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The Big Half Dash for the Cash

"It really brings it home why we are doing this, it’s not for the medal or the sparkly bra, it’s for people like Carol."

Sunday 4th March 2018 at 11:12am... I had an epiphany, a revelation, a moment of wonder – I was powerwalking across Tower Bridge in a sparkly bra. I could take on the world.

My Walk the Walk journey started in 2010 when I thought it would be fun to do The MoonWalk London, just the half - a time to have some fun with my two teenage daughters. The 10-mile training walk had me wondering how we would manage the 13.1 miles. It’s such a long way. It was tough but we did it and left me wanting more.

2012 saw me completing the full MoonWalk London and after that, there was no stopping me. A couple more London MoonWalks, SunWalks, a MoonWalk Scotland or two. 2016 and I was doing The Three Land Challenge. 2017 was booked with London, Edinburgh and Dublin, the latter being the first time I had entered an event with a timing chip and ‘proper’ athletes.

Sometime in 2017... a message appeared on Facebook. There was a new event in London, The Big Half.
I quickly signed up and contacted Emma (who I met on the 3LC and has been my WTW partner-in-walks ever since). Luckily, she also gained a place. I later realised WTW were entering a team so I joined up. This was going to be a fantastic event: raising funds and awareness for my favourite charity and walking part of the course of the London Marathon. I completed the Dublin Marathon in a personal best of 6 hours 40 minutes. I could complete a half marathon in about 3 hours 15 minutes, I thought that was respectable enough for The Big Half. All I had to do was keep my training walks at the same pace for the next few months.

My thoughts turned to the bra and fundraising. The bra was easy enough: pink, purple and gold sequins. To be honest I didn’t think it would be on show very much, London in early March!!! At all WTW events I try to walk as far as possible with the bra on display, after all it is the Walk the Walk trademark. I do at least the first and last mile in my bra and aim for as much as I can manage in-between. Dublin was bra only for the whole 26.2 miles.
The next task was fundraising. I try to mix it up each year, I wasn’t sure what to try next but then the gauntlet was thrown down. A very good friend pledged £100 if I completed The Big Half in under three hours? This was a potential game changer; I felt confident at 3 hours 15 minutes, an average of 14 minutes 53 seconds per mile, I could do that but less than three hours, that’s 13 minutes 44 seconds per mile... FOR THE WHOLE HALF MARATHON. I doubted I could do it but £100 is a £100. I practised 13.1 miles on several occasions but couldn’t get under 3 hours 12 minutes.

A couple of months before the day...the whole event changed; it was still a mass participation event but it now hosted to The British Half Marathon Championships... I was in a race with Sir Mo Farah. How did that happen?
Less than a week before the event we had an added complication with the Beast from the East. Saturday it was announced the event would definitely go ahead; London was ok but outside of London trains and planes were cancelled. Some of the WTW team couldn’t make it but there was still a strong contingent.

The morning of The Big Half and I left home at 5:30am... I drove to the outskirts of London and got the tube to Tower Hill. The excitement was building, I was really doing this. At every underground station, more competitors got on the tube. We all emerged from Tower Hill tube station to... bright sunshine.

The plan was to meet the team at a coffee shop. I started a slow, nervous walk; the butterflies were building but saw two friendly faces across the road, Jane and Roger who I had walked with on several occasions. We walked together to meet Nina and the rest of the team. This was going to be a good day.

We made our way to the warm-up pen, we were in the last wave of starters so had time to spare. As well as the official WTW team there were a large number of independent WTW walkers in pink bra t-shirts, all raising funds for our favourite charity.

The race started for the elite athletes and our wave slowly made our way to the start... The route double-backed slightly so just as we were about to start we saw Sir Mo running a very fast pace coming up to the Mile 7 marker. Then we were off, I found myself walking with Maria and we appeared to be about the same pace so we walked together. I knew she was quick so I thought she would help keep my pace up.

Miles 1, 2 and 3 were a blur... Then we were in Canary Wharf, the pace was good and I spotted our own cheerleaders. Firstly, Sam from the WTW office waved and gave me a hug; around the corner were Anne and Liz, unable to get places but willing to support. This really spurred me on for a few miles.

We reached the halfway mark... and Tower Bridge was in sight. All was going well, I was on pace for under three hours. The sun was shining and the atmosphere on the bridge was amazing. So many supporters, it didn’t matter which charity they were supporting; they were supporting and cheering everyone. I was part of an amazing event and it was all I ever dreamed of.

Then the going got tough. I had never walked this fast for this long, Mile 11 and I was still on pace. Mile 12 and I had dropped a minute. I received a text from my friend who had pledged £100. I only saw it in preview with no time to open it up but it said ‘Good Luck’. Spurred on, could I make up my lost minute? The t-shirt came off, I was going to finish with my sparkly bra on display.

500 metres to go, now or never, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time…   I RAN
400 metres, this isn’t pretty but I don’t care... I RAN
300 metres, teeth gritted, it hurts... I RAN
200 metres, legs are tiring, I went too early but... I RAN
100 metres, oh cameras, better try to smile... I RAN
FINISH LINE... I MADE IT!

I have never felt so tired crossing a finishing line. My legs were like lead. Julie saw me and gave me a hug, reminiscent of a hug with two miles to go at Edinbra in 2017 when I was struggling. Never underestimate the power of a hug.

A few seconds later... I received my official time: 3 hours and 40 seconds but I didn’t care. I had given it my all, there was nothing else to give and I had completed an amazing event.

Sometime later... I read the full message from my friend...

"GOOD LUCK today, I have every confidence in you. Hope you beat the three-hour mark. Can you do it for Carol at work, she’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer. You have the £100 no matter what time you do it in".

It really brings it home why we are doing this, it’s not for the medal or the sparkly bra, it’s for people like Carol. Until cancer is beaten I will give it my all... even if I have to run.

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