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by • September 24, 2014 • Across the Pond, Challenges, Events, Guest Blogger, Walker Story, WalktheWalk, WalktheWalk InsiderComments (0)1311

The Virgin London Marathon: Men Get Breast Cancer Too!

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We want to hear from you! Please write us to share your story on our blog at info@walkthewalkamerica. Read all about Joey’s experience and why he decided to walk in The Virgin London Marathon.

The London Marathon is on everyone’s bucket list, but like most things on this list we keep putting them off until it is too late. But after hearing my mother’s account of last year’s marathon, which she walked for Walk the Walk, I could not wait for my turn.

With my place confirmed, apprehension kicked in and it dawned on me the reality of what I had signed up for. It was not the actual marathon that concerned me, it was the hours of training including 5:30AM runs before work and 2+ hour runs most weekends. Looking back on it now, I do not regret any of this. The pain is a distant memory overshadowed by the awesomeness of the accomplishment.

As a young man (I was 22 when I ran the marathon), the prospect of running the streets of London in a pink bra was not one that sat too well with me! The initial plan was to pin the bra to my running shirt so that I could still run unhindered and display Walk the Walk’s logo. As I was not going to wear just the bra for the event I thought it would be good to get some publicity shots of me wearing the bra the night before. Before I knew it I was standing in Trafalgar Square topless, with my bra on, getting some very strange looks from the passing tourists (and from the community officer who was none too impressed!).

Later that night, as the bra was getting fixed to my running top, I came to the idea that running in a T-shirt was not acceptable. I had no choice but to run in just a bra if I wanted to get the message across with maximum impact.

As a man who does not often wear a bra, chaffing was of big concern. So as I was getting put into my outfit on the morning of the marathon, my support team were going around sticking on strategic tape, needless to say most of this had fallen off before the marathon had begun!

On to the marathon itself. It was such a hot day, and due to not wearing much on my top half, the sun burn was kicking in before crossing the start line. The London Marathon is known for crazy charity runners wearing outrageous costumes therefore as a 6’5” man wearing a bra I thought I would just blend into normality. This proved not to be the case! I can’t count the number of ‘selfies’ that other runners asked me for before the race. This seemed strange to me that I was getting singled out for attention; it is not something that I am used too. This however set the tone for what would soon prove to be one of the most surreal experiences of my life to date.

As I crossed the start line the yells and screams from the crowd began. This was to be expected, but I was not expecting them all to be screaming my name! I could hear the shouts of ‘Come on Joey’ and ‘nice pair’. I even had a few men ask for my number not to mention the wolf whistles. This continued for mile after mile; I felt like I as the only one running. Miles 1-10 flew by!  Then the pain hits in! All the support had got me carried away and I had gone off too quickly and also the heat of the day was starting to take its toll. By the time I got to Tower Bridge cramp had set in. I had not once had cramp in training but there I was, not even at the half way point and I could barely run. I had so far to go and it all got a bit overwhelming. However, the crowd really were fantastic and the pain I was feeling was drowned out by the thousands of supporters, they really did carry me around.

Miles 12-16 were by far and away the hardest. The finish line is not in sight, the pain is really kicking in, the crowds are dying down as at this point you are running away from the finish, and to make it worse you can see people at about mile 22 running the other way – demoralising does not do it justice!! At this point all you can do is grit your teeth and march on with the hope and expectation that it will get better.

And better it got, miles 17-24 were fantastic. This was by far the highlight of the event for me – the crowds were at their biggest, the atmosphere was incredible and all the runners seemed to be unified by the experiences we had faced in the previous 3-4 hours. I can remember that the support that I was receiving was no longer solely coming from the crowd, I was also experiencing other runners cheering my name and taking photos of me! I kept thinking to myself this is ridiculous, we are all in the same boat and yet I was getting singled out. That is the impact a bra has!

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The finish I found to be a bit underwhelming, it was hard to focus on anything but the pain.

After the event success and failure should not be judged on the time of completion or anything like that, it should be judged based on two outcomes. Firstly did you get around and secondly and most importantly did you get your message across? For me I can definitely say that my message of ‘men can get breast cancer too’ definitely got noticed, and if one person benefits from my exertions then it was all worthwhile! And of course thirdly did we raise lots of money. To date I have raised nearly £2500 and rising.

– Joey

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