Category Archives: rowing

156. The Dorney Dash 10 km – and how to row the North Atlantic

eton-college-rowing-centre-dorney-england.jpgVous n’êtes pas loin.

‘Not far to go now,’ cried the marshall in the Dorney Dash 10 km last month, a pleasant, friendly run beside the rowing lake – the sparkling new facility where oarsmen, kayakers and canoeists will race for their London Olympic golds, five years from now.

It was just before the halfway mark, beside the lavish Eton College boathouse with its sleek new carbon shells, that we spotted the strangely lumbering-looking rowing boat, parked up incongruously in an empty field. A boat built for a racecourse far longer than this one.

Two kilometres were left to run as we rounded the final turn towards that voice. Kindly thoughts, warmly offered, despite the lashing rain – the sentiments of so many spectators at a running race, yet so often the words you don’t want to hear.

Twentytwo miles down in a marathon, and ‘only’ four more to go ? Just forget the idea – because the physical and mental effort required for that short distance will be far greater than for all the miles which went before.

So much, and so little, I know of the balance between motivation and suffering. I think back to the tiny boat laid up beside the course, and try to imagine hearing the same encouragement, somewhere just east of the Azores, with nearly 2 000 miles behind, and ‘only’ 600 miles of the North Atlantic still in front.
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143. Shame about the Boat Race … Oxford vs Cambrige 1829-2007

oxford-dark-blue-heroes-2007.jpgThe oldest regularly-held sporting event in the world reached its 153rd edition in London last Saturday, and I was lucky enough to watch the coverage along with millions all around the globe.

The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, from Putney to Mortlake.

Rowing – it’s a sport I know so little, which taught me so much of what I know.

Now I could tell you that sport is all about fitness. I could tell you that it’s about improvement, and dedication and companionship. I could relate the heightened mental acuity felt by the long distance runner, show you the slow-motion symmetry of a perfect iron shot towards the flag on a silent summer’s evening, or try to describe the sound of a mountainside half-shrouded in cloud.

Sport might really be about all of those things. But I know that’s not true.

It was rowing which taught me that lesson. It was the summer I spent doing this. The summer when I learnt that sport is all about fear.

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