Where were you on the night of the 8th of June 2013 between 11.00 and 02.50? I was pounding the pavements with more than 900 women dressed in neon pink tee shirts and flashing bunny ears. Some even wore pink tutus and feather boas. Why? You might ask.
This strange phenomenon occurs annually but it was my first and perhaps only time. The St John’s Hospice Moonlight walk happens every year in June and involves volunteers from the local community raising money through sponsorship to walk either 14 or 25 kilometres through the city’s streets, country roads and coastal route to Morecambe and back. It’s a women only event and women sign up in groups or singly to take part. Consequently there is little competitive edge but much laughter, and good humoured banter along the way.
I arrived at 11pm to be met with a sea of flashing bunny ears on the heads of women of all ages each dressed in the same tee shirt, on the back of which was a space to write the name of a departed loved one in whose memory they were walking. One I caught sight of named a young man I had known who died heartbreakingly young; it was good to see he was still remembered fondly by a young woman who must have been a friend and contemporary of his.
We all lined up behind a ribbon, counted down 5…4…3…2…1 the ribbon was cut and off we went, in a hurry to get to the front and stay out in front so as not to be slowed down. Photographers waited at the gates to snap the sea of women disgorging from the hospice grounds, and people were standing there just to see us off and cheer us on.
The event was so well organised. The army were there, nice young men and women in fatigues waiting to marshal the traffic through the village of Slyne where the foot path is too narrow, volunteer marshals at the half way point to give out sweets and collect empty water bottles, temporary toilet facilities for the weak of bladder, and rescue vehicles for those who had bitten off more than they could chew. The most heartening thing was the amount of people who waited along the route just to cheer us on as we passed their house or street, one little boy was out in his dressing gown and slippers to wave his mother on as she passed.
It was a long 9 miles, and I was really pleased to reach the finish line, I accepted my medal, but didn’t stay for the pink fizz or the hog roast, I said a brief good night to my walking companion, and wended a weary way back to my car, it was 02.50 and my Dearest would be waiting up for me. As I drove back along part of the route groups of weary women mostly still smiling were headed towards the finish line I had just left. To the North the sky was already lightening, as I crossed the bridge over the River Lune I could see a wide expanse of silvery pre dawn sky, I was home by 03.00.
Before I fell into bed, I pulled back the curtains, there was a rosy glow of dawn on the horizon, and before I slept I heard the dawn chorus begin over the gentle snores of my Dearest. He said he was proud of me and for once I concur, sore and weary but I’m pleased I did it.