Picture this - it’s Sunday morning. The day when you have a long lie-in and spend the day pottering about doing not much of anything, having a rest and generally enjoying yourself. But no, not I!
It’s 5am. What?! 5am. I’m in the car on my way round to collect a friend and we’re on our way to Warwickshire County Cricket ground at Edgbaston. She’s starting to panic because we need to be there by 6am to get ready and then register ourselves (and our funds) for the day’s excitement. By the time we reach the cricket ground, there are already a lot of people milling about, waiting to find out which one of the twenty buses they’re supposed to be on.
By 6am we have deposited our funds, registered, collected some papers and are on the hunt for the remaining two members of our team because now it’s time to get changed into the outfits we’ve been working on for the last couple of months. Yes, it’s true. We’re spending the day out in public, dressed as traffic cones.
Don’t worry, I haven’t completely lost my marbles, it’s really all in a good cause. Every year our local radio station, Heart FM, runs an event called “Run For Home” - the idea is simple, you take team of four people (this year there were 200 teams), drive them to a mystery location within a 100mile radius of Edgbaston and leave them there. OK, there’s a bit more to it than that, there’s a bit of radio presenting to start off, then we are given the starter’s password and sent off on a treasure hunt around the town. After that, we get on with the important part of the day - getting back to Edgbaston however we can, providing we don’t spend any money and we all travel together in our teams of four.
How difficult can that be? After all, if you were driving innocently through the picturesque town of Buxton , you’d be sure to pick these people and their two friend up, and take them out of town. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?
Before the day of the event, each team has to raise a minimum of £250 in order to take part so half the fun of things is the fundraising. We have done a variety of things - cake sales, pulling a narrowboat down the canal for paying passengers, treasure hunts, online auctions, bingo nights, board games nights, pig racing amongst others. On the day, you have to deposit the money with the organisers before the event starts so they know you’ve made the minimum qualifying amount.
The day itself went really well, it took us 7.5hrs to get back to Edgbaston from Buxton, via Lichfield. There’s a “checkpoint” that you need to go to because they’ll stamp the team summary sheet you take with you on the day. If you don’t make it to the checkpoint, you’ll incur a 2.5hr time penalty and of course that scuppers your chances of winning. There’s a prize for the first team home, and another for the top-scoring team although they may not be the first team to return. You get points for having the starting password written down, points are deducted for each incorrect or missing treasure hunt answer, there’s a time penalty for missing the checkpoint and another penalty for opening the envelope with your emergency £2 coin.
So how did we get back home? We hitched a lift out of Buxton with a group of quad bikers who took us to Ashbourne. After a brief stop at a local pub for a drink and the loo, we chatted to a couple who’d stopped there for lunch and who were so impressed with the event (and hopefully the outfits), they agreed to take us on to Lichfield. When we arrived there, we found about 30 other teams sitting around enjoying the late afternoon sun…and then we found our team-mate Gill’s boyfriend who’d turned up to see how we were getting on. He gave us a lift back to Edgbaston and left us just outside the cricket ground so we could walk back in ourselves.
It was a long, hot and fun day out and all for charity. All the money raised goes to Heart FM’s own “First Steps Appeal” which benefits local baby and toddler groups although about 80% of the money goes to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This year they raised a total of £103,000 which isn’t bad for a bunch of oddly-dressed folks on a day out!