Keep on moo-ving

The other weekend, my daughter and I faced the last challenge in our trilogy of girl power sporting events for the summer—the MK Midnight Moo Walk for Willen Hospice. This women-only walk consisted of 10 miles of a seemingly endless trail of pavement and footpaths routed throughout the city centre, numerous housing estates and stretches of parkland. As the name suggests, the Midnight Moo set off at midnight and when we originally signed up for it we thought it sounded great and we imagined it was also be really exciting to walk in a dark, empty city at night. We didn’t think that it sounded too daunting as it wasn’t nearly as long as London’s famous 26 mile MoonWalk. Ok, so we weren’t exactly night owls but surely we would be able to stay up a little later than normal because after all, it was for a great charity.

Therefore, it was with that in mind that we mindlessly ticked off the days in the calendar until it was the day of the Midnight Moo. Being a weekend, we had a busy day and didn’t give much thought to how we would actually stay awake past midnight. By the evening, we were full of anticipation and waited impatiently for the time to pass until we could leave for the event. However, by the time we got there we were suddenly overcome with tiredness and felt ready for bed. So with heavy, sleepy eyes we decided to fuel up on some caffeine in the form of hot chocolate and coffee and we quickly downed them at the only open café which was heaving with like-minded individuals. As the café was strategically located next to the Midnight Moo start, we had just enough time for the caffeine to kick in before we needed to take our places.

Joining thousands of participants, we were all dressed in the official yellow Midnight Moo logo tops and wearing glow-in-the-dark wristbands to reflect this year’s ‘neon’ theme. Being ‘newbies’, we were perhaps slightly underdressed with our glowsticks and head torches in contrast to the gangs of women sporting brightly lit tutus, illuminated hair bands, flashing cow noses and sparkling trainers. As the official warm-up finished, everyone scrambled to find a good spot at the start among the sea of yellow. Once the air horn blasted the start of the Midnight Moo, we did not regret our lack of accessories. We were more mobile and hands-free and nimbly manoeuvred our way through the scrum. We weaved and scurried past marchers, striders and dawdlers as we attempted to move ahead of the congestion. We spent the first mile simply trying to avoid pedestrian traffic jams and bottlenecks but by going a bit off-piste we successfully managed to find some space to stretch out.

Over the next mile, the reality and foolishness of what we were doing began to set in and the yellow herd began to thin out. Behind the face paint and neon accessories, the walkers began to reveal themselves as those who were veteran Moo-ers and those, like us, who did not have a clue what they were in for. Among the veteran Moo-ers, there were clearly some who were intent on setting some new PBs but the rest of the vets looked equally confident of powerwalking throughout the night. My daughter and I were naïve enough to be persuaded by their enthusiasm which spurred us on to increase our speed. We were already working on the theory that if we walked at a good pace it would force us to stay awake, finish the walk sooner and ultimately, we would go back to our duvets earlier. We even had a back-up plan to be used as a last resort if we were really tiring: we would run a bit by stealth to speed things up. But full of energy, caffeine and in good spirits we carried on into the night.

Miles 3, 4 and 5 seemed to fly by at a record pace as we chatted about everything under the sun but then things started to take a turn downhill as we both grew more sleepy. We knew that there was an official halfway point coming up but where was it? It was already past 1am and we couldn’t get our weary heads around how many metres were in half a mile and we continued to trudge along becoming more and more desperate to find it. Luckily, we were revived by a fellow walker who shouted, ‘It’s around the corner and they’ve got chocolate!’. Well that was all we needed to hear to energise us and with a sudden sprint in our step, we arrived at a half-way point in no time.

The half-way point was based in a school gymnasium and as we entered into the stark brightness and noise it felt as if we were dreaming, or at least sleepwalking. It was chock full of smiling volunteers who clapped and thanked everybody for taking part in the walk and like zombies, we followed them to the water station positioned next to a massive table piled high with chocolate treats. As the continuous procession of hands grabbed bars after bars the table seemed to replenish itself with a perpetual supply of chocolate. I had also remembered that I had been carrying some bananas for us and despite being a little worse for wear, they made a good combo with the chocolate.

After some stretching and refuelling we went out into the dark night, wide awake again and motivated to get to the finish line the quickest our legs would take us. We quickly stacked up some more miles until mile 8, when things began to go downhill again. By this point, many more people were limping, cow paraphernalia had been abandoned or was now resentfully being carried and chocolate wrapper scraps were left behind like footprints. Tiredness hit us hard and I felt that our bodies were now running on banana power. Neither of us wanted to put our stealth running plan into action but I knew that if we could just get to mile 9, we could trick ourselves into believing that it was almost over.

What felt an eternity later, we saw the big 9 and knew that there really would be a finish. We began to recognise our surroundings which gave us a second wind and we geared up the powerwalk a couple of notches. By now the only topics of conversation alternated between: When we would get to the finish, How good our beds were going to feel, What time did we have to wake up the next day and Whose crazy idea was this again? With the end finally in sight, we geared up the powerwalk to full throttle and in effect, we ran across the finish line into a crowd of spectators, volunteers and other walkers. We were absolutely elated to finish but so sleepy that we could scarcely believe that we were still awake. The coffee shop was still going strong and full of walkers refuelling but after collecting our medals we could only think of getting home and tucking ourselves into a long overdue slumber. At last, we had met all 3 of our challenges! I wonder what else we can do…

Because we were propelled to the finish with a bit of help from banana power this week I have come up with a banana-inspired recipe. These Banana Pops are good for an afterschool snack but are also perfect to be eaten as a recovery snack after a good workout. They are extremely quick to make, can made in advance and stored in the freezer so they are easy to grab in a rush.

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