Rickshaw Run, 2018 with Pickle Rickshaw
Cambridge Mask Company is relishing the opportunity to sponsor team Pickle Rickshaw on the most epic adventure of their lives.
On April Fools Day 2018, 70 teams of intrepid rickshaw racers will set off from Kochi, a city in the southern Indian state of Kerala. They will have just two weeks to rattle their way 2,583km north to the state of Rajasthan and will cross the finish line in a city called Jaisalmer.
Those of you who have spent any time in Asia will know that a rickshaw (or Tuk Tuk) is not something one might typically associate with competitive racing.
Certainly, they are excellent vehicles for zipping haphazardly in between lanes of busy traffic and squeezing down roads off limits to most other means of transportation. However, each year extreme thrill seekers descend upon India to embark on the annual rickshaw race in these humble vehicles. They are kitted out with an impressive seven horsepower engine, a mammoth 8-litre fuel capacity and a downhill velocity of up to 55kmph.
This year, the Cambridge Mask Company is backing the Pickle Rickshaw team, which consists of siblings Matt and Jo Osborn and their friend Ryan Wheeler. Jo has been a supporter of the Cambridge Mask cause for over a year now and wears a respirator on her daily bicycle commute across London. Knowing how notoriously bad the roads in India can be for dust and pollution, she reached out to us for a few respirator donations. In exchange, we are fortunate enough to be able to come along for the ride from the comfort of our living rooms as Jo and the Pickle Team will be sending us updates, videos and photos from their hair-raising adventures.
Of course, when faced with such a monumental undertaking, one would think an extraordinary amount of planning must go into preparing to trek across foreign lands in what is essentially a “glorified lawnmower”. However, aside from already raising over £4900 for Frank Water, a charity that provides safe drinking water and sanitation to deprived communities in India and Nepal, our reckless Pickle Rickshaw runners are taking a rather laid-back approach to the proceedings.
“We haven’t planned anything, have absolutely no race experience nor have the three of us met up together since we agreed to do it. It’s going to be a very interesting first day…”
Jo is the brains behind the whole mission, having been inspired by a project 2.5 years ago when she shaved her head for charity and raised a whopping £11 000; the time seemed ripe for a new challenge. Although Jo had been dreaming about taking on the Rickshaw Run for some time, she managed to rope together a last minute motley crew daring enough to accept this somewhat ludicrous challenge. “I convinced my boyfriend to join me. My best mate was out of the running, so we put the feelers out for a final teammate and my brother showed enough intrigue for me to pester him continuously until he said yes.” Having strong-armed the men in her life into accompanying her across India in a tin can with wheels for a good cause, it seems only fair that her team’s name, Pickle Rickshaw, is a pun of Pickle Rick, a character in one of Ryan and Matt’s favourite TV shows, Rick and Morty.
This travelling trio will need to keep a tight grip on their excellent sense of humour once the journey begins in earnest. Other than bringing along their trusty – and hopefully lucky – mascot, there’s not a lot they can do to keep themselves safe on the perilous roads that snake towards the finish line. Their somewhat rickety and unreliable means of transport must contend with large trucks, hazardous traffic, and of course the obligatory cow or two lounging on the highways en route. The team is understandably nervous about breaking down somewhere far from civilisation.
There’s no set track to follow, no backup vehicle if anything goes wrong and each team is wholly responsible for plotting their course, so getting lost seems to be an inevitable part of the ride. Nevertheless, just because something is challenging, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, especially when thousands of pounds worth of donations will help provide safe drinking water and sanitation to hundreds of thousands of people across India & Nepal. Jo continues.
“We wanted to work with a charity that helped India directly, and for something as fundamental to life as water, it was a no-brainer.” Funnily enough, consistently ensuring that they have enough water to last through the vast swathes of rural India is apparently just one problem that lies ahead.”
At least they have remembered to prepare their respirators on time. Many of our readers know what an enormous problem air pollution is in India’s big cities as Delhi has been named and shamed by the World Health Organization as Earth’s most polluted city. Studies in January of this year cite a shocking 75% of India’s air pollution related deaths are rural.
Research found that exposure to the smallest and most dangerous airborne pollution particles, known as PM2.5, was roughly equal across rural and urban India. As two-thirds of India’s massive 1.3 billion population lives in the countryside, this can account for the shocking findings of the investigation which focused on a comprehensive, state-by-state analysis of the sources of air pollution and what effect it has had on health in India. Researchers are predicting that unless Indian authorities commit to intensive energy efficiency goals and severely reduce biomass burning, air pollution deaths could rise to as many as 1.6 million across the country by 2030.
Despite all the risks, the team is in good spirits about the challenges they face and are determined to compete “for the esteemed prize of crossing the finish line alive and in one piece….or as few pieces as possible.” Armed with this goal in mind and touting the motto of ‘no route, no plan, no clue’, the Pickle Rickshaw are making their final few preparations before they set off on the journey of a lifetime next week. Let’s just hope at least one of them thinks to pack a map.