I decided to walk in the Cancer Research Shine nighttime walking marathon. Training for the marathon has had all kinds of side-benefits I wouldn’t have expected: including creatively.
Someone close to me – my Fairy Godmother, who I used to live with – is terminally ill with cancer. I was temping at Cancer Research UK when I found out about the Shine walking marathon which takes place at night over Saturday 28th/Sunday 29th of September. I never saw myself as a ‘marathon person’ – whatever that is – but I thought with some training I could probably walk 26 miles, and the theme of the event – the name, the sparkles, the nighttime everything immediately reminded me of my wonderful (pink-haired extrovert) Fairy Godmother – who comes out with such wonderful sayings as “if you’ve got it: flash it”.
I won’t be flashing for my fairy Godmother, but I will be shining. Please, if you’re so inclined, sponsor me for the Shine marathon on my JustGiving page
Working walking in
Cancer Research UK’s research has reversed people’s prospects with some of the most common cancers, and they’re working hard on the rest of them. It’s a bit obvious, I know, but when it comes to good causes this one is pretty massive.
I’ve been following the training instructions of how many miles to walk per day and at what pace. It’s not always easy to build that much extra anything into your day, and the first thing I learnt was how crap a lot of my footwear was. (The second thing was how painfully tight my calf muscles can get.)
I’m currently the most overweight I’ve ever been, but 26 miles doesn’t seem undoable – and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly my body’s ‘tuned up’ to the various distances. Just stretch those leg muscles lots. (I currently have muscle definition on my shins. Robert Crumb would drool.)
When I know I have to walk 6 miles on a given day, I’ll end up Google-mapping my journey home and skip some, or all, of the tube. Other days I’ve set off from my flat knowing I need to cover X number of miles, and found myself in nearby neighbourhoods I’d never visited before. I’ve found parks and forests, springs and canals, cool shops, funny signs, and all manner of architectural weirdnesses.
Even though it takes me longer to get from A to B, walking in London has made the city seem smaller and friendlier – it’s helped me match up where different things are overground – not just on a tube map – and it’s given me a new relationship with the city I was born and raised in. I’ve found myself returning time and time again to the Thames – not the South Bank, but further along where you can walk out on the near-empty ‘beaches’ and see hundreds of years’ worth of people’s stuff – bricks, glass and pottery – becoming rounded into seaglass and pebbles.
I feel like a tourist, but since I’ve been walking to places I don’t usually go, I’ve been looking up, and seeing things I might have normally missed. I’ve been drinking in all manner of strange architecture, public art, and strangely beautiful bits of decay. Since I have a smart phone I’ve been taking pictures. Some of those pictures are below.
And I’ve been inspired these last few weeks. I’ve had ideas for stories, poems, articles, etc coming out of my ears. It wasn’t ’til I talked to a friend who pointed it out that I realised the two things might be linked. I don’t know what anyone else’s creative process looks like, but for me: a huge amount of my ideas come to me on the move. That’s why my notebooks and my phone are chockablock with notes, while my desktop remains pristine. And the more I’ve walked around: the more good ideas have come to me. I’m sure there are other elements to do with the seasonal, cyclical nature of creativity, but if you are a creative looking for inspiration: my top tip right now would be to take a half hour’s walk on your own. Ideally along streets you don’t use every day.
And here are some of the photos I’ve taken (click on each one for an enlargement.)