Isle of Ely RC, Great Ouse Marathon- wins and records!

Don’t let the title put you off from rowing it in future – it’s only a half-marathon! 22km from Denver Sluice to Queen Adelaide (near Ely) on the Great Ouse. Yare sent 3 doubles to the event on Sunday 1 September 2013: Rod and Michael in Harrier, Anthony and James in Dusky Grimmer, and Arthur and me in George Cooper. Norwich rowing club, who sent 2 quads, very kindly put our boats on their trailer.

Christine was our ‘boatman’ for the day, taking us to the event, dealing with trestles and our equipment, and of course, picking us up at the finish! This was very kind of her because I imagine she would have wanted to row it herself. There were plenty of singlers too – 46 in total, as compared to 18 doubles/pairs,14 quads/fours and 7 eights.

The course is wonderful. The river is wide, there is no tide (only a light flow), and the weather is almost always pleasant. You can expect to row into the wind though as it tends to blow from the south.

Once you have boated, you are into the race almost immediately. Rod was surprised by a marshall shouting ‘Are you ready?’ before he’d had a chance to warm up, but as he had a 22km row ahead of him, the 200 metres he did get was probably sufficient!

Arthur and I found we got into our stride pretty well and we soon overcame our Vet C competition from St. Ives. This was a little payback from the Sudbury 2010 regatta, when we were up against the very same crew, who beat us easily (helped by my steering us into the bank on that day!). They commented afterwards that we were on form – they were unaware that later on in the race we started to flag a bit and couldn’t maintain our early speed!

We took our single break at 50 minutes – stopping to remove a layer of clothing, have a drink and a banana. I did this fairly ineptly, spilling my drink all over the boat. One tip for future is wear as little clothing as you can get away with. It was perhaps 20 degrees on the river in bright sunshine and when you are pushing it for 1 hour and 40 minutes, it gets hot! Rod and Michael didn’t feel the need to stop for the refuel, but I am glad we did because we were sweating so much, I feel without taking the water on, I would have suffered from dehydration. Anthony and James took a break, continuing to row, one-at-a-time while the other takes on drink/food, but we stopped and drank at the same time. Anthony managed to get a some of his water into his mouth, but most of it sprayed down his front!

The first half of the course is meandering with some nice long straights, but once you pass the 10km where the Little Ouse joins, it is 12km of straight. There are quite a few pleasure cruisers and canal boats at this point so you have to occasionally look over your shoulder. The river is wide enough to get past them without much trouble.

There are marshalls along the route shouting out completed distances from the bridges. Arthur and I really appreciated that lady on Littleport Bridge shouting ‘7km to go!’. Why, that’s simply the return from Paddy’s on our river!

It was a relief to see the final kilometre sign. The head wind was fairly strong so it took us about 140 strokes to complete it which is 40 more than Arthur was expecting! One tip for next year – once you have crossed the finish line, try to keep rowing rather than stopping. I got cramp in my arms and legs, and my bottom started to hurt, and so Arthur had to row the 1.5km to the club mostly on his own!

We arrived to find a buzz of activity and chatter on the bank. It was a very pleasant atmosphere, and the food and drink was excellent and inexpensive. The results appeared quickly and it turns out that Yare put in some pretty good performances. Anthony and James were not only the fastest double of the day, but they broke the course record for their age group as did Arthur and I. Rod and Michael had a great row finishing in the top third of the crews with a time under 1 hour 50 mins with little training as a crew.

Special thanks to Christine for all her help on the day and to Norwich Rowing Club for towing and niceness.

Well done and thanks to Ely Rowing Club for putting on such a great event.

Pictures here.

Richard Turner