Dear readers, I am glad to say that the Moonwalk is over! I am sitting here mid-afternoon in my dressing gown and pyjamas, a little bit achey, a little bit sleepy, a little bit incapable of rational thought. Yet I will attempt to give you a flavour of what happened.
We arrived at the massive tent on Clapham Common somewhere around 7.45 last night and all was much as described in my last post, with a few notable changes. First, it was blowing a gale and freezing so we spent a rather miserable 3 hours in a draughty, cold marquee. The predicted wonderful sights were all around, as women (and some men) paraded and posed for photos in their spectacular bras. Here we are in ours, looking an awful lot warmer than we felt.
However, as the evening progressed, everyone’s bras became hidden under layers of lycra, fleece and plastic. We huddled together for warmth, shaking and shivering with chattering teeth. There was much complaining and whining, though we managed a smile for the camera: When it got to our turn to go outside and queue at the starting line, there was some sort of delay and we ended up waiting outside in the full force of the wind for forty minutes. By this point we were ready to call it a day and we wondered if there was a bush somewhere near, where we could curl up and hide, perhaps appearing some hours later to slip over the finish line. But finally, the mysterious hold-up was resolved, the big countdown began and at 11.25 pm we were off.
Within minutes of starting, we began to feel a lot warmer and so we decided to remove our tops and plastic weather protectors, marching just in bras, hats and gloves for the remaining 26 miles. This was mostly do-able, as long as we kept up the pace, though there were times when the wind chill was piercing and the drizzle shifted from being “mildly refreshing” to “definitely unpleasant”. Throughout the whole event, we barely saw anyone else in bras. It seemed so sad, after all the effort people had put into their outfits, but obviously it was the more sensible approach. (As you may have worked out by now, Caralyn and I are not always particularly sensible).
We were fortunate to be near the front from the start, and we soon found ourselves with just a couple of groups of walkers in front of us and the remaining 16,980 behind. In fact, this was the case for much of the walk, despite the fact that Caralyn’s tendon injury began to cause her a lot of pain and so we had to drop the pace. With events like this, if you manage to get a good start, you’ll probably be able to maintain it, whereas if you end up in a big throng from the start, it can be hard to break away. The downside of the good start is that it can be lonely: often there were no walkers to be seen, either in front or behind us. Although the route was mostly well-marshalled, there were times when we felt very exposed and vulnerable. Still, passers-by and spectators generally gave a lot of encouragement and applause, although there were some inevitable moments of verbal harassment from drunk men.
We saw some amazing sights as we walked through Central London: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Shard, the London Eye, St Paul’s and Tower Bridge all lit up. Later, we walked through residential streets, past palatial houses and ornate museums, under fairy-lit trees and down High streets, bringing a smile to shopkeepers shutting down for the night and to people spilling out of bars.
If you’re wondering how we kept going for hours on end, we are a coordinated team, using exactly the same motion and rhythm, our orange gloves pumping away to mark the pace. The movements can be quite hypnotic and though we often chatter as we walk, we can march for miles in companiable silence. We also make a point of smiling and waving at people as we pass, even when we’re feeling miserable: it makes the miles go faster!
We had set ourselves a goal of finishing in under 6 hours but as Caralyn’s foot became increasingly painful, we began to wonder if this would be possible. The final 5 miles really slowed us down, especially as the route coincided with that of people finishing the half-marathon. Having had a lot of space around us for much of the walk, the pavements were now jammed with people and we had to do a lot of weaving, ducking and diving to keep up our pace.
Eventually Clapham Common came into view and it was with great relief that we crossed the line. It was difficult to be precise about our time, as later measurement of the route showed it was over 27 miles. This put our marathon time (for the 26.2 miles) at around 5 hours 45 minutes although our overall time was slightly longer (just under 6 hours). It was by no means the fastest marathon we’ve ever walked but we were pretty thrilled to be in the first 25 finishers. Freezing cold and exhausted, we abandoned earlier plans to walk back to Euston and caught a cab instead. Before long I was enjoying a hot bath back home and having the first of several naps.
Our priority now is to make sure that Caralyn’s foot recovers over the next two weeks, otherwise London to Brighton will be an even harder challenge. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored us or sent messages of support and encouragement. We appreciate it so much!