David Allen has been a valued supporter of Dimbleby Cancer Care since 2014 as a volunteer, as a sponsor, and as a fundraiser when he took on the Three Peaks Challenge for us last year. And in 2016 he donned a pair of 5 inch stilettos to take part in our 50km walk. Here he share he’s story of that night.
“When Dimbleby Cancer Care launched its #Walk50 event in 2015 I was a volunteer. I handed out t-shirts, gave out drinks and snacks, and stood in awe of the people I thought were absolutely barking mad to walk 50km through the streets of London at night. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realised that it was I that was barking mad – for thinking that I wasn’t able to do it myself. As I cheered on those arriving in the morning, I saw people of all ages and physical abilities, hand in hand, proud of their accomplishment as well as having raised a ton of money for a worthy cause. Albeit, there were some stiff legs and some sore feet, but the walkers I saw were an inspiration, so I turned to the DCC team and said, “next year, sign me up!”
Well, it was about 9 months later when I was reminded of my promise and panic set in. Do I train? How do I begin to fundraise? Will people even sponsor me? What if it rains?
I managed to rope in a work colleague to do it with me so I had some support on the night, and I set up my fundraising page to share with friends and family. As someone that works in PR and marketing, I felt I had to put a spin on it somehow, encourage people to sponsor me and reward them for doing so. How to do that, I was still unsure…
After a few glasses of wine with friends one evening, I asked them to sponsor me. In jest they questioned why they should – for a wonderful cause being the obvious answer. But they continued to jest… And that’s when I said it…
“If you sponsor me to walk 50km for Dimbleby Cancer Care, I’ll walk the first and last kilometres in a pair of 5 inch heels.”
I was handed £50 in cash immediately and asked for the link by a few others at the table – and for the record, I must add, I didn’t even own a pair of said heels.
A little bit of Googling and the browsing of a few fetish websites and I’d order a pair of black patent leather 5-inch stilettos in men’s size 10. It was actually happening. 3 days later they arrived and that’s when I had to announce it on social media in order to drum up some extra support. When I put it online, I stated that if people wanted to see me in a pair of heels, I’d need to raise £1,000 – something that I genuinely believed would be a difficult task, but encouraged people to dig deep.
Well I was wrong, the week leading up to the walk, not only did I appear on national television WITH my heels to promote the event, but also I surpassed £1,500 in sponsorship to my delight and amazement. My tipsy decision was going to help benefit those living with cancer.
The realisation that I was actually going to have to fulfil my promise meant that I had to practice walking and standing in the shoes – I took to cooking at home in them checking to see if I could stand up without falling over, and taking the stairs of my house to ensure I could balance correctly… And to my surprise (but not the surprise of others) it was very natural.
The day of the walk arrived, I popped on my Dimbleby Cancer Care t-shirt and while most people were tying shoelaces of walking boots or trainers, I was popping in “party feet” insoles in my heels. As I walked towards a group of people ready to do the walk, I received immediate peculiar looks – a few catcalls even… And that’s when I saw him. Jonathan Dimbleby. I had met Jonathan before and had respected his work for years but here I was stood in front of him in a pair of 5 inch heels.
With the shoes on, I was 6 foot 4, so I towered over him a little and I said a swift hello and mentioned I’d be walking with him in his walking group. He quickly grabbed me by the arm, said thank you for doing what I was doing, and with a smile added “rather you than me.” Moments after we were off.
As I tottered off along the south bank of the river with parliament to my right and St Thomas’ Hospital to my left, I realised I was indeed barking mad after all. With struts and a few wobbles the kilometre was over very quickly and all I seem to recall was laughing and saying to my friend “this seems easy now, but in 49km I will not be laughing.” I popped on my sensible shoes and continued with the others taking part.
What happened for the next 49km was indeed quite special. With a backdrop of night-time London, I got talking to those in my group. I spoke to Jonathan about the charity. I found out more about my colleague during the walk than I did in the several years of working together. I met someone that had recently beat cancer and had decided to thank Dimbleby by walking for them. I got to know a girl who was currently fighting cancer and loved the idea of walking through London at night. It made me think so much about why I was doing what I was doing. It wasn’t about the heels anymore, it was about the charity, and more importantly, it was about people.
There are so many wonderful charities out there that work hard to combat cancer and fund research into both its treatment and prevention. But it wasn’t until I came across Dimbleby Cancer Care almost half a decade ago that I truly appreciated that aside from clinical care, those living with cancer need a care and support that no medical research could offer – the need to look after their psychological wellbeing.
Behind every treatment given by hospitals up and down the country is a person that has feelings. A person who while medicine is making their body better, just needs someone to talk to, a more comfortable pillow to sleep with, or indeed a hug to remind them that despite all of the tubes and the injections, they are human. That is what the walk was all about. That is what Dimbleby Cancer Care is all about, and I was honoured to be a part of something that can help.
When we got to the 49th kilometre, the team stopped while my aching legs pushed back into the heels and we walked along the river near London Bridge to the finishing point at Guy’s Hospital. To my amazement having my feet in the heels actually made me feel better as I was stretching out the calves that were so tender from 10 hours of walking. I tried to explain that everyone should do it – but I think it fell on deaf ears. And then there it was, the finish line.
Tired and a little sore, it was over. I kicked off the heels and was handed a bacon sandwich with a few moments to reflect on what we had all achieved that night. New friends made, personal challenges fulfilled, and being able to give something to a charity that believes in making life better.
If you can join Dimbleby Cancer Care for their #Walk50 event this year; whether it is the 12km, 25km or the full 50km, I would recommend it in a heartbeat. Maybe don’t take your stilettos, but embrace the spirit of humanity in a beautiful setting for the most wonderful cause.”
To find out more and sign up for this year’s #Walk50 challenge event on 15th June, click here.