This Friday I will be cheering on some gallant folk from St Bees safely behind a pen and reporter’s notepad.The gallant folk are the St Bees Triers who will attempt, within 24 hours, to collect 5400 litres of water collecting it from the beach and running with it to St Bees School where the collective amount will be measured.
The St Bees Triers are a local running group whose members are all ages and abilities. Each year they take on a new event to raise money for charity. This year they are raising money for Comic Relief and Water Aid.
One of the event organisers, Chris Robson, told me that the aim of the event is to raise awareness of what many living in developing countries have to do to survive each day. The recommended daily intake of water is around 2-3 litres per day but for roughly one tenth of the world’s population, clean, safe water simply isn’t available. Obtaining water can mean walking many miles to find a source. Women in Africa and Asia often carry water on their heads weighing up to 20kg – the equivalent of the UK’s luggage allowance at airports.
“There are around 1800 people living in St Bees,” Chris informed me, “so we thought we’d try to carry 3 litres of water for every person in the village within 24 hours. We will pick up the water from one of two becks which flow into the sea and take it to the school where the water can be collected and measured. The distance there and back is about two miles.”
Although things are very different in the UK to how they are in Bangladesh where I lived for many years I can see how powerful this simile is. I would often be woken in the mornings by the squeaking of a nolkup, a hand-pumped deep well near our house, as a Bangladeshi woman would fill a bucket with water and carry it back to her house. Few in the country have their own water supply – such a sharp contrast to the UK where we take running water for granted and waste gallons washing our cars every year. I will be very interested to see the similarities and differences on Friday when the Triers’ event begins at noon.
“We started these fundraising events three years ago,” Chris told me. “We began simply running around St Bees but last year we decided to run Mount Everest! Only rather than go to the expense of travelling out to the mountain itself we went to a local hill called Dent and ran up and down that instead. Between us we ran the equivalent of nine Everests and raised thousands of pounds for Comic Relief.”
I love the imagination of this organisation as much as their commitment both to running (a feat in itself as far as I’m concerned) and to raising money for charity. They are hoping to raise a lot of money again this year but that depends on how many take part and get sponsored.
“We have no idea how many will come on Friday or if we can even manage to collect that much water within 24 hours,” Chris admitted. There’s no sign-up as such – anyone is free to get their friends to sponsor them, come along and help collect as little or as much water as they like. There’s no obligation to run and there’s even an option for those who don’t feel physically up to it to have friends sponsor them to live for 24 hours with only the same amount of water a person in a developing country would live on. For those who are up to it though – including the Triers – it will mean running to collect water right the way through the night in order to meet the target. Time is running out though if you want to get involved!
I won’t be braving the chilly seaside night winds to watch these guys, I have to admit, no matter how much I admire their efforts though I will be there for when the event ends at noon on Saturday to see if they met their target. I have the ‘excuse’ that I’ll be writing the day’s events up for my local paper on Friday night but, more to the point, I think they must be mad! But it’s a madness I admire and one I hope is catching.
Every year Comic Relief raises a huge amount of money for good causes and Water Aid is busy every day of the year bringing clean, safe water to millions at an average rate of 200 people per hour. So this is an event well worth supporting. On Friday the whole country will be going rather bonkers for good causes and I’m looking forward to seeing Cumbria go crackers in a way that only northerners can.
It’s never been more serious.
You can sponsor the Triers via Just Giving here.