The Boat Race

The 2021 Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge, held last Sunday in Ely because of the pandemic, has concluded with Cambridge winning both the men’s and women’s races.

But this post is not about THE boat race. It is a story about MY boat race.

Years ago, in a moment of madness, I joined the Jesus College Boat Club and began my life as a rower. It was the winter of 2005/2006. In hindsight, it was probably the worst time to pick up rowing, considering the fact that you had to start so damn early in the morning when it was awfully cold. Did I mention it was winter back then?

So yes, the first time I dipped my fingers in the River Cam, it felt like liquid nitrogen! Clearly I was not destined to be a rower. I did, however, stick it out until the end of term, ‘competing’ in a couple of events namely the Queens’ Ergs and the Fairbairn Cup. I say ‘competing’ because, let’s face it, I wasn’t exactly Speedy Gonzales when it came to rowing.

By my own reckoning, I was the second ranked novice that term. Second ranked, from the bottom that is! Every training session I pushed myself hard, knowing there was a very thin line separating myself from the title of ‘Worst Novice Ever’ for the Jesus College Boat Club. Ha!

My kids laughed at me when I told them I used to be a rower, until I showed them this picture:

I am both horrified and proud that I even signed up to be a rower that term. Horrified, because if you know anything about me, you’ll know that sports isn’t exactly my forte. In the picture above I look moments away from being ejected out of the boat and into the River Cam for an unplanned swimming session. But still, I am proud that I volunteered for something so out of my league.

My only regret is that I didn’t do more to capture those moments. How could I when I was playing World of Warcraft all the time busy being a medical student?

The past year has taught all of us the priceless value of the outdoors. I’ve written about it numerous times on this blog, but I’ll say it again: I’m incredibly glad that I can just walk out of my door and, just a minute later, find myself in a beautiful park looking at trees and empty fields under an expansive blue sky.

Going back to rowing, I honestly wish I had stuck with it for a bit longer. I gave it up after the 2005 Michaelmas Term but even now, I still remember the exhilarating feeling of gliding across the surface of the River Cam when all 8 rowers were in synchrony with each other.

Incidentally, I went jogging last Sunday (the morning of the 2021 Boat Race) wearing the very same rowing T-shirt as the one in the picture. I must’ve kept it all these years because of its sentimental value, as proof that I too, was once a rower.