A Shaftesbury businessman hopes to raise cash for Cancer Research UK after finishing first on a 26-mile night-time walk across London.
James Farrow has just returned from a tour of the capital. “I took in a lot of London sites, like the Millennium Wheel, Tower of London and Tower Bridge,” said James. But the owner of Shaftesbury’s BMV Fitness wasn’t on a sightseeing circuit of the city. James embarked on an overnight London walking marathon, covering 26 miles of the capital’s streets by foot, to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.
“I’m reasonably fit, I would say. I do personal training at BMV Health and Fitness and I train most days,” said James. A stroll across the city would be a ‘walk in the park,’ then. But James has a competitive streak and he didn’t dawdle. “I found myself at the front because I had a reasonable pace on me. It was more of a trot – fast walk,” he said.
The Shine Night Walk wasn’t a race for most entrants. “I think you should always try your best,” James laughed. “And my best was trying to do it as well as I could. I was in the top four or five, and when we got down to the 20-mile mark, and adrenaline kicked in, I thought, ‘let’s do this.’ I stepped up the pace a little bit. I thought I’d be home and tucked up in bed a little bit sooner.”
James finished first out of 10,000 walkers. He was out on his own, up front. “You have a lead cyclist for security. It is amazingly well-structured. They had police volunteering around the course. Every crossing had security guards to press the crossing buttons for you, because the roads are still open. We were still in the middle of London. They managed to cordon off a two-foot-wide walkway where we could walk,” explained James.
The 26-mile circuit took James 5 hours, 35 minutes and 24 seconds. Some people take longer to run the London Marathon. “I had a fair lick on,” he laughed. “I’ve entered the marathon, but I never got through from the lottery stages. It’s an ambition to do it.”
James undertook the challenge on Saturday 21st of September to raise funds for a charity that has helped his family. “My mum recovered from cancer a number of years ago. It had a personal feeling to me,” said James. He appreciates how Cancer Research UK helped his mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “The research they do is part of that. One-in-two people are touched by cancer in their lives. Conceivably it affects all of us in some way with friends or relatives. A lot of people had slogans, ‘walking in memory of mum, dad, brother or sister’. They had a big LED TV screen up before we started. One of the ladies gave an impassioned speech that she’d recovered from chemotherapy and she was taking part. Everyone has their own personal reasons for doing it,” said James.
Marathon runners are often said to hit a ‘wall’ at certain points on the route. James had to tackle a walker’s equivalent. “You forget that a little incline can seem like a large hill, although not quite as bad as Gold Hill. Near the National Museum the incline rises for about a quarter of a mile. It felt epic going up there at 19 miles in. It got chillier at about 11 o’clock at night and energy levels were starting to drag bit, but people were coming out, even at 11.30 at night with ‘Yeah, well done’, and stuff like that. At one point, the marathon and the half marathon linked up, so you had tens of thousands of people coming past you. That really helped with motivation,” said James.
He says that seeing the city in the dark was special. “We went over Westminster Bridge and that was really good. We looked down as we went past The Embankment and you could see the illumination of the bridges and the Millennium Wheel. Then, coming up towards me were a lot of the half marathon competitors, all decked out in little sparkly fairy lights, fancy dress and pink costumes. There were about 10,000 people. It was a breath-taking sight. It was midnight on Saturday in the middle of London. It sums up the whole ethos of the walk,” said James.
It has changed James’ perspective of London. “London can get some bad press with the violence but everyone was really welcoming. We went past a couple of barbecues and people asked, ‘what are you doing?’ and when I said I was doing a night walk for charity they were shouting, ‘Well done. Keep going’. There was just a warm feeling.”
James travelled up to town to enter the walk on his own but he’s considering taking friends and clients next time. “I might try and get a team together from the gym,” he said.
James has a modest fundraising goal. “I’d love to get £250. It would be absolutely amazing. £250 pays for a nurse to research for a week -a nice figure like that would make it feel really worthwhile.”
You can support James on the Cancer Research UK website.