Virtual May Bumps: ditch your blades, grab your running shoes

Competing virtually for the first time, rowers and non-rowers from all Cambridge Colleges - students, alumni and staff - can take part in this year's May Bumps by running from 24 to 27 June to raise funds for local charities.

Hear more from Jesus Classics student, Poppy Hill (2017), President of the Jesus College Boat Club and Women’s Captain and Chair of the Committee for the May Bumps 2020.

What are Virtual Bumps and how did the idea come about?

Virtual Bumps is a socially distanced version of the May Bumps races, which are the high point of the College rowing calendar. Over four days, from 24 to 27 June, each member of a crew runs 800m daily and submits their time. Times for the nine-person crew are entered into an algorithm, which determines when runners would have overtaken each other or “bumped”, and creates Bumps Charts similar to those used every year.

The idea originated after the cancellation of May Bumps, resulting in a rather abrupt end to our year’s work. The excitement of competing was receding into an unknowably distant future, so I suggested a virtual version to the boat clubs. The response was positive and a group of us from different colleges formed the Committee, which is working in collaboration with the May Week Mega Event.

Crews and supporters can watch the results of each race unfold each evening on our website and they can follow the live commentary on local radio station Cam FM. Live updates and details of individual competitions also can be found on our Facebook page throughout the week.

How are you involved and what have you and the Committee been doing so far?

I am the Chair of the Committee, co-ordinating the general planning and set-up. So far, our members have worked on creating the website and writing the programming to run the event, making the graphics and promoting the event to encourage entries.

How can students and alumni get involved?

We highly encourage students, alumni and University staff to enter Virtual Bumps (rowers or not) by Monday 22 June via the online registration form. There are separate divisions and a chance to win (virtual!) blades. Alternatively, the results will be announced on our website each evening, visible to spectators wishing to follow the progress of their own college.

What can attendees and spectators expect?

Hopefully attendees and supporters can expect some intense racing and a bit of fun! Whilst of course very different to the original Bumps race, the hope is to recreate some of the atmosphere of inter-collegiate competition and crew-racing… and probably some of the chaos!

Which charities is the event raising funds for and why have they been chosen?

We are proud to be supporting two Cambridge based charities, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (EACH), and the University’s Cambridge v Covid-19 campaign. EACH cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions, and provides support for their families. This year, Milton Brewery will award the Pegasus Cup to the College that raises the most funds, relative to their size. Cambridge v Covid-19 raises funds for research, PPE, and a student hardship fund in response to the crisis.

What’s your main message to your fellow students at a time when we can’t all be together in Cambridge?

This isn’t what any of us expected or planned for this year, but things being what they are, we’re all adapting until life can resume. In the meantime, I have enjoyed the many virtual versions of aspects of Cambridge life, as a way of keeping in touch.