AS THE clock strikes midnight this Friday, Mark Wallington will — for the last time — pull on his walking shoes and begin a 56-kilometre trek from Martin Place to Leumeah.
He and his nine teammates from the J Walkers will walk all night from Sydney until they stagger into Campbelltown athletics stadium on Saturday morning for the opening ceremony of this year's 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer.
In other words, as every other local team prepares to start walking their laps, the J Walkers are tending to their aches and blisters.
They've done it each year since 2005 but a footsore team leader, Mark Wallington, said this will be the last midnight trek. From next year, they'll join the other "normal" teams doing track laps.
The J Walkers are named in honour of Mr Wallington's niece, Jacqui, who died of cancer in 2004.
He and his long-time teammate Richard Jenkins came up with the idea of the gruelling midnight walk and other walkers jumped on board. Over the years the team has raised thousands of dollars for the cause.
"It's tough but we help each other through it if someone's getting tired," Mr Wallington said.
"After the first six paces the chant starts up — 'Are we there yet?' and that keeps going through the night.
"When you walk into the stadium you don't feel the pain for five minutes, you're on adrenaline.
"Just to hear everyone cheer you and support you, you just hope you've got enough dollars behind you because without that it's just a gimmick that's not worth anything."
Like many people who will be at Saturday's event, Mr Wallington — who for many years was the mascot of Wests Magpies, "Mark the Magpie" — has a personal connection to the cause, being his 14-year-old niece who died from cancer eight years ago.
"A few years ago I visited the cancer ward at RPA and I saw a number of kids who would not see Christmas that year," he said. "I was a dad and I cuddled my two kids and I think that's who gives me the motivation to help people who aren't as fortunate as I am.
"Richard lost his dad to cancer and he's taking every step for his dad."
Mr Wallington is a member of the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer committee and said although it was time to hang up his walking shoes, he hoped another team might continue the midnight walk without him.
"Get involved because it's amazing how much brightness just that little bit of help can bring to someone's life," he said. "The people of Campbelltown should be proud this has continued on and become so strong."
Committee chairman Fred Borg also encouraged local residents to come along and give generously.
"It's important because the money raised is spent here, it's for people in Macarthur who have cancer.
"It's their hospital and it's an investment in their future. We won't stop fund-raising until we believe we have the best cancer treatment centre and the best cancer care in Australia."
More event details: www.24hrfight.org.au.