It's been quite a while since doing one of these sponsored events and definitely left it too long to be a part of something so special. We all have our personal reasons for taking part in many charitable events across the UK, and the world; this one touching the hearts of everyone who signed up.
Check out this video from a previous event in London of what happens on the night... but you really do have to be in it to to fully appreciate the amazing atmosphere:
Why did I choose the Shine Night Walk in Southampton? Not only is this where I live so it was nice and convenient, but cancer has spread through our family, including myself. 3 months ago, I made the goal for myself to complete this walk after undergoing major surgery in July and also still having ongoing chemotherapy. It was a big ask of myself, but one which was totally worth it. It was the drive I needed to get me back on my feet again. Here to support me were my partner and family who were there for encouragement - both physically and mentally. Oh, and Henry the dog for some fun!
The Cancer Research Shine Walk also allows you to specifically choose which type of cancer research you want your well earned sponsored money to go towards. This often isn't the case as it goes into an overall pot of funds to help research. Not every cancer type was available on the list, but for me, the one that had affected me personally was there to choose.
It was also incredible to do this walk at night and see how much effort people had gone to, to light themselves up... pretty magical to see! Everyone was shining for themselves or others affected by cancer.
After signing up online and receiving everything through the post, including a t-shirt, registration number, I'm walking for ... t-shirt sign, route map, sponsor forms, online sponsor page details and information on how to prepare, I just had to arrive at the Southampton Guildhall start point at the specific wave start time.
The Guildhall Square was absolutely alive. The atmosphere was electric, but also with goose-pimple moments as stories were shared from the live stage of people's journey's through cancer. I'm not going to lie - I found this quite difficult to remain dry-eyed as I waited at the start line. The paths were lined with glowing candles in white paper bags; another reminder as to why we were all here.
A few minutes to go and the music got everyone pumped up; a pre-walk warm up as everyone stretched, ran on the spot, strutted their stuff to 'We love to boogie', with claps and cheers in anticipation. There were lights shining everywhere. Twinkling tutus. Fairy lights from head to toe. Neon glo-sticks as far as the eye could see. No one was going to miss us walking the streets like this!
And then we were off. I still can't quite decide which was more emotional - the walk through the start line, or the walk through the finish. Equally, they had their own meaning; both as important.
It was great to have an idea of the route through Southampton before walking with the provisional route map delivered in the registration pack. The sensible thing would have been to train and walk the route at least a couple of times before! But as with most things in life, it got busy and I didn't do this! Looking back now and how much my legs hurt after the event, it would have been wise and is absolutely noted for future events!
The 10k route took us through the many park lands in the city centre. Unfortunately, I forget to turn the Map My Walk app on until nearly the first 1k but it was still good to watch the stats increase and see where I'd walked on the live map. It was also a good reminder to everyone just how green Southampton really is.
I'd layered up pretty well considering it was after 8pm on an October evening. Not really known for its warmth. But by 3k, we were all taking off at least one layer! The weather was on our side throughout; not a single speck of rain and absolutely no wind to turn the temperature down.
From the parks, we headed around the St. Mary's stadium in a loop, past St. Mary's church and towards Ocean Village. There were toilet stops along the way, as well as a pit stop with water and snacks available near the half way mark. A sneaky loop of the harbour waters led to walking through Queen's Park, round God's House Tower, through the old town of Southampton and back up into the city centre. It's a great way to explore the city, especially if you haven't seen it before.
The biggest tease was the fact that I walked so close to where I live about 3 times! Steps away from being able to get my aching legs up or soak into a hot bath! But determination got the better of me - plus I wanted that medal at the end along with the sense of achievement.
The final kilometre was a bit of a push. Legs were beginning to ache. It took just over 2 hours which was actually quicker than thought. The most significant parts of the walk for all of us though was the amount of cheering on received from both the volunteer marshals and the general public. The marshals were there at checkpoints saying 'Well done', 'Thanks for doing this' and 'Not long to go now!'. And the general public - this is not something we really expected at all. Encouraging car horn toots as drivers waited for walkers to cross the zebra crossings, people cheering out our car windows, people asking how far we'd walked and lots of cheers from those outside pubs and restaurants on a Saturday night. Welcoming and encouraging from start to finish.
During the walk, we all managed to catch up with other. Swapping from person to person who we spoke to. Seeing what was going on in life. It was definitely a social event and helped to pass the time!
Reaching the finish line felt very significant. Emotionally knowing I'd done it; done it altogether and also as a sign of the finish line coming up for my chemo treatment soon. We were all super proud of ourselves and each other. Even strangers around us who had just crossed the line too. I received my medal with honour, instantly putting it around my neck and posing for a selfie to hit The Gram!
I learnt that not only was it possible to walk 10k without any preparation or training (possible but not recommended!) but also that this was a great way to explore the city. I walked down streets I haven't before. Been shown monuments I never knew the name of. It's inspired me to do more of these charity walks in different cities, but also things like Scavengers Walks, Treasure Hunts and City Tours which are really popular now in major cities and towns.
Thanks to the efforts and encouragement of my partner, family and friends, we raised over £500 for this Cancer Research Shine Walk in Southampton, which is enough to help fund a clinical research bursary for 1 week to help find new ways to tackle cancer - what an incredible way to give back and help prevent others through one of life's most challenging journeys.