I think you knew when I announced that I'd be running a marathon for my wedding day and trekking a giant wall in China for honeymoon that the hen do would be neither conventional nor relaxing.
I confess, not even I thought it would come with a 6am start time, a 10k race around London, 20 10k run/walkers, three babies, two pushchairs, two husbands, one running mother of the bride, 15 tutus (with matching headbands and leg warmers) and too many polar bears and cannons of fake snow to mention - as well as more than 200 bits of recovery cake.
But, looking back, I'm so glad it did.
Because, on that cold Sunday morning, I learned something about friendship that I think I would have never discovered tucked away in some remote cottage sipping a bit too much Champagne out of rather oddly-shaped male straws.
On that day, I wore my L plates, feather boa, veil (complete with horns), tutu and wicked witch socks with pride - surrounded as I was by the people who give me a reason to smile every single day of the year.
Because, on that day, I was reminded that you can go a long way with the right people by your side.
Whether or not you are still nursing blisters or cursing the lack of lie-in, I want to thank you for getting out there and giving it a go. I know for some of you it was far from your comfort zone. I know for others it was hours of training in the cold and the rain - hours that you could have spent cuddling your children or simply cuddling up on the sofa with a good film and a glass of wine. I know some of you found it harder than you will ever declare. I know you were cold. I know the pub was an attractive alternative. But you did it - complete with injuries and unborn children. And that is a fact that will warm my heart forever.
Friendship is going that extra mile for others and smiling while you do it. Friendship is encouragement and teamwork and strength in numbers. Friendship is high-fiving polar bears and wearing fluorescent face paint in the name of charity. Friendship is trying to take great photos with a selfie stick while trying not to fall over your feet. Friendship is breastfeeding your baby in a tent by the start line. Friendship is putting your hip replacement through its paces. Friendship is running the same week you're cycling through Cambodia or climbing Kilamanjaro. Friendship is convincing the guy with the microphone at the finish line that pretending to be a stripper would be OK. Friendship is helping the hen smash her halfway (more than £7,500) fundraising target for two amazing charities (Willow and Breast Cancer Care) with well-worded emails and powerful pleas (that had me in floods).
And friendship is turning up from all parts of the country just to make someone's day.
Friendship is everything. But, it takes work. It needs to be cherished and celebrated each and every day. Because, without it, you're in a silent film with no one to share the funny bits. You're alone.
I haven't always been a great friend. Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, I was a thirty-something workaholic rushing through life so fast I had forgotten what it was to live. I remembered birthdays, I made cakes, I spent three months one year tucked away sewing Christmas hearts and making chutney, but I rarely turned up and played a role in your lives. And, for that I am sorry.
I missed the point and I see that - now more than ever.
Cancer taught me a lot about life. As I pop the daily pill that is keeping me alive, I am reminded of how we must squeeze as much as we can out of every moment and must tell the people we love just how much we do - and often, not just when we remember. Life is too short not to.
Now, I understand that the best thing a friend has to offer is time. Time can create memories that last long after the cards have faded. Time with a friend can change the course of a day and remind you to make each one special.
And, time with a friend in trainers, makes even exercise a good opportunity to chat.
On my hen do, you gave me the greatest gift there is: you.
And that is what I vow to gift back to each of you in return, whenever you need.
If you're reading this and you were on the course either by my side or channelling your inner Paula Radcliffe, then thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my very humble heart.
And, if you're reading this thinking that it might be about time you picked up the phone, make this the day you say what you really really mean.
Make a call, grab a coffee, go on an adventure. Or, if you've just got engaged and are planning that hen do, go dust off those trainers.
For there's nothing like a run with the people you love to make you happy to be alive.
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