You know that feeling when you wake up in the morning unsure if what you did was a dream or reality? Well the last few morning have been like that for me… but it was a reality, I did row the entire length of the Navigable Thames and I did complete it in 47 hours 59 minutes and 54 seconds.
Before I say anything else I need to say thank you to the TGTR2016 team, this challenge would not have happened without all their expertise, passion and enthusiasm from beginning to end. I say end… whilst I have crossed the finish line the fundraising for IN-vison is still going, we are still selling the miles, still encouraging people to do their own 165 challenges… so if you want to get involved please visit www.thegreatthamesrow.
It is going to take Guinness World Records a few months to verify my record but hopefully with the mountain of evidence we have gathered, it will be easy for them; there is no doubt however that I completed it, that I am the first women EVER to have rowed 165 from Lechlade to Gravesend in a single scull and in one hit.
One thing I will never forget about this experience is the support I had at every lock, on many of the bridges, from other river users on their boats or just from people standing on the banks; it was phenomenal and every shout was a little energy boost which I can tell you was much needed, especially in the last few hours.
Much of that support was the result of ATYC involvement and for that I am forever grateful. You supported not only at the locks all hours of the day and night, but you were there on the tideway, all the way to the finish and at your Annual Rally and BBQ you managed to race £1,300; you are a remarkable bunch of people who did a HUGE amount towards making my ‘little paddle’ a success.
Those last few hours will always stick in my mind as the toughest; I was past The Thames Barrier with no land marks to pass, nothing to show me how far I had come and to add to the struggle I was heading into the incoming tide so whenever I stopped to stretch, eat or drink I would float back towards London! The QE2 Bridge nearly drove me insane… I was looking over my shoulder now and again and it didn’t get any bigger for what seemed like hours! When I finally passed underneath though I had just 5.5miles to go, that is just over 2 laps of Dorney Rowing Lake, now that was achievable!
A couple of days before I started The Great Thames Row at Lechlade, Jacqui Jones, a great friend and fellow rower asked me to write down the reason I was doing this bonkers challenge… first and foremost it was to raise money for IN-vision and to raise awareness of Infantile Nystagmus and it was go set a new Guinness World Record. Underneath all that though it was much more personal… to lay to rest some of my own ghosts, to prove to myself that I could achieve despite what people in my past had told me in various different ways. When she could see me struggling, Jacqui just asked ‘Naomi, why are you doing this?’, my response ‘BECAUSE I CAN!’