6 things I learnt doing The Great Row for Cancer Research UK

Last Thursday was certainly not your average weekday evening for me – rather than a gym session then dinner in front of the telly (my life is so glamorous), I found myself at the Honorable Artillery Company near Old Street, competing in The Great Row for Cancer Research UK.

The challenge was to row a marathon, 26.2 miles, as a team of six, all the while competing against 13 other teams to complete the distance first.

As well as being a fairly challenging experience, it was also an educational one! Here are 6 things I discovered…

1. 26.2 miles is a REALLY long way to row

An admittedly fairly obvious statement to start with – but I’ll be honest, I hadn’t quite appreciated how long this distance would take to row. Sure, I’ve run the marathon, and I remember it being bloody hard, but I assumed on a rowing machine we’d be done in about an hour and I’d go home to put my feet up (clearly, I hadn’t thought this through).

My boyfriend even said to me when I signed up ‘Errrm, you do realise you’ll have to row about 7k each right?’ and I was like ‘Yeah yeah piece of cake.’ Nope, it’s hard. Luckily the atmosphere at the event was electric, with club tunes pumping out and plenty of encouraging teammates – plus, we were rowing for an amazing cause, which definitely helps you find that extra power!

2. Technique is everything when it comes to good rowing

About the only wise thing I did when I signed up for The Great Row is take advice from Patricia Carswell, who blogs all things rowing over on Girl on the River. She gave me some really good advice on technique; namely, that you shouldn’t be whacking the resistance on the erg up to 10 when you train (it’s not good for your back or technique) and that most of the work should be done by the legs, not the arms.

While we were doing the marathon row, she was great at pointing technical points out to me, such as keeping the length in each stroke (sometimes I tend to get a little frantic), which really helped me up my game rowing-wise.

Since taking her advice, I’ve also noticed LOADS of people are using the rowing machine incorrectly in the gym. I’d say the majority think it’s all about speed and a mega-high resistance, but their technique is shocking and actually looks like they could be doing themselves some damage! If you’re not really sure how to do it properly than I urge you to watch this video Patricia sent me, and educate yourself.

3. I have a weird crush on Dan Walker

Does he count as a weird crush, or a normal one? We were lucky enough to have Dan presenting on the night and I must say he has a certain tall and jolly appeal.

Staring lovingly at Dan with a sweaty ponytail

4. Teamwork is everything

I was SO lucky with my team, especially considering I’d never met any of them before. As well as Patricia, there was also Georgina from Fitcetera,  TV presenter and blogger Olivia Cox, Made In Chelsea’s Akin Solange-Caulker and finally Akin’s lovely friend Devon. Everyone was brilliant – no one had a tantrum and gave up, no one turned their nose up at taking the position of ‘foot holder’, and the whole team was really great at encouraging each other to keep the hell going.

5. CrossFit makes you hardcore

From the start of the rowing marathon, it was clear one time was extremely dominant – the CrossFit team. They finished way ahead of everyone else, whereas we were close to the bottom, which suggests to me that I probably need to start CrossFitting IMMEDIATELY.

6. Cancer Research’s goal is for 3 in 4 people to survive cancer in 20 years

Now here’s something truly important that I wasn’t aware of – Cancer Research UK’s next big aim is for three quarters of those diagnosed with cancer to survive it (currently, it’s one in two). They hope to achieve this amazing feat within the next two decades, but obviously, they require a huge amount of fundraising to support this, which is where you guys come in! Sign up to take part in The Great Row yourself and aim to raise at least £25 per person – more info here. You can even train for free at David Lloyd gyms every Friday in March. Personally, I can tell you it really is a rewarding challenge to take on; I found it tough but the feeling of achievement once you’re done is incredible!

The final sprint to the finish!

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