Charlotte's Marathon

Little Geneva Paddle

Whilst several City scullers headed to Boston for a marathon effort of 50km, Charlotte headed out to Geneva with Ely-based Rob Roy sculler, Hannah Peel, and three ex-York City rowers to prepare for the longest non-stop (non-ocean) rowing race in the world. Not one, not two, but three Boston marathons back-to-back, with 10km added to the end. You may think that 160km non-stop in a yolette (a giant coxed quad) might not sound like the most exciting way to spend your summer holidays - and you'd be right.

woodstockAfter a first night in a nuclear bunker (don't do it) we prepared our boat - the same boat we dramatically sank in the year before. The addition of an electric pump and a few kilograms worth of tape around the riggers helped our confidence that we'd at least try to stay afloat. The race itself started at 9am, with 33 crews and 40+ motor cruisers lining up across the start. After some furious blade clashing (five seconds is obviously make-or-break in a 160km race), we hit our rhythm of rate 26, avoiding being disrupted by the wash of the cruisers and the slight headwind. Boats soon spread out and we ended sparring with a couple of crews for the first four or five hours.

I think perhaps the most surprising thing about the race was that there was very little excitement. Though I'm sure the scenery is pretty stunning, I found it hard to focus on anything other the back in front of me.

The hardest part of the race came as darkness set in. We hit 8pm, the light disappeared, coxing in the dark with a GPS and torch became near impossible, and we still had the best part of 40km to go. But we dug down, kept quiet and stuck to our rate 26 paddling, and crossed the finish line at 1am on Sunday, in 16 hours and 4 minutes. Actually, I managed to not see the finish, and steer us round it, rather than through it, so we backed down and tried again. We were the second women's crew to finish (beaten by some massive French women), but the first British women's crew to complete the course.

My highlights include some of the best coxing calls of all time: "80km, we're at half-way"; "100km down, only 60km to go"; "Boston marathon restart - take three"; "10km - it's the sprint finish"; "it's start of our tenth back-to-back double lock outing"; "push off the cow".

My advice: stick to the Boston Marathon.

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