Back in March a fellow member of The Business Girls Network, for whom I’m an ambassador, suggested a night time marathon walk at the end of September. It’s something I had thought about doing, but that excuse of “not having enough time”, which I firmly believed to be true, had stopped me.
This time I took the plunge, along with my 7 team mates. We called ourselves Team Inspire, and over the past 6 months I have been endlessly inspired by all of them. By their dedication, by the strong women they are, and by the way, our common goal has allowed us to bond and build friendships with a sense of excitement and achievement between us.
I’ve been an enthusiast power walker since my son was born nearly 16 years ago. Walking helped me to shed over 3.5 stone that I had been unhappy with in my early 20’s. It gave me a sense of calm and wellbeing. Being outside in nature lifted my spirits and shifted my mood in a powerful way. It still does.
But this was different. I’ve never walked anywhere near 26 miles in one go!! It was a bit daunting as the date of the walk drew closer!
So as a team we set about finding times to get together and begin our training walks – starting with 6 miles and building up to 18 miles.
On our training walks on Sunday mornings (when I would usually choose to lounge in bed and have a lazy start, but have come to look forward to getting up and out with my Team!), we found our pace, follow our planned route, and had lots and lots of chats. Most of these women I knew very little about before we started this challenge – only really small amounts about their businesses. But in that wonderful way women have, we shared our stories, laughed a lot, and bonded. We are now planning a post-Shine night out and future walks because we will miss it if we don’t still do something together!!
On a personal goal front, I’m not sure how much I previously believed I could do this. It seemed far away and like a very good thing to support, given I and many people I know have lost friends and family to cancer, but I’d never done anything like it before. Once we got started I was filled with a sense of purpose around the walk, and pride at our progress and commitment. As the date approached we all got really excited about the night itself, if a little nervous!
We pulled out all the stops with fund raising. As well as the usual Just Giving Pages being shared, as business women we put together a raffle, with amazing prizes from each of our businesses – these were added to by the incredible community around us who heard about the raffle and wanted to donate prizes too. At my Business Girls Network Meet-up in September we sold tickets. One of our teammates, Emma Scott, even had all her long hair chopped off to donate to another worthy cause, The Little Princess Trust – she did this live at the event and that helped raise even more money. Our final fund raising efforts reached almost £4,000.
So the main event! On the night itself we were met with cold and rain!! Not really what we were hoping for, especially as all our practice walks had taken place on sunny, hot Sunday mornings!! I think we hadn’t thought at all about how tough it would be missing an entire nights sleep and just keeping going!
But the amazing spirit we had created within Team Inspire did keep us all going – even though some of the team got awful blisters and sore hips and knees, we just kept going. Eventually we ended up in pairs as we paced ourselves and met different rhythms. At Mile 5 my husband came and met us with drinks, chocolate and phone chargers!! He joined us for the next hour and then caught the last train home – it was one of the loveliest things, very motivating and spirit lifting, I will always remember that.
Seeing London at night, seeing the thousands of people walking for their own reasons, reading their signs that said who they were walking for, and feeling this huge bond with my Team was something I have not experienced before. It was inspiring, breathtaking, overwhelmingly emotional, painful, funny as we became slightly delirious in the early hours of the morning!! My lovely friend Maggie and I made it over the finish line after 10 hours and 35 minutes! We were soaking wet, freezing cold, very emotional, exhausted but completely exhilarated and ever so slightly relieved to finish!!
This was a big personal goal for me, and Not the kind I would usually set myself. And it turned out to be the best surprise, and so fulfilling. I’ve gained so much in terms of achievement, connection, inspiration, experience, realisation of just how much and how many people cancer touches. The day after the walk I cried a lot – partly because I was in pain, partly because I was so tired, but mainly because I kept thinking about those walkers signs about who they were walking for. I hadn’t expected that, and it made me feel even more proud that I had taken on the challenge to help in the fight to find cures for cancer.
Maybe you’ve done this type of challenge before? Maybe you’re a regular goal setter and like to challenge yourself. Or maybe you like to play it safe? Where can you step outside your comfort zone and experience something new that would really enhance your life and bring lots of positives?
Is there something you’ve thought about doing, but Just never committed to because you think you don’t have time? It might not be a physical challenge, it might be taking a training course, turning your hobby into a business or volunteering for a cause you believe in. I urge you to take a leap and do something that could change your perception, your life, and give you so much fulfilment.