I’d been living in Ely for several months and was voicing my usual grumble about struggling to meet people when my friend, Sarah, suggested I should try rowing. Sarah worked at British Rowing at the time and before I knew what was happening, she’d found out all the club’s details and the contact email address I’d need to get started. “But I’m too old to start now… I’m not co-ordinated enough… I’m not good at sports…” She refused to listen to my excuses and said that I should just give it a go.
So on 23rd April, I headed to the King’s School Fitness Suite to meet my fellow Learn to Rowers and our coaches. I was nervous, but soon realised that everyone was really friendly. The following Saturday, we had our first session on the water and I was relieved to find out that we’d be kept afloat by boat ‘stabilisers’ and tied to the end of ropes to stop us from drifting too far away. Not long after that first session we had to do a capsize drill and a swim test at the swimming pool, so we’d know what to do should we ever end up in the river. I started to wonder what on earth I’d got myself into, but it was far too late to pull out by that point. Then there was the water session when the heavens opened and we all ended up huddled in a trailer, looking like we’d just swum the Channel and nursing hot chocolates!
For a while I felt frustrated by my lack of progress and I just didn’t seem to be able to make all the bits I’d learned fit together. It was only the encouragement and enthusiasm of the coaches that kept that me coming back when I felt like giving up. The passion they share for their sport really is infectious.
When our coach, Teresa, first mentioned a special ‘Learn to Row’ race at St Ives regatta, I laughed. She obviously had to be joking. We’d been rowing for about six weeks at that point and I was still struggling with basics. Except she wasn’t joking, and so on 21st June, eight weeks after that first water session with the stabilisers and the ropes, a few of us from the course headed to a very sunny St Ives to compete in our first race! We were pretty suspicious when our opposition turned up looking very professional in their matching kit. Unlike us, it probably wasn’t the first time they’d been in a quad together. Nor the first time they’d followed a cox’s instructions. I raced four times that day and we lost every race. But none of that mattered. What I took away from the event was far greater than the glory of winning – I gained confidence and developed an enjoyment of rowing.
I’ve already signed myself up for the next one in a couple of weeks’ time, and I’m looking forward to many more races to come. My only rowing regret is that I didn’t take it up sooner!