Marvellous night for a MoonWalk

02 May

If aliens were to land in London somewhere just after midnight on Saturday 13th May this year, they would see a rather unusual sight: thousands upon thousands of women – and men – power walking the city’s streets wearing little more than trousers and a decorated bra. Meet the MoonWalkers, a growing group of people raising money for breast cancer by walking 26.2 miles – the same distance as a traditional running marathon. Instead of running, though, the walkers begin at midnight – hence the name – battling sleep deprivation to increase the challenge. For those wanting to do a little less, there’s also the option to take part in the Half Moon, a half marathon with a little bit extra at 13.1 + 2miles.

The 20th anniversary MoonWalk LondonPhoto Courtesy of Walk the Walk

The history

The idea was the brainchild of Nina Barough CBE, who thought it might be fun to power walk the New York City marathon in decorated bras to raise money for charity. In November 1996, 13 women took on the challenge, raising more than £25,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Just two months later, Nina found herself battling the very disease she’d raised money for and in 1997 encouraged a team to enter the London Marathon to raise her spirits. Another £25,000+ was raised and the celebrity-designed bras sold off at auction. Just days later Nina was admitted to hospital to start her own – eventually successful – treatment.

By 1998, more women wanted to take part, but not everyone secured a place in the London Marathon. So, Nina decided to create her own. The Walk the Walk charity was born and 65 women took part in the very first MoonWalk. Twenty years later, more than 450,000 walkers have trekked 8 million miles – the equivalent of walking the Earth’s entire circumference 321 times – in dozens of Walk the Walk challenges, raising more than £115 million.

Wayne's moonwalk

A growing number of men are also taking part, men like osteopath Wayne Coleman who has walked it three times. “The first time I did it, I’d just started at a new clinic and it was a way of making friends. The second time, a friend was diagnosed with cancer and that changed everything for me. I thought she was going to die. Thankfully she’s still with us and she was really touched I did it for her. Things like this are an important way of talking about something that still feels very scary. It’s a really positive experience and you get to see a new side of London. It’s lovely.

“I also got into the design side and, as a man, loved having massive breasts. I got so much attention from the women. One year, I made a bra covered in buddleia with butterflies coming out on wires. That got a bit droopy by the end.”

While raising money is still a key part of Walk the Walk’s remit, 20 years in Nina is just as keen to encourage people to see it as a chance to boost fitness levels. New research from YouGov makes for interesting reading. Of those surveyed:

  • 20% said they never walk for exercise;
  • 38% said that they would never take part in a walking challenge;
  • and 13% find it difficult to walk for more than 10 minutes at a time.

For many former participants, the MoonWalk, and the training it involves, is the kickstart they needed to get into an exercise routine. “A friend asked me if I’d be willing to join her and a few others walking the Edinburgh MoonWalk back in 2008 in memory of her late stepfather,” says regular walker and runner Barbara Peen. “Since then, I’ve completed another MoonWalk in London, a 26-mile walk to raise money for Alzheimer’s, a couple of 20-milers for breast cancer and numerous 10k runs to raise money for cancer research. Furthermore, another friend (who also took part in the Edinburgh MoonWalk) and I have walked the Coast-to-Coast path, the Great Glens Way, Hadrian’s Wall and are currently walking the Pilgrims Way. It’s fair to say that the MoonWalk nine years ago kick-started me walking and running on a regular basis and I’ve never been fitter.”

Feathered, decorated bras at the London MoonWalkPhoto Courtesy of Walk the Walk

TOP TIPS FOR WALKING THE WALK

If it’s your first time taking part this May, here are our top tips for making sure your MoonWalk experience is truly marvellous:

Don’t underestimate the challenge…

You’re still walking marathon distance. It’s going to be tough on your feet and joints. Like the marathon, don’t be tempted to buy yourself a new pair of trainers for the event. Wearing the shoes you trained in will mean they’re comfortable and can accommodate the fact that your feet are likely to swell as they get hot. Slathering your feet in Vaseline can help to prevent blisters, but slap on a plaster at the very first sign of one – if you let one form, it will be too late.

The MoonWalkersPhoto Courtesy of Walk the Walk

Expect to hit the ‘wall’…

Marathon runners know the ‘wall’ all too well, but it exists in the MoonWalk, too. As well as distance, completing the course will take you most of the night, unless you’re a committed power walker, so applying some of Frances Trussell’s mindfulness techniques along the way can help.

And shed a few tears…

A lot of people find the initial arrival and the completion of the event very emotional. It’s not surprising – it’s a long way, you’ve not slept and, chances are, you will know someone who has been affected by cancer – be it breast cancer or not. Embrace it: it’s part of the joy of taking part.

Take some power music…

Many MoonWalkers travel in packs and walking with friends can definitely help pass the time. But, come 5.30am, with another four miles to go, sometimes only a bit of The Prodigy (swap with your own favourite band/singer) can push you on.

MoonWalkers dress up and decorate their brasPhoto Courtesy of Walk the Walk

Carb load and take supplies…

Just because you’re not running doesn’t mean you’re not burning those calories. The distance and the lack of sleep will be tiring, so make sure you eat well before you arrive and take some fast-releasing energy snacks with you – jelly babies and an energy bar or drink will help you make it over the finishing line. And plan a big breakfast at the end – nothing pushes you over that line than the thought of the reward.

Walking places this year are closed, but it’s not too late to sign up if you would like to volunteer. If you’re one of the thousands taking part this year, then good luck! Entries for 2018 can sign up from the 15th May via the Walk the Walk website.

MoonWalking next to the London Eye

Walk the Walk uniting against breast cancer

A FINE NIGHT FOR AN ADVENTURE

Since the MoonWalk first launched, night-time charity challenges have become all the rage. Here are our top five UK events:

This moonlight charity cycle ride is happening in three cities this year – London, Bristol and Liverpool. Participants can choose to cycle either 50 or 100 kilometres past iconic landmarks. This ride takes place on urban roads that have not been closed off to other traffic. For insurance reasons, you must be over 18 to participate.

This is your chance to see the sunset over the Scottish coast, cycle along Edinburgh’s beautiful Georgian streets and past landmarks such as Arthur’s Seat and the Forth Bridges. The ride has been going since 2013 and is still open for registration.

This is another walking event set up to raise money for Cancer Research UK. There are two walks – one in Glasgow and one in London – and like the MoonWalk you can choose to tackle a half or full marathon distance. The event kicks off earlier in the evening than the MoonWalk.

If a full marathon isn’t your thing, then this might be the event for you – with five and 10 kilometre options. It’s also a global event with more than 50 cities due to take part in helping to fast-track a cure for paralysis. There are six ‘official’ locations, including Taipei (on 12 November) for the more intrepid among you, with pop-events planned in other cities around the globe.

This is the largest women-only cycling event in the UK and is open for 2018 registration. The course starts at the Royal Windsor Racecourse and follows a 100 kilometre route into London and back, raising money for Breast Cancer Care, Ovarian Cancer Action and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, In 2016, Ride the Night participants raised more than £1.2 million.

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