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Zoe is Over The Moon at The MoonWalk Edinburgh 2013

Then in January 2013 when I read about Walk the Walks the first ever Over the Moon challenge, a double marathon to be completed in 14 hours in my home town of Edinburgh, that was it. I didn’t think twice about registering. I was doing it!

Like a lot of people, over the years I’d watched the London marathon, sponsored friends doing various charity events and every year thought, I wish I’d done something. So when a friend asked me to do the London Moonwalk I jumped at the chance. But there was a nagging thought in the back of my head- I wanted more of a challenge. Something unique.

Then in January 2013 when I read about Walk the Walks the first ever Over the Moon challenge, a double marathon to be completed in 14 hours in my home town of Edinburgh, that was it.  I didn’t think twice about registering. I was doing it! Some of my friends and family wondered whether I’d even thought at all when I told them.  Did I know I’d just signed up for a double marathon? Yes! Did I know how tough and yet totally incredible it would be? No!

That was the start of four months of hard and at times relentless training. It sounds like a cliché, but suddenly everything was about walking- clocking up the miles whenever and wherever I could. Initially I started doing 5 mile walks at the weekends, but figured out pretty quickly that it wasn’t enough if I wanted to go over the moon. I started walking to and from work a few days a week, and realized, not only was I enjoying it, (particularly walking home from work) but actually how easy it was to walk in London.  Getting on a tube somehow seemed wrong after that. I had two feet and I was going to use them. Every time I went to meet friends, I walked.  Every time I went anywhere I walked, even if it meant I had to leave the house early to get there. Not only did I save money from not using the bus or tube, but I was getting fitter and faster all the time.

As the weeks went by, some days the thought of walking, especially in the wet weather seemed like a big ask and my get up and go, had well and truly gone. That was when a remarkable group of women came to the rescue…. my fellow over the mooners, or ‘mad cows’ as we affectionately and possibly accurately called ourselves. I’d never been huge user of Facebook or any other social media, but this group was a life line. We shared walking tips, achievements when we walked that extra mile, grumbles about our training days when it didn’t go according to plan, or simply saying hello.  Just knowing that we all supported each other and that somewhere, someone else understood what we were going through and was having exactly the same ups and down was incredible.

As the date drew closer, I was walking longer and longer routes- I don’t think I had a walk free Sunday for about three months. Gone were my lazy Sunday lie ins, or long Sunday lunches with friends. But would I change it? Never!  I discovered parts of London I never knew existed, including some great little cafes and pubs and bought so much Compeed at Boots, they sent me money off vouchers from my advantage card.

The London Moonwalk, my warm up to OTM, was a fantastic yet unbelievably cold night and after completing it in just under 6 hours I felt positive about OTM. But as the date got closer, the reality of the challenge really kicked in. One moonwalk was fine, but two? The sleep deprivation after the first walk had taken its toll, so the idea of doing that twice just seemed incomprehensible. What if it rained? What if I couldn’t finish? Once again my fellow OTMers came to the rescue. We were all feeling the same regardless of how much training we’d done. We were excited, but nervous too. None of us wanted to let down the people who’d supported and sponsored us, but we also didn’t want to let down Nina and the WTW team. We wanted to prove that as the first group to do the challenge we would make everyone proud.

The night itself was quite warm for Edinburgh in June and around the city various landmarks like the Castle were lit up pink in support. There was something very special about meeting as group having shared so much over the months on our facebook page with each other. There was a fantastic team bond- we felt as is if we knew each other- and would support each other every step of the way.

As we stood waiting, nervously looking at the clock, 60 women in black and white caps, knew that they were about they were about to attempt something amazing, a double moonwalk. Just before 11.40pm we set off, together with the first group of moonwalkers. Don’t go off too fast I told myself- you’ll never make it round lap 2 if you do. Walk at your own pace… but enjoy yourself.  Very quickly we spaced out and it was up the local hill Arthurs seat for a couple of miles before heading toward the pink lit castle and outwards the west of the city. There was something very comforting about walking in my home town, despite the fact it was dark. The familiarity of the streets and the wonderful support of the endlessly enthusiastic volunteers spurred me on throughout the night and despite a fiercely cold and fresh sea breeze about mile 14 (whatever mile the silverknowes seafront is) I kept going. As I neared miles 24 and 25 the volunteers willed me on ‘Not long now, you’re almost there’ Almost there? I said Hmmm…. Not long now if you mean it’s the end of lap one…. I’ll see you again on my way back again!

Back at the start line, a couple of the other OTMers were already about to start their 2nd lap and looked remarkably fresh faced and smiley. Had they honestly done one lap? I felt tired and knew I certainly wasn’t feeling or looking as comfortable and laid back as some of the others. But after a short break, a stretch, a much needed cup of coffee and some food, I set off for lap 2. So far so good. Now those first two miles were little short of fantastic. Going back up towards Arthurs seat I was met with a sea of moonwalkers, completing the last few miles of their walk, heading for the finish line and their support and encouragement was overwhelming.  Lots of messages of good luck and admiration for what the OTMers were doing, it really lifted my spirits and put a spring in my step for the next 10 miles or so. I walked up Arthurs seat with a fellow OTMer, laughing about how different the city looked in the daylight.  Had we really done this route already? By the time I had reached mile 35 I was on my own and the feel of the walk was very different. It was daylight. Gone were the team of happy volunteers and other moonwalkers.

Now it was just 60 women spread out across the route and a mobile support team keeping a watchful eye on us all. This time the walk would be about endurance, mental strength and sheer determination.  With only my ipod for company and a constant voice in my head reminding me I could do this, I pressed on, singing badly to some 80s classics from time to time- but I didn’t care. At about mile 42 my left leg cramped and nothing I did seemed to help. No amount of stretching, stopping, massaging helped for more than 5 minutes. What was I thinking when I signed up for this I thought? This is so hard….I started to panic, I didn’t want to stop or pull out. But I’m not giving up, I can’t I thought and took some pain killers and pushed on, willing them to kick in.

But I knew my pace was slowing and in my head the clock was ticking down the 14 hour time limit. Don’t think about the time, keep walking I told myself. That’s all you have to do. Keep walking. And then, at mile 44, an amazing man from the cycle support team appeared and  gave me the most fantastic and encouraging pep talk and suddenly it was like I’d been given two new legs and a new energy filled my body. Less than 10 miles to go and I turned the corner on to Portobello high street, I knew I really was on the homeward stretch this time.

The last climb up the Royal Mile was challenging, not only as it was the last hill on the route, but by now the street were busy with tourists and several locals thought I was a straggler from the moonwalk and I could see them think- oh wow she’s taken her time…. But I knew what I’d done…..  and as I reached the 51 mile marker, the adrenaline coursing through my body, I felt overwhelmed by what was about to happen. At the bottom of Easter Road, as I approached a church congregation coming out of their service, nothing was going to stop me. “Coming through” I shouted as they moved to clear a path. And with two cyclists from the mobile support unit alongside me, I walked, as if I was on mile 1, as fast as I could towards Moonwalk city and the finish line, with an overwhelming sense of pride and achievement. All the aches, pains and moments of doubt melted away and the sight of the WTW team and friends and family cheering me on, I crossed the line in 12 hours 44 minutes.

I couldn’t believe I’d done it! And shared it with an amazing group of unique individuals- the inaugural OTMErs!!

Learn more about Over The Moon  here

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