Riding a rickshaw for any length of time is far from easy, but riding one from Edinburgh to London is a gruelling experience. I was set the task for Children in Need, and although I thought the eight days were going to be tough, I didn’t realise just how difficult it would be. I don’t think anyone did.
The enormity of the challenge dawned on me 50 miles in on the way to Hawick, in the Scottish Borders. During the first leg, I’d experienced wind so strong that I couldn’t pedal the rickshaw forwards (we had to take all the branding off the rickshaw, as it was acting like a sail and pushing me backwards). I was exhausted, we hadn’t got my food right and, as I pedalled up a massive hill just before Hawick after 12 hours of riding, I realised I was going to have to dig deeper than I’d ever dug before for this work.
Acts of kindness
One thing I definitely didn’t foresee was how the public would get behind me. I still can’t believe it when I think back to the support I had during that week. I didn’t travel half a mile without seeing people on the roadside or hanging out of their windows, cheering me on. Their generosity towards me and for Children in Need was incredible. In every village I went through I felt like a neighbour. There were ladies with boxes of flapjacks and cakes, people giving me tea and coffee when I stopped, tubs of muscle rub and bacon sarnies – I was even using their loos!
I had to do radio interviews along the way and when we had no mobile phone reception and it was time for a live interview, I stopped at the last farm in Scotland and used the phone in the lounge.
There were just lots of really wonderful acts of kindness and support that helped me to raise the money for Children in Need. People were standing for hours in the cold, waiting to see me and Pudsey go past. They stood on the edge of fields in the middle of nowhere; there was even a roadside disco set up in one village and the guy gave me a CD of songs he’d put together for me to cycle to.
There were signs everywhere; people had written on the roads, there were banners, and schoolchildren lined the streets. One pub in Lincolnshire even temporarily changed its name to Matt’s Children in Need Pub!
The Rickshaw Challenge was an experience that I feel exceptionally privileged to have taken part in. My support team and the public were key to me achieving the 484 miles from Edinburgh to London, so thank you to each and every one of you.
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Matt Baker is a British television presenter – when not on television, he spends his time outdoors.