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Blog: My MoonWalk London Experience

Mari Thomas 1

By Mari Thomas
Abergavenny Sing with Us choir member and The MoonWalk London participant 2018

I joined the Abergavenny Sing with Us Choir in 2014. We’d moved house and I didn’t really know many people in the area. My neighbour invited me to come along and I’ve loved it ever since.

I don’t think there’s ever been a practice where I haven’t felt tonnes better and more energetic afterwards; it’s really fun and uplifting. I love learning new songs and I’ve made some really good friends there.

In 2017 I found a lump in my breast and was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). I needed three operations and three weeks of radiotherapy. I spent a lot more time than usual at home, quite often on my own while my family were at school or work. The choir got me out of the house. It gave my week a focus and gave me an opportunity to socialise and have a laugh.

In the lead up to my 50th birthday, I decided that I wanted to take on some fundraising challenges. I’d heard about the MoonWalk and fancied doing it “sometime”, and how Tenovus Cancer Care had benefited from the event, and thought it could be fun. After I’d had DCIS, the cause meant more to me and I was more motivated not to let things I wanted to do “sometime” just drift, but to make definite plans. I thought it would also be a great way to get some fitness back too.

I did the MoonWalk with a group of women I’ve been friends with since high school. I loved the fun and camaraderie we had training beforehand, finishing our costumes on the way up on the train, getting ready on the night and walking and supporting each other on our way around. It was like we got to know each other all over again.

Mari Thomas 3

I loved seeing the London Eye all lit up in pink, experiencing London in the middle of the night and the encouragement we had from volunteers, passers-by, people on nights out and cars tooting their horns. I also loved seeing the skies gradually lighten as dawn broke and hearing the birds start to sing.

The most difficult part of the night was the section where we walked round the outside of Hyde Park, it’s huge! Luckily we’d packed little treats to keep us going, on the way round and seeing the mile markers helped to keep us motivated too.

During the walk, corny as this sounds, I actually sang Sing with Us songs (not for the whole 26 miles!). I’d been singing on my training walks as well, because it helped take my mind off the walking. Although I did get some strange looks while walking through the countryside near Abergavenny singing “This is Me” at the top of my voice!

When we finished the walk it was a huge feeling of elation, pride and relief. We were also a bit sore, tired and hungry, but we soon sorted that with an enormous well-earned breakfast! It was fab to have done it with a group of friends; we made a weekend of it and had an amazing time.

Between the 6 of us we raised around £5,000, which I’m extremely proud of.

Why should you join The MoonWalk London 2019?

It’s so worth doing and you feel amazing doing it, even more so after you’ve finished!

You learn so much about yourself and your local area, because you see a lot of it as you do your training walks.

It also gives you a focus for upping your fitness, whether you're recovering from cancer treatment, or just got out of the habit of moving much. Either way, walking is great for your health.

Because it's an unforgettable experience and a wonderful memory to have.

But mainly because there's still so much to do in the fight against cancer. I consider myself to have been really lucky, but having lost a friend to breast cancer earlier this year, I'm all too aware that it could have been very different. Breast cancer affects so many people, and even though many are treated successfully there are still many women, and men, dying from it, leaving devastated families behind. While that continues to happen, the word cancer will continue to terrify the people you love most and you have to live with the fear of it coming back. So, what's one night's sleep when it can save lives?

Mari Thomas 2

My top tips for The MoonWalk London:

Do the training walks

Especially the long ones because this event is tough. The upside is that you can pretty much eat whatever you want!

Have fun sorting the costumes

But do it plenty of time or be prepared for the embarrassment of decorating your bra on a packed commuter train because you’ve run out of time!

Make a weekend of it

But don’t put your pyjamas under your pillow after the first night as you don’t get to bed on the night of the walk so there’s a very real risk that they will be forgotten, yes, I am speaking from experience!

Make sure your taxi driver knows exactly how to get you as close to your train home as it’s possible to get

You will not be in the mood for more walking. My friends nearly saw a side of me they’d never seen before when our taxi dropped us off at the wrong end of the station!

Have plenty of options for footwear for the week after, just in case...

To anyone thinking of volunteering at the event, I’d say do it. There’s a very special atmosphere on the night and it makes such a difference as you’re walking to be cheered on and encouraged by the volunteers, especially when you’re flagging, volunteers really can make all the difference! 

The MoonWalk London is taking place on 11th May 2019, sign up here.