Iceland MoonWalk 2014

I first heard of MoonWalk (Walk the Walk) when I completed the London Half Moon two years ago. The whole experience was one that I will never forget, the atmosphere was incredible but I felt a tad feeble completing 13 miles when I knew I could achieve more. I had just lost a very dear friend to breast cancer and wanted to do something in her memory.

I first heard of MoonWalk (Walk the Walk) when I completed the London Half Moon two years ago. The whole experience was one that I will never forget, the atmosphere was incredible but I felt a tad feeble completing 13 miles when I knew I could achieve more. I had just lost a very dear friend to breast cancer and wanted to do something in her memory.

Roll-on a couple of years; and a close friend discovers I have just resigned from my post on the school PTA and with no summer fete to organise I would have plenty of free time to dedicate to pounding pavements during our strict training regime. She telephones one evening and we discuss the challenge, “5 days away to have some quality time and the preparation/training walks for our MoonWalk Iceland!”Oh Yes, Iceland! I still don’t quite know what I was thinking but I said ‘yes’ and it was settled, we had our places booked and training schedule to complete.

I started training as soon as I could, I wanted to be as prepared as possible, I was under no illusion that it was going to be easy but felt quietly confident because I ran and cycled three times a week. My friend and I met up every other week to walk together, she was also signed up for London Walk the Walk that year so our training sessions were really important. All was going well until I had an injury, albeit dance related (not a good idea to do twerking at 44!) which put me out of training for a good 6 weeks. I had damaged my medial collateral ligament which if not properly treated would mean I could not do the marathon at all.

I felt extremely frustrated and concerned that my efforts to raise awareness through sponsorship and training would have been for nothing! All of my fellow MoonWalk Iceland chums and my friend were very supportive and helped me stay positive over the weeks.

Six weeks of no training and a wonderful week of R and R in Lanzarote did the trick, hey presto! I was back pounding the streets in my fluorescent yellow hat, frightening the wildlife and infuriating all who would listen with talk of ‘laps, minute miles and pace’.

Iceland was soon approaching and most people refused to come walking with me anymore so it was just me and my Hilary Mantel audio books that got me through the 13+ miles. I had started to feel a little nervous especially as more information started appearing; things got a little more interesting when my midge hat arrived!

With sponsor money coming in, posting flyers through my neighbours doors, contacting the local press, approaching my local business’ and holding a charity garage and cake sale completed, it really was now down to me to go and kick some Icelandic Marathon ass!

Arriving at Heathrow and meeting up with a number of fellow walkers made things feel very real! Yes, it was really happening, yes, we are going to Iceland with a group of strangers but I could tell that every single one of us was feeling exactly the same. Some of the women had met before whilst doing the 3 Land Challenge, others the MoonWalk Scotland but the team spirit was overwhelming.

We flew to Keflavik where we boarded a coach for our visit to the Blue Lagoon, a stunning geo-thermal bathing suite. After a very quick dip it was on an internal flight to Akuryri then a coach to Lake Myvatn…..Midge Lake!

At first I thought the midge hats were sent by over zealous health and safety operatives in MoonWalk head office, boy was I glad I had mine to hand when we disembarked the coach at our hotel which was at ‘Late o Clock’ but still very sunny night time. Oh! yes it was all going on, full sensory overload…Midge, check; Sun and Moon up at the same time, check; pungent rotten egg smell, check; fermented shark, ok, that comes later.

Friday and Saturday were truly amazing days split between:
❖ Whale watching in Husavik
❖ Climbing the Hverfjall volcano and walking its 1km diameter crater.
❖ Visiting Dettifoss the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
And, whilst on these excursions having the most wonderful tour guide who sang beautiful Icelandic lullabies, told tales of folklore and fed us dried cod.

On the Saturday night we had a wonderful meal of pasta for energy, the atmosphere was really hotting up! Everyone got in their walking attire and there were some beautiful costumes. Emotions were high and there was a fizzle in the air as we were all united for a common cause, one that was on everybody’s mind, reminding us all why we were there and the reasons for doing it.

The coaches took us to the Nature Baths where the atmosphere was even more pumped, at this point we just wanted to get going but we knew we had to wait until midnight..warm ups done, walking to the start line, tummies knotted with excitement and last minute anxieties. Hugs, a few tears, memories of friends and family and then off……
I remember, smiles, laughter, words of encouragement, jokes, songs, music and then long periods of silence.

The landscape is unrelenting beauty but it’s vast in its silence….the odd bird, annoying midges, the unpredictable weather, a cloud of fog so dense that it looked like a cosy blanket until it hit you like a cold wet flannel and then blocked your view for several miles. I felt bitterly cold, very damp and had a sensation of isolation.

The pleasure in seeing the happy faces of our support team, unflagging and never faltering in their encouragement. Soup; sweets; nappy bags (all will be explained if you sign up for the challenge); wipes; many, many Jelly Babies!

The pain in my knee started when I was half way round, the swelling getting worse, my body desperately trying to support the injury. I had to leave my friend….I wasn’t sure how long my knee could take the pounding so I needed to try and get the miles done as quickly as possible.

The ladies I passed along the way, with 8 miles to go made it easier by gleaning quick snippets of information, girly gossip and lots of support. The image I had to keep in my mind was that of my dear friend; she was the reason I was in Iceland, she, who was brave whilst fighting breast cancer and sadly loosing that battle; these last 8 miles were for her and the many brave women fighting cancer.

When I saw the finish line, (which seemed to be the longest piece of road in my life) I thought I was going to explode with happiness, seeing Nina at the end was probably the most joyous moment in my life….yes, up there with my wedding day, babies the lot. I wanted to hold onto her and never let her go, of course I did, because there were the other amazing members of the team Carol, Eppy and the other finishers all who needed a hug. Tears of joy, (and a few of pain) were shed, what an incredible experience, it will stay with me forever.

This challenge was incredibly hard and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It takes grit, determination and of course the hours of training but what you are left with is an incalculable experience that should and will be cherished.

I feel privileged to have been part of this charity and to have met a group of awe-inspiring women, some of whom had conquered the 3 Land Challenge; Scotland only the previous week!

Thank you to Nina, her team at Walk the Walk, the group of inspirational women on MoonWalk Iceland, all of my sponsors and supporters, my crazy friend who convinced me to do it and my friend Mary who gave me the power to cross the finish line.


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