Four Lake District rowers with a combined age of over 200 have helped set a new world record for the longest ever continuous indoor row.
Over the course of 35 days of round-the-clock effort, Rowers Without Borders, a group of 125 oarswomen and men from all over the globe, clocked up 10 million metres – the equivalent of more than two Atlantic crossings – in their basements, spare rooms, sheds and garages.
The previous indoor rowing record, set in 2014 by a team of prison guards in New Zealand, was 3.8 million metres over 12 days.
Rowers Without Borders completed the marathon rowing-machine relay, which was raising money for global medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, in the early hours of Saturday morning UK time.
Helen Tucker and Alex Morgan, from Cockermouth, David Pratt, from Borrowdale, and Jane Wall-Budden, from Kendal, contributed almost half-a-million metres to the staggering total, a distance that would have taken them all the way from Carlisle to Watford, on the outskirts of London.
Helen, Alex and David, who are all in their fifties, are members of Derwentwater-based Lakeland Rowing Club, while 37-year-old Jane rows with Windermere RC.
Alex said: “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because we were rowing flat-out the whole way, trying to rack up the metres as quickly as possible, but it was also great fun.
“It was all organised over Zoom, and you never knew who you would meet when you logged on to start your session. One day I took over from someone in Wales; the next it was someone rowing through the night in the heart of the US.”
Rowing in 30-minute blocks, participants aged from 11 to 87 and based everywhere from Bahrain to the Bahamas passed the virtual baton from one to another in a meeting that lasted throughout the entire challenge.
David said: “The knowledge that people I didn’t know, rowing somewhere else in the world, were relying on me to show up and take over made all the difference to my efforts.
“But the icing on the cake was at the end of my last session, when I was surprised by my fellow Lakeland club member Helen, who appeared on the Zoom feed to take over!”
The marathon was the brainchild of Bryan Fuller, owner of Power Rowing, an exercise studio in Boston, Massachusetts, in the US.
The former serviceman, who holds the title of fastest American ever to row the Atlantic, organised the world record bid as a way to maintain fitness during lockdown while helping a cause close to his heart.
Helen said: “Raising money for a cause that we need more than ever in our modern world was great motivation for getting in, and staying in, shape.”
Although the row has finished, there is still time to donate to the charity, whose doctors have been working in disadvantaged communities around the world throughout the pandemic. To contribute, go to: https://events.doctorswithoutborders.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.personalCampaign&participantID=5406
US Rowing, the sport’s governing body in North America, was so impressed by Rowers Without Borders’ achievement that it has made the 10-million-metre marathon an official annual event. The next one is scheduled to take place in February and March 2021.
Helen said: “It was great to be part of a world-wide effort. I enjoyed it so much I’m planning to take part in the Row the Great Lakes Challenge with the same group.”
Beginners, or returning rowers, who would like to know more about opportunities at Lakeland RC can visit lakelandrowingclub.com. To find out about rowing with Windermere RC, go to windermererowingclub.com