As I rowed, backwards, past the trees and fields that line the Thames in July 2021, I had time to wonder how I got there, and why.
Back in the early days of the Pandemic we thought it would all be over by Christmas, just like they say everyone did during World War One. On one particular day the weather was exceptionally kind to us, and I was walking my dog on the hills around my house. From one spot in particular on that walk I have an excellent view across the Thames Valley and down onto Marlow.
I was Master Elect of the Chartered Accountants Livery at the time, and I was thinking about how adversely affected many Charities had been during lock-down despite the fact that they were heavily relied upon during the Pandemic. It took only a moment to wonder whether there was something I could personally do about it.
Looking down to the Thames again, I wondered if anyone had ever rowed its entire length.
It was not so much a ‘light-bulb’ moment as a real brain dump. My thoughts ran on:
“Why don’t I do just that? Run and row from the Source of the Thames to the City of London. What a wheeze! It should raise many eyebrows and, surely, also raise money for the charities who I knew were desperate for funding.”
I pushed aside the fact that I could not row! They say that from little acorns…. well, more accurately, from this particular nut a much greater ambition was born.
I mentioned my wild idea to a few folks as a joke, and it really started a snowball rolling down a huge mountain. Eventually a plan emerged: we were to run a half marathon, cycle between 11 and 15 miles dependent on EA approval and then row a single scull for the remaining 150 miles!
Which made me wonder about my ambitions; after all, an Ironman race involves a 26+ mile run, a 112+ mile bike ride and a 2.4-mile swim (although not in that order). My plan meant that on day one of this challenge, I was due to attempt a half-marathon run, followed by an 11+ mile off-road cycle ride and then move on immediately to row 24-miles on the twisting reaches of the upper Thames.
Given that I am neither as fit as I used to be in my twenties, nor anywhere near as young, I wondered if this this would constitute a “Rusty Old Half Iron Man”? I ask because I felt sure that at the end of the first day, with 3½ days hard rowing to go, I would indeed be a very rusty old half man.
Well ultimately I did it. I have to admit that at the time that I was probably more shocked that I had completed the mad challenge which I had conceived all those months ago, than exhilarated by my success. Nonetheless, the number of people who had gone out of their way to be there at the finish in HMS President adjacent to Tower Bridge, was amazing and I did feel more than a little emotional.
Whilst the photographs and congratulations onboard HMS President took longer than I had planned, I was delighted to see that my team from Praxity, Naomi Riches, David Jackson, John Spencer and all my family stayed to join me in a celebratory lunch at a café in St Katherine Docks afterwards.
Thanks to sterling work by all who helped we raised almost £32,000 net, which yielded a donation of £6,750 to Marlow RowAbility. One question I was regularly asked, almost from the moment I finished, was “So, what is your next adventure?” At first, I can quite honestly say that I didn’t have one in mind.
Now, however we now know, it’s the “Million Meter Madness” of September 2022!