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Catching Up With Race2

Race2, a subcommittee of the University of St Andrews Charities Campaign (USACC), held their annual hitchhike across Europe over reading week after months of dedicated fundraising. The organisation first began in the early 1990s and has become one of the Charity Campaign’s most successful events. This year, Race2 was able to raise an impressive £32,144 for three student-nominated charities: Wave Project, Smart Works Scotland, and Emergency UK. 


Wave Project is a charity local to St Andrews, offering surf therapy to young people with the aim of boosting self-esteem and resilience. Smart Works Scotland is a national charity designed to give women the confidence to achieve their full potential, through training and investment initiatives to help them gain employment. Emergency UK operates in countries including Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, providing aid to people in poverty and in areas of conflict.


Past hitchhiking destinations include Prague, Valencia, Madrid, Paris, and Berlin. This year’s destination was Copenhagen. In a statement to The Saint, Keegan Shimaitis, this year’s Coordinator of Race2, stated “Copenhagen was an exciting destination for 2024 as it is the first time it has been done in Race2 history. We were excited by the idea of a novel destination and also thought it was a good fit based on feedback from our 2023 race.”


The Saint asked a few racers about what motivated them to take part. 


Ava Pilot, member of team We’re Broke-nhagen, said, “My friend mentioned it to me and I thought it was right up my alley. It sounded fun and was for a great cause, so why not?”


Amelia Goetz, from team Copen-slayy-gen, explained, “A few friends did it last year, from the mountaineering club actually. They had really positive experiences and it sounded like a really fun time.” 


Each racer had a target goal of £200 to raise before 8 March, with frequent events and committee support to help them achieve this. Keegan Shimaitis went on to say, 


“Our lovely fundraising officer Claire Smith ran fundraising workshops and office hours throughout the year to help racers think about creative and effective fundraising. We had some really creative fundraisers this year including homemade bagel sales outside the library, a beach wrestling tournament akin to Fight Night, and a pub crawl to Dundee!”


Madighan Ryan, part of team Pretty Dopenhagen, described her fundraising experience.


“Our team did a whole mix of stuff. We hosted a Burns Night dinner where we had our friends pay money to eat. We also did a bake sale in the physics labs which was successful. It was really, really nice —people who I know at St Andrews but don’t really speak to that much chipped in £5 or £10 just by me posting it on my story. It was really sweet. I also just asked around from family and friends back at home.”


Participants in groups of two or three were dropped off in Dundee early on the morning of 24 February. They then had the rest of the week to get to Copenhagen by any means whilst spending as little money as possible.


Amelia admitted, “On the first day I was definitely a bit nervous. It was a bit nerve-wracking going up to complete strangers and asking to get into their car was not something you do every day. It got easier and you get better at being declined. We gained confidence with desperation!”


Naturally, safety was a key consideration on all sides. Safety teams in the UK and Europe monitored the racers 24 hours a day, with participants sending them their location at least every four hours or whenever they moved. There was also a live tracker so racers, family, and friends could be regularly updated on each others’ whereabouts. 


Ava described an instance where the safety team’s mechanisms kicked in. Her team got on the ferry from Dover as foot passengers with the idea of finding someone on the ferry to hitchhike with once in France. At last, they were able to find a lorry driver who agreed to help them even though he didn’t speak any English. They made it off the ferry and were on their way to Belgium when they got some signal and realised they had missed a lot of calls and texts from the safety team. 


“Essentially because we had got on as foot passengers and got off in a car, the ferry personnel had to consider us men overboard because the foot passenger number wasn’t the same getting on and off. They were considering putting out a missing persons report on us. Luckily the safety team was there and the other teams were able to explain what happened.”


They were able to sort the situation out without having to return to Calais, and the rest of the journey went smoothly. 


Once all the teams had gathered, the trip rounded off with a racer party and the racers were able to spend a few days sightseeing in Copenhagen. 


All those interviewed were highly positive about their experiences.


Madighan told The Saint, “[I]t was definitively one of the most unique experiences of my life. I am an introvert so I didn’t really know how I was going to deal with it. But I think the biggest takeaway for me was that nobody is going to pull over and help three strangers on the side of the road unless they’re a fundamentally good person. The people we were meeting were so incredible and so generous. They were so kind. I would consider myself a pessimist about most people but as cheesy as it sounds, it really did restore my faith in humanity.”


Charity Race2 will take place again next year, with sign-ups to a yet-to-be-determined location opening in October. 

Illustration by Bethany Morton

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