Happy New Year 2018! Making New Year’s Resolutions? Maybe something to do with training harder? The Concept 2 Million Metre Challenge – rowing one million metres on a rowing machine in one year – is about the boldest resolution one can make. Ask Zoe Berwick of Marlow Rowing Club who completed her odyssey a few days before Christmas.
To put a Million Meters into perspective, I have added it to the length chart that I created for Naomi Riches’ (who was there at Marlow RC accompanying Zoe across the milestone line) Great Thames Row piece…
According to Concept 2, who track the metres through an online logging system, only a few dozen adaptive athletes have ever completed the challenge in the UK (and of that amount, only a handful of adaptive women).
For the big milestone crossing the seven digit line, two Olympic champions joined the Marlow Rowing Club’s and Maidenhead Rowing Club’s Adaptive/Pararowing Squad to accompany and cheer Zoe on – Paralympic gold medallist Naomi Riches and Olympic (5 time) gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave.
I caught up with Zoe once she had caught her breath and asked her about the twelve month ordeal…
- What is your previous experience with rowing? – I’ve been rowing since around the 2015 after trying out a number of adaptive sports, and for whatever reason fell in love with the sport and the adaptability early on. After that, I started training either on the water or in the gym twice a week with the adaptive squad at Marlow Rowing Club.
- What is your impairment? – I sustained a C5/6 incomplete spinal cord injury in 2006, which in my case means I have a fair amount of strength in my left side and weakness in my right. To be able to erg I use an Active Hand on my right hand and am very particular with my trainers, else the whole experience becomes much less enjoyable.
- What prompted you to take on this challenge? – Someone had mentioned the challenge in passing months before and I hadn’t thought much of it after that point. But in the run up to New Year someone asked if I had any resolutions and I think I rather impulsively said I’m going to do a million metres on the erg! After that there seemed to be no turning back.
- What was the low point? – Around August it all got a bit tedious and even though I was over half way, I knew that I just had to keep on erging, day in, day out without much of a break. So of course that’s when I decided to do my second half marathon of the year… Which was probably one of the most mentally taxing things I’ve done this year. But I did it as part of Concept2’s Dog Day’s Challenge, which was just another incentive to complete the daily metres, and ultimately helped my get to my goal. Another low point was getting ill and really not being able to erg, which was problematic because firstly I was a little behind on metres and because I genuinely missed the erg! But this forced break gave me the motivation I needed to make the final push to get to the end of the challenge in the time frame I had set.
- What was the high point (ie. not the finish)? – While I found the second half marathon one of the most mentally taxing parts of the year, the first felt like a real achievement and a real high point, despite also being very difficult setting new records for myself has been very rewarding. Also on that note seeing both my technique and personal bests improve has been incredibly satisfying, although of course there is still much room for improvement on both fronts!
- What surprised you along the way? – I found how addictive the challenge was truly surprising, even in the low points because I had accepted my fate of getting on the erg on a near daily basis and so it was almost just like brushing my teeth, a little bit of a chore sometimes but so good when you do it!
- What song did you cross the line to? – After some technical difficulties, I finished the million metres to Ella Fitzgerald’s Let it Snow, which given the people who had very kindly come to join me for the last push seemed like a fitting festive ending song.
- Any tips for others contemplating this feat? – Even if you decide a million metres challenge is too much (which I totally appreciate – it’s been a real challenge!), I can’t recommend having a quantifiable goal enough.