Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Relay for Life

At the weekend I had the greatest pleasure of being part of the Cancer Society "Relay for Life".

If you don't know what this is then I will explain.
It involves teams of people spending 22 hours walking round a set track. It is done in a relay, so you are only required to have someone from your team on the track at all times, you don't have to walk for the whole time.
You then raise money by getting people to support you in this process, so people give you money for the fact you team is there not for a set amount of laps or anything.
You start the relay at 2pm on Saturday and it continues until 12 on Sunday. You of course pray for nice weather.
You pitch a tent and gazebo for the team and this is where you spend your time when not walking. The tent is used for sleeping because you are, after all, there all night, and let me tell you a few hours sleep is greatly received.

I got involved as it was something I had heard about and had at one time decided it was something I wanted to complete.
So this year I managed to get involved at an early enough time to be part of a team. I joined a team that was made up of lots of individual people who all wanted to take part. A lot of teams are made up of people who all work together, are friends, or even families.
The only requirement I had as a team member was that I had to raise $100, as each team must have a minimum of 10 people and then this way each team would raise minimum of $1000. Seemed fair enough to me.

So on Saturday I turned up at the field with my bag in tow. You have to remember you are walking all night, or at least some of the night, and the temperature can drop big time. So extra layers are well adviced, so is a wooly hat, gloves, extra socks, blanket, sleeping bag and pillow. I also took extra snacks even though the team were providing dinner and breakfast and some nibbles, and also some exciting drinks so I didn't have to keep buying things there.
We had a roster to follow as to who was walking at what time, in half hour slots, although you were able to walk whenever you wanted to, this roster just meant that we always had someone from the team on the track at all times.
My walking time varied but I got to walk at the following times 5, 8 and 11pm and then 3.30, 5.30, 7.30 and 11.30am
Although I happily walked at other times for the odd laps just because you either sit and watch everyone go by or you join in and walk a little for something to do.

They even had themed laps. Yes this was where you were expected to dress up for the laps. The themes for this year were

• Superheros
• Olympic Glory
• Night at the Oscars
• Around the World
• Raindrops keep Falling on my Head
• Circus
• Uniforms
• Jazzercise

I happily dressed up when it fell on one of my laps, which was Oscars, so the 2 of us pulled on pretty black dresses over the tops of our clothes because it was 11pm at night by this stage and it was cold! Although once you got walking you in fact stayed really warm. (Sadly I never took any pictures of the themed laps, but then I never really took too many pictures the whole time I was there!)

The walking itself was easy, you just plodded round the set track for the allocated time. All the tents from the other teams were set up inside the track all facing the track so everyone got to see you walking past. This caused quite a bit of noise because people were cheering at different times for different things.
At one stage there was a lone fire-fighter walking round the track in his full gear (All 22kg of it, with tank). I got talking to him and discovered that apparently his team had ditched him but because people had supported him to walk he decided to turn up and walk for a couple of hours anyway, honour his agreement with them etc. So I told him we had food and a seat if he required it and then everytime he passed by our tent we clapped and cheered for him, he would wave and smile. This went on for about 3 hours and I am sure it helped him keep going. I even got it annouced over the loudspeaker that there was a lone fire-fighter out there and I think he then got heaps more cheers as he walked round from the other teams.

The relay started with the first lap being completed by survivors, it was a special time having all these cancer survivors, of all ages, walking round the track. A very special moment.
The other special moment was the Candlelight Lap at 9pm. All these paper bags were decorated in memory of someone lost and then a tea light candle placed inside and lit. We then all walked round the track in the dark with the candles burning. That too was very special. The boys and Steve managed to stay around for that and it was very difficult to explain to Ben what we were doing without getting emotional, even though I didn't have anyone really close to remember. However the boys did help decorate a bag for me and we did it in honour of a school friend, Alex, who died 22 years ago at age 19 of bone cancer.

The set up of the whole thing was very well done. They had coffee carts servicing our needs the whole time, yes they were there in the middle of the night, but then so was Subway too.
For $10 for 10 mins you could book a massage at certain times and I must admit that was lovely at 9.30pm to have a lovely quick leg massage to keep you going. They even had a group come and supply us with a free breakfast on the Sunday morning. Nothing better in life than walking round the track at 7.30am eating corn fritters and baked beans on toast, even though it wasn't piping hot, it went down so well.

The whole event was well coordinated and we were lucky enough to have good weather, although the rain stayed away the wind decided it wanted to join in and that made for a slight chill in the air.
The husbands of some of the team were wonderful coming in and cooking dinner and breakfast for us. Nothing better than suddenly being told that food was ready and not having to actually do anything to get to that point.
The boys and Steve were able to join in for the time that they visited with me but they went home for the night and then came back the next morning. However the boys were really excited about being there and would love to do it all next year. Having done it this year now, I can see how it would work with them present for the whole 22 hours and I am sure we can work something out for next year, even if it is in Grandma's camper van for the sleeping part during the night.

He loved every minute of being there, from joining in to playing ball with other kids/adults

So if you want to do something like this, then go check out the Relay for Life website and see if there is an event close to you. If the Hamilton one turns out to be your local one and you want to join in then let me know because I will be looking for team members for next year at some stage!


Alison said...

Well done you! This sounds like a fantastic event.... I've heard of 'Walk for Life', which also supports cancer charities , but never a relay
Alison xx

Laurie said...

Well done everyone on your team ... go the Breadmore / Trotters team next year ... we will rope in the other Breadmores as well.
hugs Mum x