Friday night saw the 7th annual London Night Hike in aid of Maggie's Cancer Centres. For the second year running we bring you the highlights and share the lowlights, 'cept this year we chose to plant a mole in another team rather than run our own. Here's what said mole duly reported.
We grimaced a bit. We laughed a lot. We raced. We hobbled. We hopped. We drank a lot of tea. We longed for a G & T. We questioned our sanity. We wondered whether we'd make it to the finish. We made new friends and rejoiced in old ones. We talked drivel. We set the world to right. We marvelled at London. We were flabbergasted by London. We learnt about London. We learnt about ourselves.
Maggie's Night Hike is just incredible. Twenty miles is such a very loooong walk, but the euphoria at managing to finish it, and the pride, and the joy of (nearly - but there's still time) reaching one's fund-raising target - these are worth all the pain and more. The camaraderie of walkers and fellowship of purpose means that it is like walking inside one large group hug for the night.
The fact that it was part of the Open House Weekend gave us privileged (and slightly surreal) night time access to some of London's most iconic buildings. But the convolutions of the route also gave us a glimpse of every shade of London nightlife, from the optimism of early Friday evening to the sordid repercussions of club turn out time early Saturday morning. We wound our way from the jolliness of the South Bank, to the sobriety of Westminster, to the aloofness of Kensington, to the creepy-net-curtain-twitchiness of Fulham, to the particulate laden-ness of Holland Park, to the trim streets of Fitzrovia, and thence back to a chilly, drizzly, echoing City.
The Maggie organisers are very good at what they do. There was tea, and applause, and massage, and little yellow arrows, and smiles, and water - all at exactly the right time they were needed. We wished we could have taken one of the happy clapping support staff home: would that all good deeds were thus greeted.
If you get the chance to try this extraordinary challenge next year, grab it with both hands: it is a rewarding experience.