Date: 4 July 2015 (overnight)
Organiser: Breast Cancer Care
Vest: Breast Cancer Care Pink Ribbonwalk T-shirt
Race number: 13441
Distance: 20 miles
Time: 4 hours 45 mins
Pace: 13.19 min/mile
View: 4/5 London at night – best city in the world
Difficulty: 1.5/5 pretty flat, with a few flights of stairs and crowds to navigate
Banana count: one banana and quite a few love bars
Goodie bag: 3/5 complete with an interesting coconut drink, T-shirt and free meal/drink at the end
Chip timing: no, the watch did all the work
Position: joint fourth
Ok, so I should start by declaring that this is neither a run nor a race. It is, however, for people who like walking at least, one of the best nights out in London you could ever have. There may be no alcohol or dancing, but as a way to see this remarkable city, it is a spectacular sight-seeing tour.
Do not, however, underestimate the effort required for this trip round town. Twenty miles is no walk in the park, so if you do attempt the full distance (there are 5 and 10 mile options), you do need at least a few long walks under your belt! And, by long, I mean 17 miles plus.
What can I say? The London Eye, The Tate Modern, The Globe, HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge (to name but a few) and even a circuit around the Royal Albert Hall make this city route to rival all city routes.
It’s not as easy as picking up a postcard – the path by the Thames is packed at 11pm and Oxford Street always feels like a scrum even when the shops are closed. But, there is something really special about the city at night (especially when you’re enjoying it for Breast Cancer Care). The course is designed so brilliantly, it really helps you join the dots between landmarks
The run highlights
If you live, or have ever visited London, think how many times you’ve walked an empty street, crossed a completely clear road or become a city sight in your own right (everyone loves a charity walker in a bright pink T-shirt). Londoners often see the city by tube, which means we don’t often really see it at all.
This city has been my home these last 12 years. But, I have to say, doing this walk made me see it for the first time with fresh eyes. When you’ve walked from Tower Bridge to the Royal Albert Hall then by the entrance to the Chelsea Flower Show (when it’s on), starting and finishing at the Imperial War Museum, you realise just how close the Capital’s landmarks are. Who needs a tube, when you have a pair of walking trainers and enough energy to stay up most of the night.
I confess, I thought I’d be spending the night part walking, part taking photos. The absence of photos on the blog, however, wasn’t because my phone died, but because my mum and I (she was walking with me to celebrate us both surviving days in the chemo ward last year) decided it would be a bit of fun to try and keep up with the group leading the walk (safety in numbers after all). At mile four (doing 8-minute KMs), we thought we were doing well (we were aiming for 10-minute KMs). At mile 18 (still doing 8-minute KMs), we thought maybe we should have made the most of the rest stops rather than ploughing on (I think the marshals thought we were a bit crazy). In fact, at one point we were going so fast, the man adding glow sticks to the pink direction arrows to help them stand out was behind us even on his bike!
Biggest highlight? Crossing the line joint fourth. I am not sure my mum quite expected us to finish in 4hours 45mins, but she certainly appreciated getting to bed before 5am (although she didn’t appreciate me walking her up to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral the day after).
Most welcome sight? A cup of tea waiting for us at the finish line tent.
Take time to read the ribbons: lining the paths before the start and at the finish were rows of pink ribbons, each one containing a message linked to one of the walkers (and their motivation for taking part). Certainly worth reading before you go, so you can be reminded of the inspiring stories at 2am when your legs start to protest.
Watch your wave: if you, like me, quite fancy aiming for the front, then make sure you inch towards the start line before you’re called (as long as you aren’t so early you end up in the 5 mile field). If the start line is at the Imperial War Museum again, they limit the number of walkers to 50 per wave for safety reasons.
Rest and be thankful: maybe do as I say, rather than as I did. With cereal bars, water, enough bananas to feed a small nation and plenty of smiles from volunteers and BCC team members, the rest stops are certainly worth stopping for. Definitely make sure you carry water with you though. It is amazing how sweaty and hot you will get even in the early hours.
Print the downloadable map: be sure the read the information booklet and e-newsletters sent to you before the big day. The last newsletters will contain a link to a downloadable map, which will reply come in handy. I took a quick glance at the route and then, contrary to advice, left it to the people in front of me to lead the way. It is my own fault we ended up taking a few detours when we couldn’t immediately see the pink course arrows.
Get talking: a real highlight was finding out more about fellow walkers and the stories that got them to the starting line. Thankfully, unlike running, talking seems to aid performance rather than help take your breath away.
- 31,000,000 bricks were used in the building of Tower Bridge. In 1952, the bridge began to open with a double-decker bus still on it. The number 78, (driven by Albert Gunton), managed to accelerate and jump a three-foot gap. Albert was awarded £10 for his bravery.
- The 32 capsules on the London Eye are representative of the 32 London boroughs, and each one weighs as much as 1,052,631 pound coins
- The Royal Albert Hall hosted the very first Sumo tournament to be held outside Japan in the sport’s 1500-year history, in 1991
- Oxford Street was once the road connecting Newgate Prison with the hallows at Tyburn. Condemned prisoners were driven down the street from the prison and hung from the Tyburn tree at Marble Arch. There’s still a round stone in the road, marking the original location of the hanging tree
To run/walk again? Definitely. Not sure I’d be able to compete on time though.