Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Monday 14 May 2012


THEY say the moon makes people do strange things.

There's no scientific basis for it, but plenty of people think the moon can influence menstrual cycles, mental health, blood clotting and even electrical impulses in our brains.

I don't know about any of that. All I know is that I did a thing called the Moonwalk, and it made me howl.

Specifically, it made my feet howl. My feet and my legs. My feet, my legs, my pelvic ligaments. My feet, my legs, my ligaments, my... well I could go on. Basically, everything is howling.

My knees won't bend. There's something wrong with my right hip. Three of my toes aren't speaking to me. I'm virtually asleep even though I'm typing. I'm not hungry but if you put a knife in my hand and a cow in front of me I'd eat the whole thing. My digestive system is in some kind of crisis. And there are bits of orange fluff EVERYWHERE.

No-one said this would happen.

It came about like this. Shortly before Christmas, just when I was feeling a bit fat and wondering if there might be a day when I didn't have a hangover, a lady off Twitter asked me if I'd like to do a sponsored stroll to raise money for breast cancer a loooong way in the future.

Sounded easy. Breast cancer is a cause close to my heart and I like a stroll. Plus it was an excuse to be a bit healthier by ambling around a bit, which is my kind of healthy.

Then the lady used a scary word. That word was 'marathon'. She said I could do the full or just half. I thought about the word briefly, decided it was basically a slightly longer stroll, and that if you're going to do something you might as well do it properly.

So I signed up for the full, and wrote a post about my Nana, who was the main reason I thought it was a good idea to raise money to help people with breast cancer. Lots of total strangers who read my stuff on this website were moved enough to donate and help me on my way.

Training began on January 2, with a three mile pootle around my local park which took me an hour. I did the same for the rest of the month, three times a week. It felt nice. I could walk up a Tube escalator and not be out of breath.

In February it stepped up to four and five miles, which just meant tacking a little extra loop on the end of my perambulation or meandering down by the river. At the weekends I had to do slightly longer walks of six miles or so, which involved catching a train to London Bridge and walking home along the Thames Path. I began to feel disappointed when I got to the top of a Tube escalator that there was nowhere left to climb.

In March the training stepped up to four miles, twice a week, and longer hits at the weekend of eight miles, then 10, then 12. I met up with some of the other people in our team to do these on a Sunday morning in Hyde Park, which is exactly four miles to go around and has several tea stands.

The first time I met the rest of the team it was pouring hard and I had a raging hangover. I crawled around the park twice on my hands and knees wearing sunglasses and by the time I'd finished the headache had gone and I'd made some nice new friends.

As the walks got longer I had a few blisters and twinges and found ways to strap my feet so they didn't happen again. I became an aficionado of the footcare section in Boots, and can say that whoever invented those little gel-socks for individual toes is a genius. I got to the top of Tube escalators and felt angry there was no more escalator, so took to going up the stairs wherever possible. I learned precisely how many miles it was between home and office, between Tube stops and train stations, and could do a mile in 14 minutes.

Then April came, hellish April. The training was five or six miles twice a week and even longer ones at the weekends - 14 miles, 16, 18. By this point Hyde Park was becoming not just boring, but the thought of walking around it four or five times was taking all damn day and making me feel homicidal.

The weekend I had to do 20 miles I took myself off to the countryside, plugged in my iPod and trudged around Bewl Reservoir in East Sussex for five and a half hours. It rained the entire time.

My legs changed. They're not a bad pair of pins but suddenly I noticed there was a lot more calf than there used to be, and it felt as hard as wood. Knee boots stopped zipping up. I felt like a much slower version of the Incredible Hulk, and felt sad for my poor pins. I made a fox's tail to wear on the big night, which was beginning to loom.

The Moonwalk organisers send everyone taking part a bra to decorate. Mine looked like it had been done by Liberace, on speed, in a chicken factory.

I did six miles twice the following week, and the next weekend it was 22 miles - the last big training walk. The team met again at Waterloo and we walked along the river, past Parliament and the MI6 building at Vauxhall, through Battersea Park and Putney, past the boathouses and down the muddy towpath towards the old Harrods book depository opposite Fulham FC.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? Except it battered down the whole way and the last few miles were so muddy it was like re-enacting the Somme. I noticed at one point the rain was coming down sideways.

And when we got to opposite Chiswick, we turned around and trudged back again. It was horrible, but I did it without blisters or anything more than aching legs. 'The Moonwalk will be fine,' I thought. 'It's only four more miles than this.'

*breaks for bitter laugh*

Then on Saturday it was here. I put my tail on, took my Nana's teddy bear with me, and met up with the rest of the team in a vast pink tent in Hyde Park, along with about 15,000 other women. Our team got invited up on to the main stage while everyone involved held hands and had a minute's silence to remember those we were walking for.

There were women in full Kiss makeup with spiked bras, others with flashing lights and Union flags. There were two ladies in blue capes, with flashing lights along the edge.

Then we were pushed to the start line, the clock counted down, and we were off. We lapped Hyde Park (again, sigh) then went down The Mall to Westminster, through the City to Blackfriars and crossed the river to Southwark where the Halfers split off at the 10-mile point.

At 12 miles we were going down one side of the Chelsea Embankment while a scary power walker on mile 21 was strutting in the opposite direction. We couldn't imagine being on that side of the road. Everything was dark, the moon was out, and Battersea power station was reflected in the perfectly-still river. Cabs full of drunken men honked and hollered good-naturedly at us on their way home, but the city was basically ours.

Everything, so far, was fine. We were doing around 4mph and sailed past those two ladies in blue capes. We carried on past Waterloo, Vauxhall, and Battersea Park where everyone dodged off for a wee in the bushes. Two members of our team - both nice ladies, mums - had their trousers down when they were approached by a young chap with his winky out.

"I'm desperate," he said, displaying his fully-inflated appendage two feet from their faces. "Oh no!" said one lady. "Oh YES," he replied with a leer. The second lady told him in no-nonsense style to put it away, and he asked her: "Don't you want a drink?"

(She's going to have a fit of hysterical laughter every time someone offers her a cup of tea from now on.)

Then the hard bit began. We crossed the river back to Chelsea, overtook the women in blue capes who hadn't stopped to be assaulted in the park, and at mile 15 around 4am suddenly everything started to hurt. I couldn't believe I could do 22 miles without a twinge but at 15 my body was giving up. "It's because it's at night," said one wiser hand. "You're sleep-deprived, your metabolism has crashed, and your body's going haywire."

It turned into more of a trudge. We slowly looped through Brompton and up to the Albert Memorial as the sky began to lighten, and back down through the sleeping streets of Fulham. Inexplicably the ladies in blue capes kept getting in front of us when one of the team stopped to put a plaster on or have a wee and we seemed to overtake them every half hour or so.

The soles of my feet began to burn. At mile 18 a ligament inside my right buttock began screaming with every step, at 19 I was more bored than I've ever been in my life even in a magistrates' court on a Monday morning, and at 20 we realised there was still six flamin' miles to go.

Then we rounded a corner on Chelsea Embankment at about 5am, and there were people handing out hot chocolate.

It was the best thing I've ever drunk. We were happy, thrilled, slightly excitable. I felt like tracking down that pervert in Battersea Park and telling him he'd have more luck with women if was offering this instead.

We set off again with a new spring in our step,  passed the power station lit up in the early morning light, and realised that now we were on that other side of the road.

Our new enthusiasm was dampened by the sight of those two ladies in blue capes, their lights flashing in the early dawn, about 200 yards ahead of us. We overtook them again and trotted on towards Westminster and mile 22, with the bottoms of our feet going numb.

As we slowly rounded Horseguards Parade and the back of Downing Street, we passed a power-walker going in the opposite direction. "He's doing it twice," someone said. We stared at him, shaking our heads, and trudged up The Mall. By this point getting breast cancer almost seemed preferable.

At Hyde Park corner the morning taxi drivers honked us some more, we crossed in front of the Duke of Wellington's house and my left foot exploded.

Or felt like it had. I limped for a few paces, wondering whether it was a stone and would loosen itself and not wanting to stop and let those women in blue capes get past us again. After about 10 paces I realised it was more major and propped myself up on a tree to take off my shoe and see a blister on my fourth toe had popped, leaving the entire bottom of the pad red raw. I wrapped it in a plaster and hobbled on, but could barely put it on the ground.

We crossed into Hyde Park, and I couldn't keep up with the three other team members I'd been walking with. I told them to go on without me, and they told me not to be so daft and we'd cross the line together. We looped the Serpentine in two miles which seemed never-ending as I limped along and we were overtaken by dozens of older and unfitter people. "It's all right," said one of the sensible ladies. "At least we can't see those two... OH NO!"

Up ahead, in the morning sun, were two blue capes, methodically plodding along. We would have despaired had we not been so busy hysterically laughing.

But they gave our tired brains and bodies the spurt we needed, and as we approached mile 26 we caught up with those two women and passed them at the last mile marker.

Ahead was the last 0.2 of a mile, 528ft up what would normally be a slight slope but looked more like Everest. Suddenly everything stopped hurting, my foot stopped screaming, and I powered up towards the finish line just so this could all be over and I didn't have to see those bloody blue capes again. At this point sheer stubbornness propelled me, which is just as well because I had nothing else left.

Halfway, I stopped. The rest of my team had waited for me when I was limping, so I waited for them. The four of us walked across the finish line together at 7.15am - almost exactly eight hours after we'd set off.

I felt like I could lie down and sleep in the middle of Park Lane and not care if a bus drove over me. The four of us collected our medals, limped out of the park and headed to the hotel where the rest of team - halfers and fullers who'd finished sooner - were having breakfast.

It was a five-minute walk, so of course we got a taxi. We crawled into the seats, oohing and aahing and groaning, and when we got to the hotel the cabbie said there was no charge, and bloody well done. We cried at him.

There was a big plate of food and a pot of tea, and I dragged myself home on the Tube. There, I got a big bowl of salty water, took off my socks and plasters, and soaked my feet while I sat on the side of the bed. After five minutes I rolled under the duvet and fell asleep.

Today I am better than yesterday, but that's about all you can say for it. I'm limping with both feet, which my mother says makes me look like I've had a prolapse. If I stay in one position for too long my legs freeze like that. All I want to do is sleep for a week. I keep finding sequins and orange fur in strange places, and so far I've helped to raise £32,456 for people like my Nana.

Which is all a very long-winded way of saying that, if you've got a pound in your pocket and you can go without that chocolate bar at lunch, or can do with half a pint instead of a whole one, or if you just don't want to die like my Nana did, or you just really, really like boobs, please make the effort to click the link below, donate that quid to our efforts, and for the love of all that's holy make this pain have been worthwhile.

And no, before you ask. I'm not doing it again. From the first day of training I walked a total of 380.2 miles, which is the same as London to Cumbria and also A FLIPPING LONG WAY. The trainers I bought at New Year are falling apart at the seams, and they're going in the dustbin.

But I'm very glad that I did it, anyway.

I'll be even gladder when I stop hurting.

* The team's Moonwalk bras will be auctioned off for the charity at a later date.