(although luminous yellow are pretty good as well)
It was three in the morning and I was standing on the corner of a street in a hi-viz jacket with a cat rubbing itself against my legs. Further down the road I could just see Liz’s flashing bunny ears and in the distance I could see a snake of twinkling lights coming towards us. As they got closer I could see that they were all wearing pink tee-shirts. When they reached me I directed them round the corner and onward. It was the annual Midnight Walk for the Florence Nightingale Hospice. Most were walking steadily and chatting away although a couple of times someone not in a pink teeshirt weaved their way along the road and staggered off into the distance.
Five hours earlier we had been admiring the sunset as we headed to a briefing at Aylesbury College where we were given a pack with the route and photographs of where we were supposed to stand – they aim to have 100 marshal points over a ten mile route – approximately one every 200 yards so that each marshal is visible to the one before and the one after themselves. It doesn’t always work quite like that with corners and with road crossings needing one each side of the road but there are very few, if any, points on the route where the walkers won’t be able to see a marshal.
Some people were doing a five mile walk, heading back to the college after passing the Waterside Theatre, while the rest headed out on another loop round the town. Since they had well under 100 marshals most people were given two marshal points with the hope that after the back markers had passed them they would be able to get to their next marshal point before the front runners, I mean walkers. We were given two points on the ten mile loop which turned out to be too close together.
This year (after consulting their supporters) they had shortened the distance and changed the route and had agreed that men could participate (rather than just being marshals). So this year there was a sprinkling of men in fetching pink teeshirts although the vast majority of walkers were ladies of all ages.
We were told that it was not a race, but a walk and that no-one should pass the lead walkers. These were my daughter in law’s step-sisters and dressed in bright yellow so there was no missing them and a couple who did try to muscle past them were given short shrift. They set off at a cracking pace and I estimated that they would be at out first marshal point at about 1.30 so we had a coffee (not sure that was necessarily a good idea) and waited for a while in the college and headed to our alloted point just after 1.00.
My estimate of their arrival time was pretty close and soon there were animated pink groups walking past mostly with flashing bunny ears (I had some as well). One or two had coats over their teeshirts which made them less visible which wasn’t a problem if they were in the midst of a pack but would be if they were on their own. Pink teeshirts and flashing bunny ears were best! After about three-quarters of an hour the backmarker came through and we were free to depart to our next marshal point (after texting ‘Marshal Control’ to say they we were moving on – we had earlier texted to say that we had arrived at our spot).
Unfortunately the step-sisters had been stepping out rather too vigorously and as we approached our second marshal posts we saw them coming towards us. No worries, all seemed to be under control and a temporary marshal had been dispatched to our point. Sometime after three o’clock the back marker came through and we headed back to the college for a coffee and bacon butty (and a pee), not necessarily in that order. Quite a few people had already finished and there were some familiar faces at the next table which we couldn’t quite place until we realised that they were staff from CCHU.
There were over 500 walkers and they expected to raise over £40,000 for the hospice. As we had been last year we were impressed with the effort and organisation that had gone in to running this event – well done the Midnight Walk team! So as dawn broke we headed home to our beds.