Maggies Nighthike featured in the Daily Telegraph

Across the Divide has worked hand-in-hand with the Maggies Centres to develop a series of fundraising events of which the London NightHike is one.   This years event was even more successful than last years. 

Novelist Jojo Moyes explains why she joined 1,500 people for a night hike through London

Source: the Daily Telegraph | Monday 22nd September | written by JoJo Moyes

Pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor gazed at the crowd in front of London’s City Hall, and then down at her trainers. “You can tell I’m truly serious about this because I’m wearing the ugliest shoes possible,” she sighed. “And in public.”

Walk on: Moyes hiked 20 miles, and all night, for cancer patients
Like Ellis-Bextor, I am not a natural walker. I’m happiest behind my desk writing novels, so it was surreal to find myself wedged between her, presenter Anneka Rice, and Sarah Brown, wife of the Prime Minister, as we joined 1,500 people to walk 20 miles on Friday night.

The 2008 London Night Hike was in aid of Maggie’s Centres, buildings situated next to NHS hospitals that aim to treat people with cancer as humans, rather than patients (there are six centres around the UK and seven more planned by 2012).

Brown, a Maggie’s patron who opened the centre in Fife, counted us down at 10pm, and, in a sea of balloons and yellow T-shirts, the hikers set off.

Janet Ellis, former Blue Peter presenter, and Ellis-Bextor’s mother, had done the 2007 walk. “The people are inspirational. I met a father and daughter, who had been diagnosed within weeks of each other. It does hurt, in the small hours. But you think ‘if they can do it…”


One highlight of the hike was the chance to visit buildings normally closed to the public, such as Battersea Power Station or the Royal Geographical Society. (Maggie’s Centres place an emphasis on architecture: its patrons include Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers and Frank Gehry.)

Anneka Rice lives close to Charing Cross Hospital and knows well the futuristic Rogers-designed orange Maggie’s building. “It’s phenomenal. It’s like a Tardis inside. So I jumped at the chance to join in.”

Fitness levels varied, from veteran power-walkers to the woman optimistically wearing flip-flops. I walked with five team-mates, The Trespassers, and we had been training since June, building up from three miles. Constrained by the demands of work and children, none of us had exceeded 12 miles, and initially we struggled.

It is hard to be diverted by architecture when you know you have miles to go, so our stops were short and focused (loo, drink, stretch). We would also lie down, trying to drain the blood pooling in our feet.

We were more often diverted by drunks. A few tried to pop our balloons; most offered slurred words of encouragement. One man pressed money on us (we assumed it was for charity.)

We also discovered the body reacts strangely the further you walk. The slight ache in my hips at seven miles had, by 12, spread to my feet. At 15, my fingers swelled up and I relied on Ibuprofen.

Other team-mates suffered with necks, backs, and stomach cramp, possibly from the constant eating and drinking en route. Oddly, we never felt tired, and none suffered blisters – our running shoes had been professionally fitted.

When the pain, or the distance, made us despondent, we told jokes, swore and put it all in perspective. As my friend Nicola remarked: “Refugees walk twice this far, fleeing soldiers with their children on their backs – and without the benefit of £70 trainers.”

And we were encouraged by those around. Everyone had a reason for being there. It was clear in the poignant labels tucked into their bowler hats – “Dad”, or “Katie”.

Hours later, it was there in the determined expressions of those limping to the finish. Periodically, I texted my friend Jeannie, who is undergoing treatment at Charing Cross Hospital.

By the time we limped across Tower Bridge at 6am on Saturday, our mood lifted. We had done it, raising £1,700 for Maggie’s. On a superficial note, I had dropped half a stone. Would I do it again? The answer is: yes, probably.

As Janet Ellis said, as she queued with us for a 7am bacon sandwich, medals around her neck: “Yes, the last bit was hard. But it’s worth it. How can it not be?”

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