Fund raising is tough. I expected the training to be the most difficult part of my preparations but pestering my friends and family for cold, hard cash has given me more sleepless nights than my ankles ever will. Strangers? No problem: I'll happily shake a bucket at anyone I don't know. But when it comes to haranguing people that I talk to every day, it suddenly feels a little more complicated.
I've also had to deal with the inevitable question: "If you are so concerned about the charity why are you bothering to climb Kilimanjaro in the first place? Why don't you just give all the money that the expedition and the equipment is costing you directly to UNICEF?" This is, I have to admit, a perfectly valid question.
The truth is, I'm taking on this challenge to change my life - to shake myself out of the unhealthy rut that I've found myself in. I figured that if I was really lucky I might inspire someone else to do the same. When Joe initially suggested the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro the charity aspect didn't really register with me at all. I honestly had no idea that a Comic Relief expedition was on the cards and I didn't twig that this was the sort of thing that people did for charities in the first place. On reflection it makes perfect sense: this is a little more difficult than sitting in a bath of baked beans and people give money to nutters who do that all the time, no questions asked. The last time I checked no one has ever died from sitting in a bath of beans.
When I finally realised that my efforts could potentially benefit people other than myself I immediately decided to support a charity that helped children. UNICEF was the natural choice because they do incredible work in both the UK and Tanzania, the country in which I plan to push myself to the limit. Thankfully, there's never been any pressure on us to raise a minimum amount of aid because we are paying the expedition costs ourselves, but it's been playing on my mind ever since we set our initial target, which in retrospect looks quite modest and yet occasionally seems impossible.
It should be easy to ask you lot for money - UNICEF is a fantastic charity after all, and the more I learn about the work they do, the more desperate I am to do my best for them. Unfortunately, this invariably leads to feelings of frustration and self-doubt: am I really doing enough? Has Cheryl Cole turned public opinion against me? Did the lack of a hospitalised Chris Moyles lower the bar? Are people suffering from Kili-flavoured compassion-fatigue? Should I just chill out about the whole thing or should I get evangelical on everyone's ass? How can I possibly ask people for money in the middle of a recession? Am I beginning to bore the pants off everyone I speak to? Am I turning into a clipboard welding freak that you have to side-step in the street? Isn't climbing the mountain enough?
Worst of all, If a friend doesn't donate any money does that mean they secretly hate me and/or assume that I will fail? It's a tricky call...
I know that a few people still don't have a clue about what's involved; it's as if I'm asking them to sponsor me to take a nice relaxing holiday. At least two people I know were under the impression that I'd climbed the mountain several weeks ago - over a long weekend, no doubt! Another believes that once we reach the summit we all come down in a big helicopter. A couple have suggested that I should give the money back if I don't summit but I'm not sure if they are being entirely serious or not. Would it help if I offered to climb the mountain covered from head to toe in baked beans?
I've still got plenty of fund raising activities planned: a Dr Who Charity Auction (god willing), a sponsored Tea and Scones Event on the peak of Roseberry Topping in May, another local paper are going to run a story about our climb next month, and I will be appearing on a local BBC Radio show just before I leave. I'm also receiving support from other websites who are doing their best to drum up support for me. I would like to single-out the brilliant Radio Free Skaro and Cathode Ray Tube in particular. Thanks lads.
One thing I'm certain of: when the going gets tough up there on the mountain (and believe me, it will get tough) the one thing that will keep me going will be the thought of all the people who have donated their hard earned money to show their support for me. And for that I'd like to thank you in advance.