The Weekend to End Women’s Cancer 60km Walk

A few weeks ago I wrote about the walk I was training for to raise money for the Peter Mac Cancer Centre, well, last weekend was the big event!

The weekend started at 4am on Saturday when my alarm went off – completely unnecessarily as I had been unable to sleep (a mixture of excitement for the event and fear of sleeping through the alarm!!). Leesa and her husband, Stuart, arrived at 4.20am,

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we packed up the car with my weekend bag, stopped off at Christie’s house to collect her and then we were off into the city to meet at Fritsch Holzer park – our home for the weekend. Christie and I are not natural early risers (I think that may be putting it mildly) but Leesa is and thankfully she had brought travel cups of tea (for me) and coffee (for Christie). We arrived at the park, dropped off our bags, met up with Jacqui and then hung around for the opening ceremony.

Jacqui and Christie had to leave early to set up their support tent. They were to be ‘Grab n Go B’ a rehydration station where walkers could fill water bottles and grab a quick snack at around the 10km mark.

All the walkers assembled for the opening ceremony at 7am. It started with a Zumba warm up – I am a little unco at the best of times, but when I’ve had a 4am start I have no hope!! There were a couple of quick speeches from breast cancer survivors and Peter Mac staff and then – WE WERE OFF!!!

We were quite far back in the crowd but we managed to overtake quite a lot of people and soon found ourselves towards the front of the group. Leesa and I have a very compatible walking speed which is just as well as it’s really hard to walk a long distance at someone else’s pace – whether that is faster or slower. The walk was not a race, but we both wanted to push ourselves to do the best we could.

Every few kilometres along the route, there was a rehydration station where support crews were cheering us on, ringing cowbells and waving cheerleader pom poms 🙂 When we reached Christie and Jacqui’s Hawaiian themed stand we stopped briefly for a team photo before getting on the road again!

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We continued to trot around the course, weaving our way around the unfamiliar city streets with the assistance of bikeys (motorbike club members) posted at all the traffic lights we came across. Every time we approached one of these burly, gruff looking crossing monitors we were given sweet words of encouragement to send us on our way.

All through the city, random strangers applauded us and shouted their support. We passed the front door of the Peter Mac Cancer Centre where staff and patients had come out to the street to offer their thanks and encouragement. That was very humbling and Leesa and I had a wee teary moment remembering just why we were doing this.

Our course on the first day took us right into the city and we walked around the iconic MCG and along the banks of the Yarra. It reminded us what a beautiful city we live in.

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Hmm, that bridge is maybe not the most beautiful part of the city but the skyline behind me is pretty cool!!

We carried on at quite a pace for the last few kilometres. Having trained over long distances we felt pretty good – the only difference being that Melton has NO hills, not one, and so the hilly parts of the city (and we seemed to visit every one of them!) took their toll on us a little.

The thought spurring me on in the last few kilometres was that I had heard there were foot spas at the end, and I didn’t want a foot spa that had been used by 500 people before me!!

As we approached the last kilometre Jacqui phoned to see how we were doing and we told her we were heading back. They raced to meet us at the finish line and amazed us with the news that we had finished in 10th place for the first day!! With 1401 walkers we were astounded! We had completed 30km in 4.5 hours. We had a quick team hug and then went to make the most of the massage therapists on hand!

My hips were sore – not something I had ever experienced on my training walks so I think it must have been down to the hills. Ben, my lovely masseur, gave me a recovery massage which loosened the muscles in my hips and calves. After we had both finished in the massage tent, our next stop was the bar!! The sun was only just over the yardarm but we had been up for HOURS and we deserved a celebratory drink! I had brought a tarp in my weekend bag so we spread that out on the grass and relaxed the afternoon away!

The last walker finished at around 4.30pm and by that time we’d had a shower and a nap so we felt like new women!! Dinner was a delicious rosemary chicken with feta pasta and pumpkin chickpea salad. We were so hungry we’d have eaten anything but this was properly delicious!

After dinner there were a few speeches – one from a young doctor working in research at the Peter Mac Centre, her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in high school and she was now determined to make a difference to women who find themselves in the same position. She and her mother (now recovered) had completed the walk together earlier in the day. There was another lady who had been discovered a lump in her breast, it was found to be cancerous and so her family all resolved to check themselves more thoroughly. That very same month, her mother and sister were also found to have breast cancer – I can’t imagine the turmoil that family went through, it’s bad enough when one family member is receiving treatment, but three at once!!?!!

There was a band after dinner who played some really good music but we were beyond dancing!! We organised ourselves in the tent village (our bags had miraculously appeared in our assigned tents, thanks to support crew members) got ready for bed and then zonked out. It was 8.30pm!

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We awoke to day two at 5am. A full cooked breakfast was provided before we set off for the second leg of our challenge. We decided to get to the front of the group from the start today so we were right behind the starting line. My muscles were aching a little and my hips were pretty sore before we set off but it was a case of mind over matter today.

The course on the second day took us around lots of parks in Melbourne. It was a great way to see parts of the city that we don’t usually visit.

The beginning of the course was very hilly and it was hard work to keep up our pace, but we pushed ourselves as much as we could and we kept up our momentum.

There were a few times on the second day when I really had to concentrate to keep going. I used various different strategies. When my hips were very sore it was easy to concentrate on that – which made the pain overwhelm me – so instead I concentrated on what DIDN’T hurt at all. My elbows felt amazing!! Every time the thought of my sore hips came into my head, I’d concentrate instead on how good my elbows were!!! It sounds silly but it works for me! I also thought of my Mum and how, in a weeks time, I’d be over whatever discomfort I was experiencing but she has had months of chemo and she still has several surgeries ahead of her. That helped to put things into perspective quick smart!

My final strategy for the last few kilometres was to imagine that this was the start of the walk – five km is about the distance from my home to work and so I tried to imagine that this was all I had to do, that the previous 55km hadn’t happened. This had limited success because every step I took felt like bone on bone in my hip socket!

As we turned for the last kilometre, Leesa said, ‘We’ve only gone and done it, Laurs!’ And it was a great sense of accomplishment. We phoned Jacqui to tell her that we were almost there but they weren’t back from dismantling their stand yet!!! We crossed the line in 4.5 hours again – a fact that amazed us both as it had been a very different walk from the day before. We’re not sure what place we arrived in as there was no one there to count for us but we were definitely in the top 20.

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We went straight to the massage tent again and then collected our victor’s shirts to wear at the closing ceremony before heading to the bar again.

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Our families came to meet us and to see the closing ceremony. I’m really glad they did as it helped them to see just how big a deal this was. They have seen me get up to go out training early and they knew I was coming to do this but I don’t think they quite realised the scale of what we were doing.

We had a final team photo

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And then it was time to take our weary, aching, blistered bodies home.

We were part of something really wonderful. 1401 people, mostly women, raised $3.6 million to be used in the familial cancer department and for the research into better chemotherapy treatment for women’s cancers.

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