On Saturday 12th May, 2012 I set off on a marathon walk from Hyde Park, round London streets, along the river and back to Hyde Park.
'Are you insane?' I hear you cry.
No, well maybe...
I was one of 15,000 people who took part in The Moonwalk 2012 to raise funds for Breakthrough Against Cancer. Some 14,000 women and 1,000 men walked a marathon through the night. Some, perhaps many, had lost friends, family, mothers, lovers, sisters etc to breast cancer. Some were in the midst of battling it themselves. I walked in memory of the friends that I have buried in the last few years and in celebration of the friends who are fighting or have successfully fought breast cancer. I walked with two friends, the lovely Yvonne and Julia. It was not easy. It required perseverance and determination and the way that I got through the course, was to liken it to labour as I walked.
We all gathered at Moonwalk City (big, big, pink tent in Hyde Park) where a live band played and words of encouragement were spoken to us. There was a huge warm up session before the start. This was the 'antenatal class' full of positive birth stories. We were nervous but very excited about it. We knew it would be hard, we were pretty positive that we could complete it but we were just a little worried that it wouldn't go the way that we wanted it to.
Suddenly it was time to be off. Our 'contractions started'. We began the long walk out of the park. It was so exciting. We set off with high hopes and lots of energy. After a while we passed the first mile marker. It seemed a long first mile. That, I likened to the shortening of the neck of the womb. As we walked the first few miles we talked about how unexciting it seemed. That was because it was a very 'same-y' route. There wasn't much interesting to look at and we knew it was only the beginning of a long road. Still, we were positive and the energy around us was great. We were all eager for the walk to really get going. There were a few bottlenecks en route and crossings that needed a policeman/steward to guide us over (imagine 15,000 people crossing major roads... it took some guiding). These were the stops and starts of early labour, our 0-3cms.
As we walked past the 8 mile marker I thought about what is called 'established' labour. This was the 4-7cms. It was steady going and we knew it was going to get harder, but we were doing okay and we were walking. As it picked up we passed the 13 mile barrier.
Then it started to get hard. Really hard. We were pushing through the 18 mile barrier. We were hitting transition. Would we make it to 20 miles? It seemed so far away. 26 miles seemed like a lifetime away. Our legs were aching, our backs were beginning to twinge (to be fair I think my back started that much earlier). The encouragement of the stewards en route was invaluable. 'You can do this. Well done, you are doing it. Not far to go. I'm so proud of you'. The words that would often leave my lips when supporting my ladies in labour as they seemed to tire and/or lose hope, were the very words that helped my teammates and me to press on. Suddenly it was 20 miles and then 21 and 22. As we walked past the 24 mile marker we entered the second stage. It was time to push. It wasn't far to go, but still it was an effort. Our legs just kept walking forwards, even as our minds and bodies felt like giving in. Finally, finally, we were through the 26 mile marker. Just the placenta to be born. .2 miles. It doesn't seem much, but when you've already walked 26, that .2 miles seemed a bit too much, and yet at the same time it was almost over and so that final tiny push took us through the finish line.
What elation, what pride. We'd done it! We'd walked a marathon through the night. We hadn't given in to our doubts, we'd heeded the encouragement and birthed a real sense of accomplishment.