I feel very strongly about hospices. Five years ago my lovely Mum died in her local hospice. I cannot fault the care that she and the rest of us received. A very stressful and difficult time was made easier by the unflagging compassion and cheerfulness of the staff.
This year I decided to give something back. One of my best friends, coincidentally and confusingly also called Lesley, has done a fundraising walk for our local hospice for the last few years. (This is a different one to the one Mum was in.) This year I decided to join her.
I can do walking. I would find it difficult to run around the block, but walking is part of my DNA. My Dad, who is ex-army, would drag us out for regular route marches. The fundraising walk is thirteen miles, so I knew I would have to build up some distance, but it was feasible. The really difficult part of the walk, for me, was that it started at midnight. I am not a night owl. I prefer to be safely tucked up by 10.30pm, preferably with a good book. To walk through the night would need caffeine, determination and sugar!
We started our training back in February with one short walk and one longer walk most weeks. We would trudge out with our flasks and homemade muesli bars. (I have to be honest and say that we did visit a fair few coffee shops as well. For sustenance, you understand!) At first our short walk would be a few miles and our longer ones about four. By July we were up to six miles and ten miles each week.
Finally, last Saturday, it was time for the main event. Along with 630 other walkers we waited nervously at the starting line, arrayed in bright yellow T-shirts, clutching water bottles and flapjack! (I wasn't joking about needing sugar.)
We did a slightly bizarre warm up routine, and then we were off! For the first half of the walk we were carried along by a tide of sweaty women and bonhomie. After seven miles we had a very short refreshment break before continuing on. The second half was much harder. The walkers were strung out and the roads were very dark. Cheerful marshals kept our spirits up, but the pavements developed bumps and we developed blisters. Eventually, just under four hours after we started, and just as it was starting to get light, we crossed the finish line.
I know that lots of people do amazing things for charity, and a midnight half-marathon walk is quite tame compared to other feats that fundraisers achieve. But I am proud of myself, and in a strange masochistic way it was an enjoyable if surreal experience. So today, Lesley and I set off to walk a few miles. After all, it's only a year until the next one!
PS This is not a fundraising post. I don't want anyone to sponsor me. If you are inspired in any small way, then there is sure to be a hospice near you who would love to have your support.