Every year thousands of women and men take to the streets of London to walk miles through the night to raise money for breast cancer charities. This year, I was one of them and joined the 17,000 others wearing adorned pink bras to take part in Walk the Walk's flagship event The MoonWalk which took place on Saturday 10 May.
Now in its 17th year, The MoonWalk is a fantastic event which raises vital funds, as well as awareness of the disease. Knowing that thousands of people are coming together to take on a challenge of this magnitude to help beat breast cancer sooner is very special and poignant and that thought really spurred me on as I walked through the capital.
Some took on the Full Moon challenge, the marathon 26.2 mile walk through the capital, whilst I and many others took on the Half Moon, a half-marathon length walk of 13.1 miles (plus a little bit extra this year). Both events started and finished on Clapham Common just outside of central London and the routes took us past some of the capital's most eye-catching landmarks.
I have taken part in The MoonWalk in previous years and so knew a little of what to expect on the evening. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favour as we lined up to get started. But it would take more than rain and wind to stop an army of bra wearing walkers! The atmosphere at the start was absolutely electric and everyone was in fantastic spirits. Participants and supporters were enjoying the music and encouraging each other ahead of the event starting.
Seeing thousands of women (and a few men!) lined up in fabulously decorated bras was a great spectacle. Most had gone all out with the 'Rockabilly' theme and had added tassels, glitter, lace and ribbons to their bras and I was very proud of my own pink gingham creation! However, I have to say I was rather jealous of MoonWalk founder Nina Barough's custom made Zandra Rhodes bra, made especially for her for the event. Nina, you looked fabulous!
Whilst excitedly (and a bit nervously!) waiting at the start, I thought back over my months of training. Had it been enough? Had my idea of doing shorter, more challenging walks been a good one? I can say with relief that whilst my training this year had been a little haphazard, the hours I had spent walking with family along the Pembrokeshire costal paths and with friends in Castleton and Tring had been very much worthwhile.
I'm so pleased that I had been training with others. Not only is it more fun but the chatter along the way is what keeps you going when you think your feet are about to give up on you! For the event itself, I was part of a team of MPs and Peers, all of whom were thrilled to take on the challenge in support of breast cancer research. My thanks go to Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP, Mary Macleod MP, Seema Malhotra MP and Claire Perry MP for their support and for their tireless fundraising ahead of the event.
Everyone taking part in The MoonWalk had their own special reason for doing so. Each year in the UK 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and sadly we still lose 12,000 people to the disease each year. It was a real privilege to speak to a number of people on the night about why they were taking part and to hear about their own experience of the disease or indeed about someone they were walking in support or in memory of.
Amongst Breast Cancer Campaign's team of walkers was Pink Ribbon Ball Patron, Linda Nolan. Linda walked with her team 'Bernie's Babes' in memory of her sister Bernie who sadly passed away last year. Linda and her team were in great spirits as they marched around the route. A special thank you to Linda and all of 'Bernie's Babes' for their wonderful efforts on the night and ongoing support.
Breast Cancer Campaign is one of the appreciative recipients of the money raised by Walk the Walk, the grant-making charity behind this iconic event, and we are so grateful for the support of founder Nina Barough and her team. They have raised a phenomenal £91.5 million for breast cancer causes to date, which has helped fund vital research projects such as the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank.
We've made great progress in overcoming breast cancer in the last 20 years, but there is still much more to do as it is still the most common form of cancer. With Walk the Walk's generosity we can continue to fund vital projects to ensure that more lives are saved from breast cancer in the future.
I'm pleased to say that I completed the half-moon challenge in 4.5 hours at about 4.00am on the Sunday (11 May) morning. Happy but tired, I climbed into bed not long afterwards!
Congratulations to everyone who took part in The MoonWalk, you should all be very proud - what an amazing achievement! Your hard work and dedication really will make a difference to the lives of those affected by breast cancer, thank you.