At 7:40pm on Friday June 5th, the second group of walkers taking part in the 50/50/50 endurance walk for Dimbleby Cancer Care left St Thomas’s Hospital and headed across Westminster Bridge to embark on a gruelling 50 kilometre walk around the capital. Despite some unfavourable forecasts, the weather was perfect as we made our way past Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace towards the first pit stop, led by our excellent guide Elisabeth.
The atmosphere along the way was jovial, with many people asking what we were up to and how far we had walked so far. The general reactions after saying we were walking 50 kilometres through the night were ones of amazement and good luck wishes. The second stretch was possibly the furthest in distance between pit stops but we kept ourselves cheery, spurred on by the generous donations we had received in the build up to the walk. From Hyde Park Corner to Marble Arch there was an intense ‘alphabet game’ underway, keeping our minds active and providing the entertainment as the night drew in. Pit stop two was at a lovely church and was very welcoming to provide us with refreshments and words of encouragement from the brilliant volunteers. In that section we passed the V&A and Natural History Museums, Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Oxford Circus, and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
After leaving the Church, we entered a tough section of the walk with fatigue and pains noticeably starting to kick in. The impressive St. Paul’s Cathedral was one of the first landmarks to pass, its dome illuminated spectacularly. Into the early hours we continued as a group past the Walkie Talkie building, the Cheese Grater and The Gherkin. Knowing that the halfway point was just around the corner was both a good measure of how far we’d come but a stark reminder of how far was left to go. With the Shard in view across the river, it seemed we were walking further and further away from it. The Tower of London marked the halfway point and we took a quick break at the nicely lit Tower Bridge to collect our thoughts and rest our feet. After this we made our way through St. Katharine Docks and alongside the Ornamental Canal, weaving our way around the residential areas and waterways aiming for the Four Seasons hotel, our next pit stop. At the twilight time of around 3am and it starting to get lighter again, I personally started to struggle. I was getting pain in my left foot and a headache brought on by fatigue began to get me down. It seemed that the next pit stop was never going to appear on the horizon but we collectively made it somehow; I don’t recall what time it was. It was a very sombre and quiet pit stop but there was no way we were going to give up.
A chilly breeze greeted us as we left the Four Seasons and that helped to wake everyone up a bit. Pain killers taken and blister plasters applied, we made our way around Canary Wharf in the early morning light. I certainly found a ‘second wind’ on this section of the walk and felt a lot better after the pit stop. Walking around Canary Wharf at dawn was interesting as everywhere was near enough deserted, resembling a scene from ‘28 Days Later’. We made our way around the Isle of Dogs and through Millwall Park until we reached the Greenwich foot tunnel. This led us underneath the Thames but felt very claustrophobic and I didn’t want to hang around in there! Out of the other side of the tunnel was the Cutty Sark. This was a great photo-op moment for our group and a chance to have a breather. The rest of this stretch before pit stop four was mainly residential areas and a park before we arrived at the Thameside Youth Hostel, greeted again by the volunteers.
This was it; the final leg of our epic walk. It took us alongside the River Thames giving a great view of the London skyline and we could see the Shard getting closer and closer, meaning the finish line was in sight. It was far from an easy walk though, as many of the team were struggling at this point but we’d got this far and through sheer determination we would finish. My left foot was in a lot of pain but we were so close to the end it didn’t matter how long it took, we would get there. We couldn’t have asked for better weather throughout the whole event and the sun was shining as we approached the final kilometres. The group had stretched a little so we reconvened at Tower Bridge and completed the last leg together. It was such a relief and massive sense of achievement to reach the finishing point at Guy’s Hospital!
The 50/50/50 walk was a tough endurance challenge but we made it to the end and raised lots of money for a very worthy cause. Exceeding our team and a lot of our personal fundraising targets, The McMinn Centre total is currently in excess of £7,700! On behalf of Mr McMinn, his team, everyone who was part of the event, from walkers to volunteers, we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who donated to support us! It really did help to spur us on to the end.