Anna completes The MoonWalk Iceland, motivated by the memory of her Mum

This was a trip of a lifetime, which met and far exceeded all of my expectations

I can honestly say that my five days in Iceland with Walk the Walk were some of the best days of my life!

Iceland has always been on my ‘bucket list’ and it was a trip of a lifetime that met and far exceeded all of my expectations. Not only did I get to spend it with 60 similarly-minded yet perfect strangers (which I loved) – the week was jam-packed full of amazing activities in a country where you will have more than usual of your fair share of ‘wonders of the world’.

My motivation behind doing this was first and foremost my beloved mum, Debora. We lost her to breast cancer when she was far too young, 28 years ago. I had originally signed up with Walk the Walk to do something special to mark the 25th anniversary of her passing, and then Covid struck and physical events became impossible. I rolled my 25th anniversary plan into a 28-year one!

My mum was adventurous. She loved to experience new things and new places and I have inherited her lust for seeing the world and grabbing every life opportunity possible. This was all the more meaningful for me because she died so young in her 40s and did not get to experience half of the things she planned to. When I started to outlive her at the age at which she died, an uneasy kind of ‘survivor guilt’ took over. The realisation hit me hard that I have now lived on this earth longer without her than with her. Along with the real sadness I always carry for her, came a steely determination and passion to do something great in her memory. The MoonWalk Iceland took over!

I have two dogs and have always loved to walk, but The MoonWalk was no ‘walk in the park’! Once I started to train in earnest, tracking my distances on Strava and using a Fitbit, I soon came to the uncomfortable conclusion that the number of miles I had been estimating previously on walks over the years, was nothing like the reality! I found training and the actual MoonWalk tough… but I also believe it should be so. I enjoy challenging myself!

In training for the MoonWalk, my first priority was to ditch my two beloved ‘senior’ dogs and walk them at a separate time! With all of their sniffing, stopping, tail-wagging and toilet stops, they were definitely not good MoonWalk partners. I teamed up with friends where possible, but when it came to the much longer training walks, I blocked days off in my diary, packed a small rucksack with coffee and snacks and set off to discover Berkshire. At all times, the team at Walk the Walk were wonderful and supportive, sending regular emails full of training tips, advice and motivation. They also provided a great training timetable. And if any of this sounds overwhelming and puts you off – don’t let it! I had to be realistic. As a part-time working mum who is also the registered carer for my son, I did initially worry that I would not be able to follow the training plan 100%. And so I didn’t. I decided to follow it as best I could in order to make it do-able. I did about 6 long 15-20 mile days which I built up to over time, and which I blocked off in my diary. My husband kindly took over on training days, and I started to really enjoy the benefits of a tighter bottom, thighs and abs! This spurred me on a lot. I also find walking to be an excellent therapy for stress. Pounding the countryside and woods of Berkshire, even if I really did not feel like it at times, was so good for my mental health and cleared away any cobwebs. I have a fair amount of stress in my life with caring for a child with complex needs, and the alone-time the training afforded me was wonderful and therapeutic.

Onto the challenge itself - we power-walked a full 26.2 mile Marathon in very strong Icelandic winds, but for me, the desolate beauty of doing this with the sun shining through the night in the Land of the Midnight Sun has eclipsed many of my favourite life experiences. We certainly stuck out, walking in our beautifully decorated bras, full of colour and determination as we powered through the Icelandic wilderness with only the odd Icelandic pony and many unusual and beautiful song birds for company. And although it was tough at the time, I had trained sufficiently and learnt how best to prepare my feet with Vaseline, Compeed and twin-skin socks in order to stave off the blisters as much as possible.

Throughout the 26.2 miles, I thought about my mum and others like her – those we have loved and lost and everyone doing this with me - and it was a very emotional and special night for me. When I think back to what my mother went through, losing her hair, the painful reality of what she felt was a ‘stab at her femininity’ with the loss of her breast… it felt like a small ask for me to put one foot in front of the other to power walk a Marathon. I wanted to walk the final 4 miles alone and broke away from the group…I wanted to be alone with my mum and by the end all kinds of emotions hit me at once….pure elation at what I had achieved, a flood of tears about my mum and the journey I have come on in 28 years, absolute exhaustion!

The challenge itself, as well as the activities around it, was out of this world. What we lacked in sleep on the night and in rushing all over Iceland, was made up for tenfold by the amazingness we saw literally for five days running. If you are after ‘wonders of the world’, Iceland is your place! Aside from The MoonWalk, we got to see a blue whale in its natural habitat in Sklalfandi Bay off Husavik, very close to the Arctic Circle. Seeing it swimming freely made me very happy. We climbed up and down a volcano, witnessed geysers and bubbling mud baths, saw awesome tectonic rifts in the earth, and saw a 60-mile long glacier. We also got to go to a Lava Bread Bakery and taste the delicious and unique Icelandic Lava Bread. And then there were the Nature Baths at Myvatn, the Blue Lagoon and time to explore Reykjavik at the end.

I fell in love with this spectacular country and plan to return. I was also lucky enough to make some really good friends – people whom I hope will remain in my life a long time. Lots of people had personal stories to share, and as well as having some amazing laughs (you bond together when doing a tough challenge), we also shared tears, emotion and memories. It was a really special and unforgettable week.

My tips for the event itself… come prepared for Iceland! This means bringing clothing for all eventualities. One minute we experienced brutal conditions and almost got washed away at Dettifoss waterfall and were blown around by Arctic winds during the Marathon itself. The next minute you are walking along through the night in brilliant sunshine. Wear sun cream! The wind lashed our faces and I did have windburn during the walk – at night! Bring proper mountain / trekking boots for activities outside the walk. These come in handy for scrambling up dormant volcanoes (I know, because I didn’t follow this advice!). Stock up on twin-skin socks, Compeed and Vaseline to stave off blisters. Bring anti-sickness tablets for the rocky whale watching ride. BUT most of all bring a desire to experience everything, even when physically and mentally tired. We all figured that we only get lifetime opportunities like this once in a while and sleep can be caught up on once home.

Because of my mother, I was very driven to fundraise and also to raise more than I have ever done for a challenge event like this. I raised more than £6,500, although the minimum sponsorship ask is £650. I am lucky enough to be a fundraiser by profession, and I am also quite happy to ask for money! I set up my page on Enthuse and my mother’s story resonated with close family and friends. I also waived birthday and Christmas gifts, asking instead for donations to my page. I did lots of car boot sales locally, and must have baked numerous cakes for cake sales outside my front door. These always went well, and often lovely people stopped to hand a donation of £10 and even £20 to me, without wanting any cake. I found people like to share their personal stories and they were so generous. It helped to have a big, bright Walk the Walk banner for these events, and also a collection tin at the ready! Finally, I am a member of my local Synagogue in Maidenhead. The Community has been amazing at responding to my various appeals in its monthly newsletter, which goes out to thousands of members. Two years ago they generously supported my skydive, and this time, lots of them donated to my online page. They have invited me back to now tell them about Iceland.

Finally, I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to Walk the Walk for making this possible and for giving me one of the best experiences of my life. As a discerning fundraiser who has worked in many of the UK’s most established charities over the past 26 years, I can honestly say that the team at Walk the Walk were amazing. They make you feel special and part of the Walk the Walk ‘family’. They care, encourage, remember things you tell them, and are motivating. You feel that you really are helping to make a difference and this is not always the case in all charities in my experience. Lastly, a huge motivation and a real “selling point” for me was that the tour cost and fundraising are kept completely separate and I am proud to tell my donors that not a single penny of their sponsorship goes towards the cost of my adventure with Walk the Walk.

Thank you, Walk the Walk! Especially thanks to Sam, Polla, Sally, Natalie and of course Nina – who were with us in Iceland and made the week so memorable.

Thank you for sharing your story Anna!

Feeling inspired? Register your interest for The MoonWalk Iceland 2023!



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