Rowing on a crisp winter morning: Why do they do it to themselves?

An ode to the dedicated souls pounding away out on the river before the sun's even up

Simon Heptonstall
Friday 13 December 2013 16:25

It’s 8am on a cold December morning, the sun is only just beginning to rise, and yet by the river bank stand five brave men ready to take their positions in the boat. They all wear their thermals but the winter wind bites hard against any exposed skin. And as every man knows, there’s only one place where they can keep their hands warm…

If you listen closely you can hear the chirps of robins as they fly from tree to tree, the soothing sound of the gently flowing river and, among other noises, the cox can be heard from the boat-house ordering the crew to lift the boat above their heads and march it back to the river bank - heavy-lifting before the sun is up is just what they hoped for. And this is around the point that the cox realises that he forgot to lock the boat house and leaves the crew stood there with a not at all light boat high above their heads while he runs back inside.

Finally it's onto the water, their element. They feel at home, they feel powerful, they feel alive. Unfortunately, this feeling is short-lived as the sliding seat that they’re sat on either gets caught and stops sliding - or snaps off completely. Once everything is fixed and everyone is ready to go again, they’re in the boat doing their crew warm-ups. They wrap their fingers around the oar, pushing hard against the morning current and doing their best to make sure that every blade in the boat touches the water at the exact same time; it feels good. They don’t realise it at first, because their hands are so cold, but this is the exact moment when a dozen blisters miraculously appear on each athlete’s palms and, out of nowhere, instantaneously explode. You must remember however, that it takes a whole crew to balance a boat so forget the searing pain that’s resonating from your palms and row on!

When they finally get home covered in mud, blisters and icicles, the only thought they can muster is to get a nice hot shower. Unfortunately, even at a low temperature, after an hour on freezing river, it’ll feel like someone’s pouring a kettle over them.

Whether it’s the shower that makes them forget, or maybe a good night's sleep, but something must erase their memories because they get up the next day and do it all over again…

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