A few months and several kilos ago, me and Ben from the Devs augmented the Curlew Vets 8 crew in the Lockdown Regatta. 2k was the familiar distance, but blades were swapped for running shoes in this virtual challenge organised by rowers from Bath Spa and De Montford universities, raising funds for NHS charities. Chairman Matt brought us together in the boat called Numenius, and we were drawn against Grey College Durham, Cygnet and Manchester University A and B boats. Nick, Jamie, Mike and Andrew posted benchmark times in the UK and Matt and Scott added from Milan and Dubai. Ben and I had already ran a 1k for the Bewl Regatta in the morning so posted our times later on, but we qualified in 3rd, just 0.5 seconds behind Grey and 48 seconds behind the Manchester “B” crew.

Our reward was to race again two later on bank holiday Monday. Ahead of our final, I was stirred to summon up the spirit of Henry V and Sky’s marginal gains and suggested we could make a 10% improvement on our qualifying time by pushing harder, pacing better and crucially, finding a long steep hill to run down. We all responded with gusto, and posted a time 7% faster and waiting to see how we faired. We knew gold was beyond us, but we jumped into the silver position. Grey had improved too, but not by enough. Jamie had the final word: “I hope the improvement isn’t proof that we should actually practice before races” Words by Jon Cole

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