BLOG: Sam and Xiomara's Friday Night With A Difference (Part II)
Yesterday we discovered why our Quality Assurance Assistant, Samantha Wood, and E-learning Project Manager, Xiomara Medina Saavedra, decided to traipse 13 miles through London in the dead of night for the Big Issue Foundation. Now they recount their highs and lows of the Big London Night Walk and the impact it's had on them.
Rest Stop 1
After about 3 miles, we arrived at the first rest stop feeling a little tired and achy but ok. We were entertained by original sketches from a theatre company show called ‘Britain’s Got Tenants’, looking at the very topical issue of social housing.
Rest Stop 2
A drink and a little rest later, we were back on the path to our next rest stop, The Samaritans, which was another 2.5 miles away by which point Xiomara was still going strong but my body was already wondering when I was going to be heading off to bed!
This wasn't helped by overhearing that we’d only completed just over five miles of the walk! Before that I was blissfully unaware of miles but now I was asking crazily thinking, ‘Only 5 miles done?!’
I took a little more rest this time around and that’s when the aches and pains started kicking in! I was already grateful for Xiomara’s participation but it was at the rest stops where her support really helped me to keep going.
The longest stretch of the walk stood before us and it started to become increasingly challenging - muscles I’d forgotten about started to remind me I hadn’t prepared as well as I should have for this. My mind drifted as I stopped caring about what sights I might see, the night was getting colder and I was starting to feel alone despite being around others.
Was this the unique experience that this challenge brought? A first-hand experience of the feelings that are commonplace to those who have to endure a life on the streets?
I told myself even though I was struggling, I'd be able to go home at the end, have a hot shower, some comforting food and a soft bed. People on the streets spend their nights trying to keep safe only to then have to find safe shelter somewhere just so they could repeat the same routine all over again.
It’s really easy to understand why drink and drugs play such a large role in these people’s lives. I could’ve happily accepted a sneaky rum and coke by this stage and I wasn’t even halfway through the challenge!
At one point we walked straight past Downing Street and I could feel tears pricking my eyes as I thought of those in power who probably had no idea there was an army of people marching for those less fortunate. How aware were they that around the corner there were people in desperate need?
Rest Stop 3
By the time we reached our third stop, I was actually struggling to walk, even sitting down was painful. Xiomara and I still kept each going as we started the next 1.5 miles - a short stint compared to the previous ones!
I started employing some bootcamp-style messages to keep myself going and thought of loved ones and everyone at work who had offered so much support and money. I couldn’t let them down and I wouldn't let myself down!
Rest Stop 4 and Finish
Arriving at our fourth and final stop, I the dread of not physically being able to complete the walk took hold in my mind.
Thankfully though Xiomara and I took some time to watch The Roundhouse Poetry Collective, made up of 14 gifted poets, aged 18-25, from across London. Seeing such passion and energy helped to give us enough of a boost to get back up and face the final three miles.
This, for me, was the most mentally and physically demanding part of the whole event and the bootcamp messages shouted at me louder and louder in my head whilst I gritted my teeth and did my best to keep my fellow red-coated walkers within my sights.
Just when I felt like having a wailing tantrum even a toddler would be ashamed of, I turned the corner and spotted the Finish Line. I’m not too ashamed to say I burst into tears of sheer emotion (and there was quite a combination of them by this stage).
Xiomara and I were welcomed back with compassion and support where we proudly accepted our medals.
Collapsing into chairs, we were both so exhausted and tired but exhilarated by our experience. It certainly was a Friday night with a difference and I like to think we have both made a difference too.
I'm glad I joined Sam in this adventure, now I have a beautiful memory in my mind of how quiet and beautiful walking the city during dawn is, and the most romantic pictures too! It was an interesting contrast between the vibrant city at night and the empty roads at 4am, plus an overwhelming feeling of loneliness when no one had energy left to speak to one another.
I found it very shocking to see how homeless people walk during the night with no particular destination in mind, just trying to keep themselves safe.
It's easy to get caught in the daily routine and forget how lucky we are, but this experience helped remind me how blessed I am for having two places to call home, and be surrounded by lovely friends on opposite sides of the world!
I never thought I was going to be able to walk for so long during the night, but people say “You never know how strong you are, until you need to be strong”, and this happened to be true on that day.
I won't ever forget this experience with Sam, and now I am ready and motivated to face new challenges and I would love to hear if anyone is going to participate in anything similar so I can join them :)