And then it all went dark. The cause? Blindfolds…
No this wasn’t a BDSM shoot or an organised kidnap, but instead Lost 2011.
150 students transported to various locations a 100 miles away from Loughborough in the dead of night, with the aim of returning home without spending a single penny.
Our team – The Chasing Pack – were about as unprepared as possible. Upon arrival we saw an array of costumes, some elaborate signs and a lot of charisma. However, we had managed just seven hours sleep the night before between us and turned up armed only with a faulty black marker pen and a sheet of yellow card.
At 3am on Saturday morning the coach we inhabited ground to a standstill, our sight was restored, and we were ushered off into the middle of nowhere.
The options available to us were hitchhiking, trains, bikes and running. The latter option was explored for a matter of minutes before we resigned ourselves to making a sympathy sign to display to the travelling vehicles.
Initially, after encountering a bus stop that suggested our location was near Halifax, we were positive we were in the south. In spite of this confidence it turned out the town was sandwiched between Manchester and Leeds, cities generally not considered to be below the Watford Gap.
We waved down a taxi and disguised ourselves as paying customers before dropping the ‘charity bombshell’ and being abruptly ejected after less than two miles. Yet the lift increased team morale and even though it arguably took us further away from home, we marched on inspired.
A copper who had just finished his shift was next to drive past and simply couldn’t resist giving us a lift. Better still he was heading deep into Halifax and by the time he had dropped us off we were well on our way.
Then the sun rose and with it the excitement of night travel evaporated. Suddenly it just felt like a trek through the grotty north. With our sights set on Leeds train station, we faced a mammoth twenty mile hike along a road, traffic seemed set on avoiding.
For the next hour we battled against the cold but managed to cover only four miles. To make matters worse the rain had begun to flirt with our heels and what was intended to be a fun adventure was quickly evolving into a nightmare.
Settling on our new slogan of ‘Charity Hitchhike’ – a narrow winner against ‘Lifts for Wine Gums’ – our despair was swapped for ecstasy within minutes. It wasn’t a strange man in a coat that provided this shift of emotion, rather a fireman who took sympathy on our dejected states and performed a U-turn on an A road to save the day.
There was nothing more satisfying on our travels than waving at teams stranded as we shot past in a serviceman’s vehicle, the most enjoyable of these occasions occurring when we re-overtook a miserable set of yellow t-shirts.
The driver, however, was the bearer of tragic news. Apparently the head of East Midlands Trains had made it his personal mission to ruin the charity fundraiser, and was intent on sending as many Lost accomplices to prison as possible. These stories were later confirmed as it was revealed train companies had no interest in anything other than self-gain (this bitterness not at all related to an incident in 2010 where I landed a ridiculous £55 fine).
We changed our approach. The fireman kindly dropped us off on an M1 service station where we presumed we could hitch various lifts south till we made it. However, after waving farewell to our new friend, we realised it was closed and there wasn’t a car in sight.
After receiving a sarcastic 5p donation from a cleaner at the service station due to our trampish appearances – the joke being on her as she had an awful job and probably needed the money – we set about asking anyone for a lift.
Ninety minutes later we were in Loughborough. We don’t know how it happened, but we vaguely recall an ex-Mafia boss kindly dropping us off en route to his debatable business dealings.
A top 10 finish was on the cards. Not wanting to be overtaken, and still two miles from the Union, The Chasing Pack ran at (unofficial) world record pace to dip through the Papa Simon gates at 8.27am.
Ten minutes later we were in JCs with the RAG committee. Somehow, they informed us, we had won. Jubilation… Stuart Cameron, Alex Jackson and I had done it. Lost 2011 Champions.
Of course the main purpose of the event was charity, and our feeble attempts prior to Lost to raise money shouldn’t be commended. Thanks to a taxi driver, policeman, fireman and ex-mafia boss our faith in humanity was rekindled and we were reminded that it’s not all doom and gloom in the world out there…