This is the week that the Annie Get Your Gun girls have been anticipating/dreading for the past couple of months. Ever since the delightful Lorna Want asked during rehearsals if anyone would join her for the Race For Life, we've been sweating our backsides off in training during our spare time in preparation for today's 10k race around Hyde Park for Cancer Research UK.
Now whilst we're all fairly fit due to the physical nature of our jobs, we're not all natural runners. Some of us run regularly, some took up running purely for this event. One or two have hobbled their way around a long-distance race and a few would only run if there was a price-crash sale on Jimmy Choos! However, one thing was clear from the start, this was our challenge and we were doing it all together or not at all.
Once Lorna had got us all organised as the spearhead for the campaign, I took charge of the group fundraising page and did a tiny bit of coaching along the way. This basically consisted yabbering annoyingly motivational phrases during a training run or two and today's race. Oh, and being a little bit of a drill sergeant for Kara Lane when she was unwillingly facing a massive hill to run up in Stoke! Note to self: check the route first, as Kara has no idea how much that hill also hurt me!
What is so wonderful about the Cancer Research UK Race for Life is that it's now a massive event up and down the country, with races of various styles and lengths yet each and every participant is gathered with the common purpose of beating cancer. Writing the cards for the back of our t-shirts was an emotional event in itself. Filling that space with the names of lost loved ones, and those currently fighting, helps you focus on exactly why you've chosen to yomp a 10k at 9am in baking heat after only a few hours' sleep! Reading everyone else's reasons is also just the spur you need when you're halfway round and want to collapse in a sobbing heap!
Natalie Day's message in particular drew many an approving comment from strangers as we ran. Simply put, it said 'Hating running, but hating cancer more', which says it all. This was a small sacrifice to make, for what will surely be a big difference. We've been really lucky in terms of our online support via JustGiving, smashing our team target of £1000 a few days before the race. Our fabulous producers also allowed us to do a collection on the Saturday shows this week and the Aylesbury audiences proved just as generous as they were responsive! The bucket collections from the first show alone raised over £500, which just proves the universal regard for Cancer Research UK and the work they do.
We're also fortunate that it's been a beautiful week. The sunny weather has made for some very sweaty shows which was good training for a hot run, and also kept the spirits high of cast and audience alike. We've had wonderful audiences at the stunning Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, but press night was hands down the most fantastic we've had so far. It's always thrilling when responses to a show improve as it settles in and we carried that adrenalin buzz with us today.
Assembled this morning (super early) in Hyde Park, despite Flo Fields getting a touch lost en route, we donned our blue 'One Show' team t-shirts (as we affectionately call them) and pinned on our various numbers and messages. Added to this were some signs coined by the lovely Katie Marie-Carter.... 'Annie Get Your Run' and the finishing touch.... cowboy hats! Perfect for a yeehah or two as we raced! We crossed the start line holding hands in solidarity, and spotted our support team along the way for some action photos. This consisted of Katie and Kara's boyfriends, Tom and Jim, and Lorna's fiancé James. Or Jonathan, as Natalie decided to call him! We'll blame it on the heat Nat, though video evidence may say otherwise!
A midway point 'selfie' was a must, it being something of a joke pastime amongst our company, and as we began the second lap, we were tired but proud that we'd made the 5k marker in only 34 minutes. No small feat given the heat and our determination to run everything together, adjusting our pace depending on who was struggling at what point. At 7k the tiredness began to set in. We adjusted the pace, regrouped our thoughts and took it in turns to provide motivation. Suddenly 8k was upon us and the hills disappeared for the downhill homeward straight. 9k passed in a blur as we rounded the corner to the Royal Albert Hall and finally we were counting down the metres. Hand in hand, the six of us sprinted the final length across the line completing the 10k in 1 hour 10 minutes, before collapsing onto the grass in sweaty, heaving heaps of tearful joy.
I cannot tell you how proud I am of each and everyone of those girls. Today was a massive achievement for everyone and so incredibly emotional too, matched by some fantastic fundraising. We promised we'd race as a team and did precisely that, running the entire course, never once stopping to jog or walk despite feeling sometimes like we might have to. Together we were stronger, together we know we can make a difference and together we have already raised over £2000 with more to come! Together we can beat cancer. Let's start today.
It's not too late to sponsor the girls for their fantastic achievement. Just visit www.justgiving.com/teams/AGYG-Girls
If you're generous enough, we might even do it again!