Monday, 9 April 2012

Don't give up...

The traditional annual Devizes-to-Westminster canoe-race post....

I notice that 5-times Olympic gold-medal hero Steve Redgrave didn't make it to the end of the 125-mile Devizes to Westminster canoe race... Due to "tiredness".

He stopped at 87 miles. The 70-90 mile stage - the well-known (if you know the race at all!) make-or-break stage... and you never know what depths of darkness you'll find and what will happen until you get there.

Here's a few bits from the diary of memories I wrote after finishing the race Easter Saturday morning in 1998...
Hambledon & Hurley (65-68 miles)

This is the worst moment of my entire life.

Cookham (75 miles)

I soon realise how wrong I was. This is quite easily the worst moment of my entire life. I promise myself that there is no way I am going to go through this and not finish. We are still making good progress and are holding out physically.

Penton Hook (94 miles)

This is the worst moment of my entire life. I point this out to Mr. Newby. He reassuringly points out that the moment in five miles time is bound to be much worse.
Reading that all 4 Olympians gave up makes me feel quite big, though I realise I'm running off vapours from fuel which ran out years ago! This quote tickled me somewhat, as it brought back ancient memories of light-hearted banter with the rowing club during training sessions on the river: '"It's a funny sort of race. I'm used to quick blasts of 2,000 metres," he said.'

Amazing performance by Richard Hendron and James King to win the race the third consecutive year. Those people physically are from another planet. As of course is Redgrave; but taking up canoeing only this year as a 50-year old was pushing it even for people with as much physical conditioning as he's had. It's called "The Canoeist's Everest" for a reason!

And well done my old school, Kimbolton, for winning the junior team event, if indeed they have (finish should be about now, and they'll win unless someone falls in - which on the tidal stretch of the Thames is always possible). I trained with the last Kimbolton team to do that (though wasn't in the team itself until the next year). Aah, nostalgia.

I'd love to spend time on such things again, but I'm in a different race now and I can't enter ones like that without leaving this one. This one is longer, there's fewer people at the side cheering you on, and there are no mile-posts to measure how far you've gone and how far you're got until you reach the end. Easter time also brings tiredness when terms of teaching end and we slump back and look for signs of progress and find much less than we hoped for... but don't give up. There is an end, and it'll be infinitely more wonderful than we can conceive, however dark things get. It's 14 years since I arrived at Westminster, 22:51:58 after the first stroke at Devizes, and after all that time it still brings such a powerful wave of memories. If we can, as many do, go through such things for an earthly reward (I'm not sure where my medal is now...), what about for a heavenly one? Don't give up; you'll never regret carrying on. Can you imagine that on the last day we'll hear people say "I served Jesus too much"? He served us infinitely more, and keeping our eyes on him will keep us going until the end.

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