“Superheroes are go.go.go!”
That was the message from Nina in a last email before the big night, along with the news about the severe weather front coming in, and the very sound advice to wear plastic bags over your trainers. After months of training, planning, anticipation the night is here. And so is the rain. Oh my! The rain! Sitting on the train travelling North with dark skies and the rain lashing down we wonder what we are in for, but finally the storm passed to leave a clear dry evening.
We arrive at the greatest pink tent in the world. Preparations begin, costumes transform us to superheroes. After the all-important visit to the forum stand, we get something hot to eat, a neck and shoulder massage, listen to bands, watch dancers, learn about what the money raised is spent on and the resulting improvements in the quality of care for cancer patients. There is an emotional minute’s silence, a hug with the person next to you and the essential warm up routine to get those muscles working. We wait in our start group, clear ponchos are put on over the costumes and everyone rustles expectantly. Outside the tent everything is dark but for giant decorative glowing “moons.”
Countdown. 10, 9, 8….. A horn goes off, camera flashes fire, we cheer and wave and off we go, out into the streets, people on a night out wave and cheer us on. Friendly police officers stop traffic and direct us on our way and we shout out our thanks and offer them jelly babies. The buildings of Edinburgh are lit up resplendent pink, and we reach our first toilet stop at Arthur’s seat (for those who don’t know Edinburgh, this is the first of hil), then up and up we go. There is a sound of gentle chatter, and the rustle of ponchos, but it is eerily quiet, and without any street lights almost totally black, apart from the most beautiful moon shining down on us. We reach the top and see the lights of Edinburgh spread out below. On the paths leading downwards we can see the walkers ahead of us, some people are wearing fairy lights, and they glow like Christmas trees in the darkness, lighting up the way.
Onwards we walk, through what are normally quiet residential streets where people still hang out of their windows in support, or hang bra’s on their hedges. At the 13 mile marker we turn the corner and catch a first glimpse of the sea. It is 3.30am, an hour before sunrise, and I am astonished at how light it is. It feels like a long way to go, but there’s a disco playing music and cheerful volunteers encouraging us on. “Keep walking. You’re doing really well.” We walk along the shoreline and it is so beautiful, quiet and calm, and onwards we walk.
By now I’ve taken off the poncho, fed up with the rustling, and we keep walking. As we walk we admire the costumes of all the other walkers, super heroes of every type; Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Bananaman, lots of sequins and feather boas, and tutus and the all colours of the rainbow.
Just under 4 miles later, at 4.29am the first glimpse of the sun can be seen. Gorgeous! The light on the water is amazing, and I want to stop and take better photos but I know if I do I won’t start again, so walking and clicking, is the only way.
By mile 20 it is a gloriously sunny early morning. My walking partner wasn’t feeling great, we had a few extra stops for stretches and a change of socks. At 6am when I was cheerfully pointing things out, “look at those gorgeous roses”, “here have another jelly baby” she turned to me and said “what’s wrong with you, how can you be so cheerful?” and she’s right, why would anyone enjoy it so much? but I felt so uplifted, we’d nearly finished, I was genuinely happy to be alive, it was warm, sunny, I felt empowered. I never doubted that we’d finished, we had come here to walk a marathon through the night and that is what we were going to do. In truth I was probably on some kind of jelly baby-induced sugar high…………
We skirt around the bottom of Holyrood Park, no need to go back up Arthur (thank goodness!), but as we walk we pass a group of walkers heading out to do it all again. These are the elite walkers, the Over the MoonWalkers, the once round isn’t enough, let’s do it twice walkers. We applaud them and wonder in awe how they are still smiling.
Now the city it is waking up, and people are starting their day as we are finishing our night. Volunteers are at every corner, helping us cross the road safely, passing on words of encouragement, sweets and hugs if required. This event is so incredibly friendly and the support from the volunteers is truly what makes it special. All along the route the many volunteers are cheerful and enthusiastic, an essential part of the night. Always offering a comforting word of encouragement, a smile, advice, we couldn’t do it without them
We reach mile 24 where last year I met Fiona, diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago she supported the MoonWalk for the last few years, standing with her son, and holding up a sign that said “Thank you, from people like me”. The gratitude that she showed with such grace truly touched me, and although I met her only once I won’t ever forget her. Earlier this year Fiona lost her battle, in her absence she was a reminder of the reason we were there. Walk the Walk put up a sign that reading
“Thank you Fiona, from people like us!
Big hugs from all the walk the walkers,
We miss you!”
The sight of this, and of her son on his own this year, with his own sign that read “Thank you from Mum” brings tears to my eyes, and running down my face, and I am grateful for my superhero eye mask so that no-one can tell. Although by now I am stiff and getting tired and ready for a sit down really I had nothing to complain about.
Suddenly the pink tent is in sight, and then finally the finish line and a medal. I may never take it off. I treat myself to a finisher’s t-shirt. After all who wants to be a superhero for just one night?