It seemed like a good idea at the time...

“I know what I’ll do. I’ll row across the Channel, virtually, on a rowing machine, at the gym!”

Does this sound like someone in the pub, not really watching the rugby, who’s had a couple of G&Ts and got a bit brave? Got it in one. That was me on 17 March.

I had a big birthday at the end of last year, and something was telling me to look for challenges. So I set myself up: 6 weeks to get myself fit enough to row 33.8 km (21 miles). Oops! What did I just commit to?

scary start screen!

Crucially, I’d confided in a friend about my idea. She was non-committal, as I remember, most likely because she thought I was completely bonkers, but I’d put the idea out there, in the open. I’m a finisher, as in “I’ve started, so I’ll finish.” It now had to happen. And since I was doing it anyway, and to add a bit of pressure, why not do it for charity and get sponsored? There’s one significant charity in my life, and that’s Supershoes. The choice was an easy one.

I go to the gym regularly and eat (relatively) sensibly. So I’d call myself reasonably fit. However, this was a big one, actually massive, even by my standards, and as I discovered, there’s fit and there’s fit.

Did I say I was reasonably fit? Hmm… maybe not so much. I’d certainly neglected my cardio fitness, and this was very clear as I puffed and panted my way through some quite short practice distances on the rowing machine that would come to be my not-so-best friend. It was clear I needed to do more. So, every time I went to the gym to do something bendy and stretchy (I love yoga and Pilates and could do them forever), I went a bit early and added in some short bursts of serious rowing. I also started to go to the gym’s high intensity training sessions, which I’d always avoided in the past. And guess what? They’re quite good fun. If by “good fun” you mean sweaty, breathless with a hearty hatred for burpees and battleropes! Google them if you’re not sure. Did I mention my weekly endurance sessions, where I increased the distances rowed: 1 hour, 2 hours? Ugh! I hated them too.

On the day, it all went well. The preparation was definitely worth it, The well-wishers at the gym and all over my Facebook page meant the world to me, and definitely helped with my motivation. A couple of gym friends even left a bunch of flowers on the rowing machine: so sweet!

I’ve been bowled over (wrong sport, I know!) with how generous everyone has been with their sponsorship. People I barely know and complete strangers, along with good friends. To Sarah at Supershoes, who’s encouraged me all the way, to the guys at Fusion Fitness at the National Badminton Centre, for their advice and encouragement, and to my dear Mr B, who’s backed me all the way, and come along to do his own thing at the gym, while I’ve been doing extra training sessions and mini-marathon rowing sessions, which means he’s got lots fitter too! I thank you all so much.

another stunning pair of Supershoes

I’ve learnt many things about myself, about goal-setting, about mindset and motivation during this journey. And for that, I thank Supershoes for the inspiration. Training for an event where you’re being sponsored is very motivating indeed. Yes, rowing can be a bit boring and yes, it hurts. Every time I was tempted to stop (and there were many of those), I’d think of the children going through that fearsome cancer journey. My boredom and pain was nothing compared with theirs, and my challenge was over in 6 weeks. For them, the challenges go on far, far longer.