Nina Barough CBE is the Founder and Chief Executive of grant-making breast cancer charity Walk the Walk, which has been based in Woking for 20 years. Walk the Walk is famous for its iconic MoonWalks, when thousands of women and men wearing brightly decorated bras power walk marathon distances at midnight to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. As the current subject of our Local Hero display in Woking's Story, we decided to find out a bit more about Nina and the wonderful world of Walk the Walk.
Can you tell us how you came up with the ingenious idea that became Walk the Walk?
I would like to lay claim to the fact that I came up with a brilliant idea, but I really didn’t! I dreamt up the idea, I dreamt that I Power Walked the New York City Marathon in a bra to raise money for breast cancer. I didn’t know anybody with breast cancer or anything about the disease. Cancer was the C word and not spoken about then, I’d never fundraised, so the fact that it was for charity and a good cause was a huge bonus, but it didn’t seem that important. So, really it was a fun weekend in New York that was the catalyst for all the amazing things which have happened since then.
Can you explain a little bit about how The MoonWalk then started?
Following that first walk in the Big Apple, about eighteen months later a team of 25 wanted to enter the London Marathon again, but we could not secure places for everyone.
I then came up with the spontaneous idea of Power Walking a relay overnight and passing on a metaphoric baton to those joining the London Marathon. Again it was to be a one-off fundraising idea that I called The MoonWalk. It gained rapid popularity and the whole excitement of The MoonWalk really captured people’s imagination. Who would have thought from those very simple beginnings that we would be celebrating 20 years of the charity, £113 million raised and our 20th MoonWalk?
From that first MoonWalk in London, the walks have now spread far and wide across the globe, from the Inca Trail to the Arctic! Are there any walks that stick out in your mind as your favourite, or most memorable experience?
All the MoonWalks stand out in my mind! It’s the people that really colour what happens on the day and how the event goes.
What is very important to me, is all the challenges that we do, of which there are now many. It’s really hard to say that our Arctic Challenge – backcountry skiing in the Sub Arctic in -20°C – can even be compared with walking the Inca Trail or The MoonWalk Iceland, where you’re walking through the night in daylight. They are all different, all special and each has its own magic.
It’s amazing that so many thousands of women (and men!) have so enthusiastically participated in the walks. Why do you think they have such widespread appeal?
Walk the Walk’s key purpose was originally to raise money and raise awareness for breast cancer and we’ve done that very successfully. But what was also very important to me and to the charity was that we really encouraged people to look at lifestyle choices. We now know without doubt that diet and exercise do have an impact on prevention against disease, and that even small changes can make a big difference. Walking is very accessible, it’s a very positive way of getting out there and doing something active, and has been called by researchers almost the perfect exercise.
What are some of the causes which have benefited from Walk the Walk grants and donations?
Over the years, we have renovated hospitals, built operating theatres, and built Maggie’s Centres up in Scotland. We’ve helped Penny Brohn Cancer Care to move into a new centre in Bristol and certainly made it possible for them to offer a free service. We’ve helped The Haven with their integrated cancer care. We've also helped The Christie in Manchester, and FACT, who are up in the North East, who do an amazing job in an area where there are not that many resources to help people on their journey through cancer.
We have also placed hundreds of Scalp Coolers into NHS Hospitals across the UK. This has meant that most people can now have the choice of this treatment which helps prevent hair loss during chemotherapy. The list is long and impressive of all that we have achieved, and I am so proud of the part that walk the Walk has played.
Any exciting plans for the future of Walk the Walk that you can reveal to us?
We’ve got lots of exciting plans, but none that I could reveal - watch this space! I think the important thing is that no matter what we do, the heart of Walk the Walk and the ethos behind the charity remain solid.
Over the past 20 years, the research that we have funded has been profound in moving breast cancer to a very different place. 20 years ago, cancer was still the “C” word – people didn’t talk about it, let alone sit in pubs and sign up for a MoonWalk and have the fun and excitement surrounding the event. I think that if Walk the Walk has done one thing apart from raising money, we’ve opened up the closed doors of breast cancer so that people are not afraid to talk about it. Something that is very serious has been injected with excitement and fun and after all, isn’t laughter always the best medicine!
Don't forget to take a look at our Local Hero display about Nina the next time you're at The Lightbox. Find it within Woking's Story, our free permanent exhibition on the heritage and culture of our town.
To sign up for a MoonWalk or for more information, visit www.walkthewalk.org.
All images © Walk the Walk