appeared on the high platform beside the start banner and started the countdown to the off. Minutes later I was walking under the banner starting off my WalkJogRun tracker.

Walking towards

And so we set off into the night

Not long after I crossed the start line, while the going was still very slow due to sheer numbers of walkers, I spotted the tale tell sign of sparse tufts of fluffy hair under a Moonwalk cap. The first of many cancer sufferers walking the walk with me. I may have already mentioned once or twice what a gruelling challenge a walking marathon is when undertaken at night. The efforts of someone suffering from the evil disease we are all trying so hard to wipe out make the rest of our sacrifices and sufferings pale into insignificance. I was in awe on many occasions that night, this was the first time.

Lights twinkling on the Thames

Lights twinkling on the Thames

After we’d walked under the arch of pink balloons and out of Battersea Power Station into the dark night we crossed Vauxhall Bridge and passed the mile one marker then along Grosvenor Road beside the Thames. The group was tightly packed but walking at a reasonable pace. I looked out over the river at the lights reflected in the water. The power station seemed to have a pink glow and I wondered if that was down to Walk The Walk or if it was always that colour at night. It looked quite beautiful to me. Further along By the mile two marker I could see the bright lights of Chelsea bridge through the trees and the river danced with their reflection.

Why is Battersea Power Station pink?

Why is Battersea Power Station pink?

The closer I got the pinker it seemed

The closer I got the pinker it seemed

How pretty does the bridge look?

The bright lights of Chelsea Bridge reflected in the Thames

Across the bright bridge we marched and onto Carriage Drive North where women, myself included, began to disappear into the undergrowth for the first time that night. Well, I hadn’t managed to fit in my toilet stop back in Moonwalk City after all. The mile three marker came into view at the same time as the lights of Albert Bridge. This bridge is one of the most striking in the capital, illuminated by more than four thousand bulbs. Built in 1873, it was originally a toll bridge But the tolls were lifted six years later, although the toll booths remain. Londoners call it The Trembling Lady because it vibrates when large numbers of people cross it together. There are signs saying ‘weak bridge’ which was a worry  but I can’t say I noticed any trembling as the never ending stream of pink crossed.

The mile three marker with Albert Bridge ahead

The mile three marker with Albert Bridge ahead

Crossing Albert bridge in a long pink stream

Crossing Albert bridge in a long pink stream

The stream of Moonwalkers carried on along Royal Hospital Road, named for the Royal Hospital Chelsea which we passed. There is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant along there somewhere but I didn’t notice it. I did however see a sign on a little gate saying Chelsea Physic Garden which piqued my interest. At home I looked it up and it’s the second oldest apothecaries garden in England, established in 1673. The list of rare and unusual plants is massive and I’d love to have stopped and visited. Of course it was night time and dark so even if I had time it would have been shut. The statues and friezes outside the National Army museum were interesting too but darkness meant I couldn’t take photos. With exhibits and information going back as far as 1066 This is another place I’d like to visit Preferably during the day with time on my hands. This was mile four.

On we walked into Lower Sloane Street then Kings Road, made famous in the 1960’s as the home of fashion. Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood walked this road, Malcom Maclaren had a boutique there. Originally it was a private road for King Charles II to get to Kew, hence the name, it was also the first place in England to have a Starbucks. Starbucks was closed which was a pity, I could have done with a skinny latte right about then. The mile five marker came into view and I got my first snack out of the bum bag, a little plastic bag filled with Minstrels.

The sweets lasted into Beaufort Street and part of the way along Fulham Road. Almost a mile of slowly sucking chocolate through crunchy shells. Towards the end of Fulham Road, just before it curved round into Brompton Road I saw the mile six marker, just twenty to go then. Along Knightsbridge Green into Knightsbridge and lots of shops I’d like to visit if only they were open and if only I was rich, this was the home of Harrods, Harvey Nicks, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Prada a veritable  shoppers paradise. Kensington Road was mile seven, with Kensington Park to our right. The park was closed so no chance to nip into the bushes there.

Leaving the park behind we came to Kensington High Street and mile eight. This was another place I’d like to have stopped and shooped although it seems to have lost its sparkle a little since the old days of Biba. There was no stopping though and no shopping, we quickly turned off into Kensington Chruch Street, all closed restaurants and antique shops, then Notting Hill Gate, not that I had a clue where I was at the time. Notting Hill Gate used to be a toll road which is where the name came from and it is, thankfully, not a hill and the Notting Hill of film fame is further north.

Soon we were on Bayswater Road and the mile nine marker just before the Broad walk. I became a little obsessed with spotting those markers and counting down the miles and mile nine marked a third of the walk. I heard a couple gleefully saying it was nearly over and realised they must be Half Mooners, for me the other two thirds stretched ahead into the dark night.

We went round the other side of Kensington Gardens then Hyde park and mile ten. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one looking longingly into the locked parks at the tantalising glimpses of so many trees but none we could get to to wee behind. Perhaps the parks were locked because so many Moonwalkers used them for rest stops in the past. There were toilets here but the queues were long and I remembered my twenty minute wait the first time so I carried on, hoping to spot somewhere soonish.

Bayswater road seemed to go on forever but eventually we turned into Cumberland Gate where I sat on a wall and opened my first chocolate milk. A woman was climbing over the spiked railing out of the park, helped by others. Those spikes looked a little dangerous to me but I understood why she’d taken the risk. Then it was Park Lane of Monopoly board fame, following the perimeter of the park.

On to Picadilly and the mile eleven marker at Hyde Park Corner then Knightsbridge again. most people were walking in groups or with friends, everywhere women were chatting and I caught little snatches of their conversations as I passed them or they passed me. One woman was telling another how she didn’t work because she had two Labradors she looked after, she walked them seven miles a day. All I could think was what an idyllic life she had, until she went on to say how much she loved ironing.

Now I saw I was in Sloane Street. The mile twelve marker was near Cadogan Gate. Then it was along to Sloane Square. The square looked so different in the dark I hardly registered where I was. Around here there were signs telling the Half Mooners to break off and I had to concentrate to make sure I went the right way with the Full Mooners.

The walkers thinned out as the group split and I found I could walk faster as Sloane Square changed impreerceptibly to Cliveden Place, Eaton Gate, Eaton Square, Hobart Place. Round the corner into Grosvenor Place and past Buckingham Palace Gardens. It didn’t seem right to use the queens gardens as a toilet so I carried on. Half way along Grosvenor place WalkJogRun buzzed to tell me I’d walked thirteen miles, more or less half way although my buzzes and the markers were not quite in sync and it was a little while before I saw the marker.

From Hyde Park Corner I went in a tide of pink and flapping, see-through Walk The Walk plastic macs to Duke of Wellington Place. The Wellington Arch in the middle of the traffic island, confused me, for a moment I thought it was Marble Arch at the other end of Park Lane and couldn’t work out where I was. Maybe I was a little delirious by then. This rather beautiful triumphal arch was built in 1826 to commemorate the victories in the Napoleonic wars. Of course it would probably help if the original statue of Wellington was still above the arch rather than the four horse chariot that replaced it in 1912.

Turning onto Constitution Hill I was glad it is a hill in name only. This road, bordered by Buckingham Palace Gardens to my right and Green Park to my left leads from Hyde Park Corner to Buckingham Palace and is named because Charles II used it for his ‘constitutional’ walks. Strange to think that this leafy quiet road was actually the scene of three assassination attempts on the life of Queen Victoria or that Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel died after being thrown from his horse there.

The Victoria Memorial

The Victoria Memorial with Buckingham Palace in the background

At the end of Consituation Hill we rounded the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace. This memorial was dedicated to Queen Victoria in 1911 by George V and  Wilhelm II of Germany, two of her grandsons. The white marble edifice is quite something to behold, with a statue of Victoria facing The Mal. She is flanked by angels, Justice facing Green Park, Truth looking towards Birdcage Walk and Charity facing the palace. The whole thing is crowned by a golden statue for peace and victory. It felt as if there should have been one for pain too right about then, my feet ached.

It felt as if it was getting lighter but, checking my phone, it wasn’t even three o’clock, well before dawn. The illusion of light was due to all the street lights, big white globes imitating the morning light. At this point I was alone, the walkers behind a few yards back, those in front a few yards ahead. I stopped to glance at the palace and wonder if the Queen was at home. There were no lights so perhaps she was in bed. There was no chance to dally long though because the Walk The Walk volunteer manning the pedestrian crossing ushered me across as the lights had changed.

Down the Mall there was a mass exodus into the trees to go to the loo. The portaloos have all had massive queues so I, and it would seem many others, have walked past them with legs crossed. I’d hardly touched my water because I daren’t. It seemed rather strange to see literally hundreds of women crouching behind every tree along this most famous of ceremonial roads. This is where the processions for state occasions are held, where the Queen drives in her carriage. People packed the route to wave flags and cheer when Prince William Married Katherine Middleton in 2011 and for the Diamond Jubilee last year. This is where the famous scenes are filmed of Royals waving from the palace balcony. The Mall is paved in red to imitate a red carpet but all we could think of was nipping into the bushes to pee.

When I restarted the WalkJogRun I saw the little detour had taken me to mile fourteen. My right knee began to ache which was a worry this early on but there was nothing I could do except carry on. Rather than walking to the end of the Mall tbrough Admiralty Arch to Trafalgar Square we turned into Horse Guards Road, passing Horse Guards Parade where the trooping of the colour can be seen and once upon a time there used to be jousting, imagine that! Obviously this happens during the day and right then it was all quiet. I found somewhere to sit and fished my knee support from the bottom of my rucksack. Hopefully that would help.

I limped onto Birdcage Walk, named for the Royal Menagerie and Aviary installed by James I. Right up until 1828 only the Royal family and their staff were allowed to walk along this road. I should have felt priviledged but the pain in my knee stopped me really enjoying this rather beautiful leafy walk round the edges of St James’s Park into Mile 15.

Buckingham Gate, Buckingham Palace Road and round into Bressenden Place where tall buildings take the place of trees was a haze of pain. All I could think of were the miles ahead and how I was going to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I struggled into Victoria Street and found a bench to sit on so I could fumble around in my rucksack for the pain killers I knew I’d put in there. There were snacks galore and lip balm, along with more chocolate milk but no painkillers, I went through the pockets getting increasingly desperate.

A Walk The Walk marshal saw me and came over to ask if I was alright. Her concern made me want to cry but I kept rifling through the bag, afraid to meet her eye, pretending I was looking for a snack.
“Well done for getting to mile sixteen,” she said then nodded towards my knee support, “and with a bad knee too. Not too much longer now.” The pain killers were nowhere to be found so I ate one of the snacks, some chocolate buttons, and limped on.

On I went, not even realising I was in Parliament square because my knee hurt so much I wasn’t sure how I was still walking. All my concentration was on taking the next step and keeping going. There was no way I was going to stop unless my leg fell off. Even then I’d probably have draged myself along somehow. Then I remembered my bum bag and, sure enough the pain killers were in there hidden at the back by some yogurt coated fruit. I swallowed two with a swig from my water bottle and hoped they would start to work soon.

The London eye, so pretty

The London eye, so pretty

The lights changed colour, surprising me

The lights changed colour, surprising me

The painkillers and the knee support begin to kick in along Victoria Embankment and I became aware of my surroundings again. There was the London Eye, the blue lights reflected in the Thames, so pretty. Pausing the WalkJogRun, I stopped to take a photo and, while I did, the lights on the buildings changed from blue through purple then red. I was mesmerised and took lots of photos but most of them turned out to be blurry and useless. Walkers marched past in a series of pink blurs and I captured some in my photos.

The blur of walkers passing by

The blur of walkers passing by

Just before Waterloo Bridge at mile 17 the Wall The Walk people handed out tiny paper cups of hot coffee, quarters of oranges and water. The were also loos and they had no queues. It felt as if I’d died and gone to heaven. As I took my cup another walker said, “you shouldn’t drink the coffee, it will go right through you,” and refused hers. I laughed out loud and she probably thought I was mad but if she knew me she’d have understood. There was no time to explain because she was off, marching away from the mad, laughing woman. The coffee was like nectar of the Gods and the loos were much appreciated too. I went on my way through The Strand underpass sucking on a quarter of an orange smiling to myself.

In what seemed like no time I found myself on Fleet Street, home of journalists until 2005 but still synonymous with national newspapers today. This was where I saw the mile 18 marker. Apparently Fleet Street is named after London’s largest underground river, who’d have guessed? Walking along The Strand, the crescent of Aldwych and on to Kingsway I was sure the sky was getting lighter or at least more navy blue than black. Looking skywards I spotted a road sign saying Twyford Place on the side of a pub, The Shakespeare’s Head. The name made me pine for my training walks, which suddenly seemed so much easier than this walk.

It is getting lighter and that sign reminds me of something...

It is getting lighter and that sign reminds me of something…

Turning onto High Holborn and nineteen miles into my walk I was looking at the sky more than the landmarks I passed, watching it slowly go from navy to cobalt. In front of Chancery Lane tube station I snapped a photo. It was really getting quite light but sadly not light enough to do justice to the Staple Inn right by the station. This beautiful timber frame building dates from 1585 and, despite the name, is not a pub but the last surviving Inn of Chancery, used as offices for legal clerks of chancery, a group of legal institutions. Although it survived the Great Fire of London it was damaged by bombs in World War II but has been beautifully restored but somehow seemed incongruous amongst all the modern buildings.

Dawn is breaking

Dawn is breaking on High Holborn

Crossing Holborn Viaduct, into Newgate Street where the notorious twelfth century prison used to be before it was demolished in 1904 I came to Cheapside where I saw the mile twenty marker. Before I set off I’d promised Commando I would phone him at mile twenty but, as it was not even five o’clock, I felt a bit bad to wake him so I thought I’d leave it until mile twenty one, he’d still have plenty of time to get dressed slowly, maybe have a coffee and something to eat and run to the finish line long before I got there.

Cheapside was once the site of one of London’s biggest produce markets, cheap being the medieval English word for Market, and the nearby roads are testament to this with names like Bread Street, Milk Street and Honey Lane. All the food names made me hungry and, as I’d passed mile twenty, I fished a chocolate milkshake out of my rucksack and drank as I walked. Today the Cheapside market is long gone, replaced with shops, offices and One New Change, the only big shopping centre in London. Of course everything was closed.

By the time I’d finished the milkshake I was on Threadneedle Street right by the Bank of England, often known as The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. The bank has been there since 1734 but I’d never seen it before. From the outside it’s just another big stone building with arches and columns but I couldn’t help thinking a few of the bars of gold inside could do a lot of good in the hands of the Walk The Walk charity. No one is really sure how Threadneedle Street got its name but some say it comes from the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, which has been there since 1347. Apparently this was where the British national anthem was first sung back in 1607.

Old Broad Street, seems quite fitting somehow

Old Broad Street, seems quite fitting somehow

By Old Broad Street I looked at the sky again and it was palest blue and I thought I could detect a golden glow but the buildings were too high and narrow to really see the the sunrise. As I walked I kept checking the time on my phone and the sky, thinking about phoning Commando and then deciding not to. Because I was earlier than I’d expected it felt wrong to wake him but, selfishly, I wanted him there at the finish.

Between the checking and sky watching I hardly noticed the streets I walked on or those I passed but when the walk led me to a small precinct between the tall buildings I saw the mile twenty one marker and there were the yellow jackets of Walk The Walk people handing out plastic cups of hot chocolate. Feeling a little ungrateful I asked if there was coffee as well but was told there was only hot chocolate. “Hot chocolate is wonderful then,” I said thanking the young man holding it out to me profusely. I couldn’t help smiling when I heard the next person asking if there was any coffee, a kindred spirit or did everyone need a caffeine burst right then?

The hot Chocolate was very hot so I stopped to drink it in case I spilled it and burnt myself. As I sipped I texted Commando. It was still only six minutes past five and the little text trill from his phone would go off a couple of times giving him a chance to wake up gently, or just turn over and ignore it. Phoning could wait a little while, although I longed to hear his voice.

That was when I noticed the loos. There were no queues at all so, once the hot chocolate was finished and the cup binned, I took advantage of them and I took off my windproof waterproof jacket for the first time. I’d been walking with it open most of the night so my bra was more or less on display but now the sun was up I felt a little warmer and I wanted to finish with my bra properly on show. Even so, I kept the fleece on, it wasn’t that warm.

Going back past the hot chocolate stall I was offered another quarter of an orange. Empty loos, hot chocolate and oranges, what bliss and funny how small things mean so much at mile twenty one. The little precinct came out onto a large paved area overlooking the Thames and the Tower of London. Other walkers had stopped by the wall to take photos and one was using her phone, probably texting someone to come and meet her at the finish too. Musing on this I was a little surprised Commando hadn’t heard my text and replied but I guessed he was pretty tired from the drive to London so I didn’t worry too much.

Moonwalkers by the Tower of London

Moonwalkers by the Tower of London

The sun is trying to come up

The sun is trying to come up

Once I’d taken a few photos I walked on along Tower Hill and, as I approached Tower Bridge, I phoned Commando, it was almost quarter past five and I’d been calculating in my head how long it would take him to wake up and get ready then run to the finish. The phone went straight to voice mail. Now I was worried, why wasn’t he answering his phone? Maybe he’d got my text and was in the shower or something. I was sure he would ring back soon.

Moonwalkers on Tower Bridge

Moonwalkers on Tower Bridge

Crossing Tower Bridge

Crossing Tower Bridge

Almost across to mile twenty two

Almost across to mile twenty two

There was no call and I tried again as I stepped onto the bridge. It went straight to voice mail again. Crossing the bridge my mind was clouded by worry. I called again and left a voicemail saying I was almost at mile twenty two and asking him to call me back. On autopilot I took photos of the bridge but all sorts of things are going through my head. What if he’d lost his phone or been mugged? What if something happened to him when he ran back last night? By this time I was close to tears but I had to pull myself together, there had to be a simple explaination and I had to keep walking.

Looking back at Tower  Bridge

Looking back at Tower Bridge

Walking and worrying I passed the Golden Hind with hardly a second glance but when I saw troughs of white pansies I stopped to take a photo. There have to be flower photos on my walks or it wouldn’t be right. Obviously I wasn’t thinking straight with all the walk and the worry, plus the pain killers were wearing off and my knee, bearable for a while, was beginning to really hurt again. This was mile twenty two.

It wouldn't be right without a flower photo

It wouldn’t be right without a flower photo

For once I knew more or less where I was and what to expect next. London is mainly unfamiliar to me although I recognise most of the major attractions when I see them they usually take me by surprise and I’d be hard pushed to find any of them on purpose. Right then I knew I was getting close to The Globe. Ok, I confess, I love Shakespeare. The beautiful rose window of Winchester Palace ruins caught my eye. This twelfth century palace was built by Henry of Blois for the bishop of Winchester, an important man back then when Winchester was the Capital of England. My training walks were coming back to haunt me, first Twyford and now Winchester. In a way the familiar names were a comfort and I needed a little comfort about then.

The beautiful rosé window of Winchester Palace

The beautiful rosé window of Winchester Palace

The walk along the river’s edge past the Globe was a cold, windy affair, it always seems to be like that along there. I realised I’d taken my jacket off too soon but I didn’t stop to get it back out of my rucksack. I didn’t want to stop. I walked faster, my knee protested and I fished more painkillers out of my bum bag even though I couldn’t  remember when I took the last ones. It felt like I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to keep going.

The Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre

At Southwark Bridge, right by the mile twenty three marker, I rang Commando again and left another voice mail. All I could hope was that he was on his way but, if he was, why hadn’t he called me back? When someone asked me if I was alright I realised I was crying. The woman and her friend looked at me with concern so I explained my husband wasn’t answering his phone. “There will be no one to take my photo when I finish,” I said, realising as the words came out how shallow I sounded. I was half worried, half angry by this time and filled with self pity. “You can walk with us,” they both said in unison and I appreciated the lovely offer but I wanted to walk alone and I didn’t want to talk so, after walking along for a while, I purposely got separated. I’m pretty sure they didn’t really notice, maybe they were relieved, I must have been quite a miserable companion and I hardly said another word to them.

On past Blackfriars Bridge I walked, tying to ignore my knee and my worries about Commando and concentrate on just finishing. Near Waterloo Bridge I saw a woman rubbing her back. She looked like she was in pain so I stopped to ask if she needed some painkillers. She told me she had already taken some and she WILL finish with a look of steely determination in her eye but she was close to tears and almost pathetically grateful that I offered to help. There were a lot of teary faces around at this point, we had all made it to mile twenty four.

Just as I was about to ring Commando again my phone rang. It was him. His phone had been on silent and he hadn’t even realised until he saw my messages. He was sorry and upset but when I said I was at mile twenty four he said “I won’t have time to run the four miles from the hotel to the finish before you get there.”
I was relieved and angry all at the same time so I snapped, “don’t bother, I’ll get a taxi back, stay at the hotel,” and cut off the call.

Walking through Jubilee gardens past the London Eye I didn’t take any photos. Nothing looked as pretty in the light and I was in a black, self pitying mood. I was crying but I didn’t care, no one would be at the finish to take my photo so who cared if there was mascara all over my face? Then Commando rang again. He was so upset about missing my calls and my text. “I’m going to get a taxi so don’t come back to the hotel. Slow down so I can be there when you finish.” My mood suddenly lifted. I was by Westminster bridge and the dawn light was so beautiful I had to stop to capture the Houses of Parliament and the bridge in the golden glow.

Tower bridge in the golden glow of dawn

Tower bridge in the golden glow of dawn

WalkJogRun told me I was almost at mile twenty five. When I passed a little coffee stall selling hot drinks, burgers and things I remembered Commando saying slow down. There were empty benches all along this stretch of the river so I went back thinking I’d get a coffee and sit on a bench to drink it. I smiled as I ordered a latte, feeling great all of a sudden. A man next to me, not a Moonwalker but maybe there waiting for one, told me I was wonderful to do this walk and paid for my coffee. I beamed at him.

The wonderful coffee stall

The wonderful coffee stall

A truly great latte

A truly great latte

When, coffee in hand, I turned round, all the benches were full of Moonwalkers clutching coffee or food but I saw a little wall with a grass bank and trees in blossom so I went across to it. The wall was rough and hurt my tired legs so I climbed up onto the grass and sat. As soon as I did I realised my mistake, the grass was soaking and now my bottom was too. There was nothing I could do about it though so I stayed sitting there with a wet bum drinking my latte with petals falling on me like confetti. There were petals sticking to my trainers and leggings and others joining the stars still left on my puffy skirt. Never has a latte tasted so good.

What a lovely sight

What a lovely sight

The sign for mile twenty five was on the underpass going below Lambeth Bridge Although it was a while before WalkJogRun caught  up. For most of the walk the buzz of my phone had come a little while before the marker, but I suppose the markers have to be placed on the nearest available place so they can’t be exact. Either way I knew there was just over a mile to go and it felt good. There were smiling faces all around me.

Battersea Power Station, what a welcome sight

Battersea Power Station, what a welcome sight

So close to the finish now

So close to the finish now

Mile twenty six!

Mile twenty six!

Along Albert Embankment I could just see the Power Station and I took photo after photo trying to capture the moment and the feeling. Now I was walking fast, pacing it out and feeling great. On Nine Elms Lane I stopped to snap the mile twenty six marker. Commando called to say he wasn’t allowed on the finish line but he was close to it and he was ready to take my photo. I took a couple of my own as the power station loomed above me then started looking out for him.

The final stretch

The final stretch

I have almost done it

I have almost done it

And there was Commando waiting at the finish

And there was Commando waiting at the finish

Seeing him there and crossing the finish line were moments of pure relief. The clock on the pink balloon arch said six hours fifty four minutes, a great time, especially considering the stops and my knee. Even the fact that my phone battery died just as I went to take a photo of the arch before I walked under it couldn’t dampen my spirits. I collected my medal then stopped, fished another battery pack out of my pocket and took one from the other side. Then I walked straight through the exit, snapping photos of the tent and the joyous faces as I went.

The finish line from the other side, it was the best I could manage

The finish line from the other side, it was the best I could manage

The Big Pink Tent again

The Big Pink Tent again

In the taxi on the way to a nice hot bath and a big breakfast

In the taxi on the way to a nice hot bath and a big breakfast

Commando and I met outside and I hobbled off with him in search of a taxi. Because of the dead battery I thought I’d lost the WalkJogRun data but, as we walked, I checked again and it was still there running. I stopped it and saved the data, even though the time was way out by then at least I had the map of my walk which was pretty handy or this blog would have been a lot less detailed, I really do not know London well.

So that was the story of my second Moonwalk an emotional saga of joy, tears and pain and just one story amongst the seventeen thousand that night. Women far braver than I walked those twenty six point two miles, women with more pain, women suffering from breast cancer or survivors of breast cancer. Each one has their own story to tell but maybe mine can give you a flavour of what it was like. The knee still hurts a bit but it will recover with rest. There are a few blisters in the same old places but they’ll heal. The point of it all is not about me getting fit, losing weight or beating my time, all of that is a bonus. The point is to raise money for Breast Cancer Research and save women’s lives. If you’d like to help with that you can donate on my Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/Fatgirlslim-Moonwalk, then again you could always do the Moonwalk yourself.

In the taxi on the way back to the hotel I said “never again.” Commando just smiled and shook his head because he doesn’t believe me. We will see but for now I’m still saying never.

My WalkJogRun map of the whole walk

My WalkJogRun map of the whole walk

8 thoughts on “London – The Moonwalk marathon, what a way to see the city at night!

  1. Fat Girl Post author

    Thanks. The knees are much better now. As for remembering, the iPhone camera really helps jog the memory when I get back. Just off for a twelve mile stroll in a while :)

  2. tootlepedal

    Well done for walking that far and being able to remember things well enough to write such an interesting account. I hope that you haven’t wrecked your knees.

  3. Fat Girl Post author

    It was my second London Moonwalk. Tough but a great experience and a very different view of London walking through the night. I’m glad you liked the photos.

  4. Traci

    What an amazing experience. My best friend battled breast cancer in her early thirties, so I appreciate your journey.

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