My legs are really aching today but apart from that I appear to have survived intact.
I'd used up some nervous energy on the afternoon of the walk decorating my shirt, so this is what I was wearing.
We set off in good cheer, rain was forecast but there had only been a bit of drizzle. My mum offered round a couple of her 'granny' macs and we packed them plus a hideous poncho of my sister's all vowing we wouldn't wear them. Of course later that night we would be fighting over them! There was a big firework display the same night, by coincidence, so that made a good send-off.
We registered and sat around waiting for the off and trying to decide when the optimum moment would be to make that final trip to the loo. Not sure if I'm supposed to share the photos?
There was a rather too energetic warm-up before the start so we gave that a miss and waited inside the leisure centre until we heard the countdown to the midnight start. Almost immediately I lost the other 6 as they moved off and other people pushed their way in between us. I managed to keep them in sight for about a quarter of the way whilst walking with a friend I had met through some previous charity volunteering.
It started to rain a bit heavier but if I had stopped to put my mac on I would have lost sight of the others so I decided to take a chance and my fleece was keeping me warm and dry. Looking back it seems strange how little decisions like this shaped the event and ultimately led to us being able to reach the finish line. We chatted away and the time passed quite quickly, the crowds thinned out and I lost sight of everyone else. Until, as I approached a bus shelter I found the rest of the gang waiting in there for me to catch up. I put my camera away at this point and was glad that it made it home with me still working. My friend sped on (I think I had been holding her up) and I walked the last mile or so to the half-way point at the hospice with my niece (N), with the others a little way ahead. Apart from one niece (M) who had sped off, she probably didn't want to be seen with us!! As the rain got even harder my coat started to soak up water and my shoes leaked.
We kept our spirits up by deciding how we would share out the granny macs, and change into the dry layers of clothes in our bags, when we got to the half way check point. The crowds started to build up again as the check point was causing a bottle neck and we had to queue outdoors as the rain became torrential with flashes of lightening and almost immediate huge claps of thunder.
Not only were we wet but standing around started to make us cold too. There was just 4 of us now and as the rain poured off our coats it soaked through literally to the skin. As volunteers passed along the line handing out water and snacks we learnt from them that there was no shelter at all. We were expected to stick our head in a porch, register, visit the port-a-loos and turn straight round to go back.
This had to be the lowest point of the night, all our plans to get dry were impossible and to demoralise us more we had to queue next to a bus which was waiting to take people back who had decided to only walk half-way. It was rapidly filling up with people stripping off their wet coats and getting dry.
This wasn't how I wanted my walk to end and I felt determined to at least start back even if we then had to ring for someone to come and rescue us. Hopping on the bus just seemed too easy. There was a small open fronted smoking shelter near-by so N and I took turns leaving the queue to go and change in front of everyone! Obviously I couldn't strip off as many wet layers as I'd planned, but changed my wet fleece for a waistcoat, mac and woolly hat. Eventually, after a half-hour wait we signed in, visited the port-a-loos, shared out the granny macs (N wore 2 and I had the voluminous poncho) and we started back.
The rain was at its heaviest and torrents of water were running down slopes, roads and pavements. We set ourselves little goals and as we warmed up and our feet numbed with the wet, for the first time in an hour the return trip felt possible.
We literally trudged putting one foot in front of the other and at one point I even led and set the pace! Various calls and messages let us know where the other 3 were ahead of us and eventually that they had finished. M was the 1st of our group to finish and headed home to get warm, we even managed to disturb her hot shower ringing to see if she had walked home OK at 3am.
It finally stopped raining, Kendal Mint Cake, Lucozade tablets and a banana kept us going and as it started to get light we walked to the finish around 4.35am. Taking out the time at the half-way checkpoint we were very pleased to have walked the 13.4 miles in 4 hours. I think we were lucky to have finished at all.
Here's my sister and I at the finish waiting for a lift home for a well earned soak in the bath and then sleep!!!
Just had to get that lot off my chest, now for today's HS:MS:HS which is 'Capitalism'.
** Kate **