When a friend mentioned the “Moonwalk,” I remembered seeing photographs of strangely elated marathon walkers, wearing nothing but pink bras and black leggings. What were they thinking? It’s the 20th anniversary of the Moonwalk London this year and I am about to embark on a 26.2 mile (how dare they add on a .2?) march through the city. Our team of three is still debating whether to decorate the white Playtex bras that we have been sent. The majority of women will sew tiny sparkling sequins on to their bras and add flowers and feathers; even the men seem to wear bras.
There will be a throng of walkers. I am prepared for that now. I had imagined being able to swing my arms but recently discovered there are 15,000 happy participants, mostly women, and we will be part of a massive surging crowd – imagine Oxford Street during the sales. According to the Moonwalk forums, there will be gridlocks at the bridges and one-hour queues for the portable loos. We will hang around waiting at the “Moonwalk City” on Clapham Common from 9pm until midnight when our group will be allowed to leave.
These are not things I knew when I keenly agreed to take part a year ago. At the time, one of our team members was going through debilitating cancer treatment and when she suggested entering the marathon, it seemed like a good idea, a kind of reassurance that she would still be around this year. It’s also for a good cause; most of us know someone who has been affected by breast cancer – my grandmother died of it. I am walking for her.
When I was reminded about this commitment in February of this year, I had forgotten about it completely. Were we actually going to walk 26 miles? Really? I tried to persuade my small team to do the more manageable half marathon, 13 plus 2, but they were not having it. I have long legs but I am a slow walker. My husband has a power-walk pace. When we stride out together, I usually end up quite a few paces behind like a lowly undermined wife.
I was not going to be running a marathon, but I still needed to work on my pace. I had never walked more than about five miles in one stretch. I read the intimidating training plan to be done over three months leading up to the big night. At first, I was shattered after a brisk six-mile walk and had to stuff myself with poisonous sugar products just to get through the rest of the day. Now of course six miles feels more like a stroll.
We went to Profeet to have our walking style filmed and to select the right trainers. We were obsessed with our rear views in the footage. Having got the uncool, ugly, trainers that we were prescribed, we relaxed for a couple of weeks, feeling that somehow we were on the way. Despite the benefit of the ugly trainers we have all discovered that bunions, corns, and other deformities caused by bad posture and age are seriously painful on a long walk. We have spent money, lots of it. We have paid for entrance fees to the walk, new trainers, bunion pads, corn plasters, general kit, including ‘bum bags’. We have been to see chiropodists, booked massages and pedicures, bought special gel pads; double lined walking socks, breathable jackets and a reflexologist to see us as soon as we get home.
Amazingly, we have raised over £8,000 so far – our original target was a modest £1,000 and we are number five on the list of top supporters. I am fitter and slightly slimmer; my mother says I look 10 years younger. God knows how dreadful I must have looked before. Walking is not only a good way to exercise, it is a great way to escape the mayhem of life. I have loved pounding around my stretch of the River Thames, from Hammersmith to Barnes, up to Putney and back. Our longest walk so far is 18 miles, so we are hoping the extra 8.2 won’t defeat us. Think of us in the early hours of Sunday morning, strangely elated women with red faces, perhaps wearing decorated bras over sports bras, not the most flattering look, but suggested to me by a veteran as a good compromise.