Saturday 17th April 2010
At about 12pm, Cheney came to pick me up and we were all packed and ready to go, heading up to Manchester on the M6 Toll to check into the Radisson Edwardian, which was really close location wise to the start of the marathon at Manchester Central. I had tried to bring everything that I thought I might possibly need, including snacks for the night, blister plasters, spare socks, deep heat muscle ache cream, sanitiser hand gel (im funny about public loos!), tissues, vasceline – you name it i’d packed it, anyone would think we were staying for a week!!! Id also packed my bikini, having purposefully chosen a hotel with a spa, as I figured that on the sunday we might be thankful for the opportunity to sit and chill in the jacuzzi for a while.
We arrived at the Radisson about 2.30 and were realllllly grateful when we were able to secure a late checkout till 3pm. Usually checkout is at 11, so having those few extra hours secured so we could guarantee a rest was a real weight off our mind. Our room, a junior suite on the 5th floor, was amazing! Queen size bed, sky tv, bose ipod docking station and our own private balcony!! I was like a kid in a sweet shop, and for a while I completely forgot about my Shine nerves, and spent a few minutes giggling to myself about the lovely wet room shower and lying star fish on the bed! *Simple things eh!?*
We quickly popped to the local sainsburys and got some food ready to “carb up” on our balcony for a while (I had pasta, chicken wrap and some french bread!) before getting into bed to try and catch some well needed rest before the start. The night before, I had tried to stay awake as late as possible thinking that my body clock would find it easier to reverse if I was tired enough to sleep in the day. Im not sure that actually worked, because with the mix of excitement and nerves that I was experiencing, I didnt really get much sleep at all. We set the alarm for 6.30pm and I probably had about 10 minutes sleep, and about 1hr30 of tossing, turning and yawning.
At 6.30 we got up and starting getting ready to leave as registration was from 7pm.
At this point I was feeling really quite nervous. My head was saying “What the hell are you doing?! How the hell are YOU going to walk 26 miles? and why would you want to get out of this bed?! Seriously?!” . I had a quick wash, bathed my feet for a bit, and put some make up on (no, im not really sure why either!) and got dressed and ready in my Shine T shirt, joggers, blister proof socks and the trusty old trainers. We had arranged to quickly meet up with Nancy (aka @CRUKWalton from twitter) in the foyer as she was staying at the same hotel. She hadnt managed to get much sleep, due to the hotel checking the room was ok, and coming to try and turn down the bed while they were napping – I guess normally these are things we would be really grateful for!!
7.45pm / 8pm
Arrived at Manchester Central and the atmosphere was amazing!! Manchester Central is a convention centre, but actually used to be an old railway station, and therefore is a really attractive and interesting building. There were thousands of people milling around in Shine t shirts, with 7500 of us taking part in total. Walking into the building, we saw that the finish line was inside, and the start line just a few hundred metres away, so this would be the main hub of the walk! Inside, there were hot food and drink stands, merchandise sellers, tea and coffee, toilets, a donation station, and live music from Blake – a classical music band. This was the strangest part of the night for me, I knew logically that sitting down was a good idea, but the adrenalin was starting to kick in and I really wanted to just get going! The glow balloons were given out about 9pm and madness persued! Iv never seen so many people rushing to get something before, and luckily Cheney managed to get one for all three of us!
The glow baloons were a really great idea. Filled with helium and a little light bulb, the mass of different colours (Blue, White or Pink) meant that we definately stood out, and it must have been an amazing sight for any spectators in the centre of Manchester that evening! Walkers had specified when registering which cancer they wanted to take part for, in my case cervical, in Cheneys, breast cancer, and in Angela’s – CRUK in general. The type of cancer people were supporting was represented by the colour of their in memory banner on their backs, and as always there were some lovely inspirational and emotional messages on many of these.
After a brief warm up, we headed outside towards the start line, and at this point I was definately excited and raring to go! Whilst waiting for Manchester Metropolitan Police to confirm the roads were closed, we enjoyed a sing song to Aswad’s Shine, the Proclaimers I would walk 500 miles (which by the way I definately WOULDNT!) and Black Eyed Peas Tonights Gunna be a good night! The atomosphere was buzzing! I could here accents from people all over the UK, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, and of course those from Manchester and Liverpool, but people like us, had clearly travelled some distance to take part in the event. Finally at about 10.20 – slightly later than planned, Dennis Law, a football legend and prostate cancer survivor, said some words before announcing the walk officially open! The start line had a fantastic flame light show and we felt proud to be on our way!!
And we’re off!!! Slightly later than billed and with a great crowd of balloons walking past the start line, we all headed off for what was going to be a long and challenging night, it still felt slightly surreal, and I couldnt quite get my head round the fact that i was going to be walking alllll night long! The spectators, volunteers and supporters at the start line were amazing, cheering and clapping as we started, and one, who really made us laugh, with a megaphone shouting “good luck, you’re all MAD!!!” lol
The first mile seemed to go quickly and that was reassuring, I think I actually said to myself “only 26 more of those to go” or something ridiculous, if only it was that easy!!
The route for Shine 2010 was 26 miles round manchester city centre, and they had arranged for us to pass some great landmarks on the way, including the Manchester Wheel, the University, Patterson Institute, Old Trafford and the Trafford Centre to name but a few. There were various “pit stops” along the route, where people could pause to use the toilet, grab some food, or simply have a quick rest before continuing on.
The first pit stop was at around four miles, and I stopped to use the toilet. Despite having quite a large number of porta loos, the queues were of course massive, and in hindsight perhaps I could have carried on and used the 2nd pit stop instead. Women clearly take far too long to use the toilet – I could have sworn some must’ve been reapplying lippy or something the amount of time they took, but I was in and out in a flash! – we grabbed a quick bite to eat (one of the many snacks out of our rucksack), had a quick stretch and then carried on.
At this pit stop, a candle of hope ceremony was taking place, where people had lit candles in memory of loved ones and volunteers had spelt out the word Shine in candles. This was a really stunning scene to walk through, and made me feel a tad emotional! We were handed a bottle of water and a pink lady apple, and then carried on our merry way!
I have to admit I hadnt really fully estimated how much harder walking at night time would be, and depsite having done a fair bit of training, all of my long walks being over 9 miles, I actually found the first 9 miles of this walk the hardest part. I think when it got to about midnight, my body was telling me I should be in bed, and it all just seemed that little bit tougher than normal!
At mile nine, just 1/3 of the way through, I did have my first moment of doubting whether we would all actually make it the whole 26 miles! My feet were already starting to hurt a bit, I felt tired and hungry and it seemed to be going so slowly. On our training walks we had been averaging about 3 – 3.5 miles an hour, but we were a lot slower on the night, the dark just seemed to make everything seem a little harder, or at least thats what I was hoping at this point!! I’ve always been a bit of a bed lover, and cant remember the last time Id been walking around at this time in the morning!!
We had passed through some “interesting” parts of the city, including curry mile, which was a little bit scary if im honest, some people smoking bongs outside dodgy looking bars, and quite a few rowdy left overs from the manchester derby that weekend, so I was glad when that mile was over!
At 11.5 miles, and we arrived back at the first pitstop again having done a full circuit. At this point, my feet were pretty sore so after queuing for the loo again, I sat down and got out my blister plasters. I didnt have any blisters but the balls of my feet were sore, so to preempt the possibility of getting one half way round, I put them on the both feet and changed my socks to a slightly more lightweight pair, before grabbing another quick bite to eat (some fruit flakes) and continuing on our way. This part of the night was the toughest, it was very early in the morning and we were all getting tired and wondering whether we could actually finish. Shockingly, one lady had collapsed on the grass whilst waiting for the loo and was being treated by Manchester Medical Services before being taken away in an ambulance. I think she was ok, probably just dehydrated or hadnt eaten enough. I do think that some people think, “its just a walk” and forget that actually you can burn off over 3000 calories walking a marathon, and therefore food and drink is crucial! Manchester Medical Services provided the two Ambulances, three Ambulance cars and all staff to Shine for free as part of their donation to support the event – and did a fantastic job.
4.30 – 5am
Halfway!! At about 4.30am we arrived at the 13 mile marker and I felt a bit like id been beaten up! Shoulders and legs were hurting like someone had been punching me repeatedly for a few hours! The roads were a lot quieter now, as those that were doing the 13 miles / half marathon, had separated off in a different direction at the 11.5 mile pitstop. We were very very relieved to have made it to at least the halfway point, and took a photo to document the fact!!
The next pit stop was just short of 16 miles, after Old Trafford, and here we didnt stop very long at all, as it appeared to have come round quite quickly since the last break, and we didnt want to get stiff from resting too long! It was also a lot quieter at this stop, with the number of participants having probably halved, so far less queueing thank god! After a quick sit down stretch, and another toilet break we continued on. The birds were starting to sing now, and this weirdly actually started to make me feel quite happy! In my head, birds meant morning was coming, and morning meant daylight and that HAD to be a good thing! I also found that when we got to 16 miles we were on the COUNTDOWN towards the finish (yes, still quite a few miles to go, but it was going in the right direction!!)
About 6 am (although Im not entirely sure on the times now) we arrived at the 19 mile pit stop. At this point I was pretty goddam tired!!! My feet and legs were sore, but I now just wanted to finish! 7 miles to go and I knew that it was feasible, it was just a case of mind over matter, and kicking into auto pilot. While queuing for the loo I saw another lady pass out which was again a little scary, and reminded me to keep drinking and eating before the same thing happened to me. Lots of people were sat around in the silver foil emergency jackets trying to keep themselves warm. Again for runners the fact that im writing that might sound quite pathetic, but its amazing how much your body cools down when you stop and have a rest. I started to feel a cold from the inside every time I slowed down, but found that it soon warmed back again when we started off.
8am After the last pit stop auto pilot continued to take over, and I actually found this part of the walk the
most straight forward depsite being uncomfortable. I definately think I am more of a daylight walker! I wanted to finish and it got to the point where i was simply putting one foot in front of the other, plodding on slowly but surely. Having been tweeting my way through most of the walk, i put my phone away – for now I had to concentrate on simply walking! We passed a sign saying “You are doing something amazing, together we will beat cancer” – and that reminded me why I was doing this! I have raised over £500 for the charity, and this made the pain totally worth it! I put my ipod on and started to listen to some music, and that definately helped, Angela and Cheney did the same, so it didnt seem to matter that we werent being very sociable anymore. By this time, the sun had fully come up in the sky, and it was starting to get warmer again, for that I was very grateful. Angelas legs were hurting a lot, having had a slight injury in her leg before she even started, and every time we reached a curb to step up or down, we both looked at each other like “OUCH!”
When we got to the final pit stop at 23 miles we wernt going to stop, but as it was quiet we had one last loo break before powering on, finally reaching the finish mile at about 9am!
9am – the finish!
At about 9 am we headed towards the finish sign having walked 26.2 miles in around 10.5 hours! A few metres away, Angela turned to me and said “Weve only gone and *$!%&£* done it!!!!!” – we were in pain, tired and achey, but wed done it! We picked up our medal and goodybag and had our photo taken and were given a voucher for a free breakfast bap, before toddling over lie down and rest!! First thing i did was take my trainers off, and was amazed to see not a blister in sight!!
So how do I feel today!? Overall I feel very proud, and that proud feeling beats any kind of pain I might feel in my body! I crawled into bed at 4.30pm yesterday afternoon having travelled home to Brum, and meant to go out for dinner with my boyfriend to celebrate. That didnt go quite according to plan as I actually woke up some 14 hours (YES 14 HOURS!) later at 6.30am!! I am now therefore fully rested, and a little bit achey today, but overall I feel great!
I would like to say a big thankyou to Shine 2010 and Cancer Research UK for putting on a great event, and to all the volunteers that sacrificed their saturday night / sunday morning to marshall, blow up balloons, or clap till their hands itch to help us all out! We couldnt have done it without you.
I have read this morning that the event has raised over a million pounds which is an unbelieveable amount and I am chuffed that I got to be part of it!!
My photos are now on facebook and you can check them out in full here
If you havent sponsored me, and would like to, there is still time! See my fundraising page here