Healthspan News

The Healthspan Customer in the Thames Boat Race this weekend

Posted 28 March 2013 12:00 AM by Healthspan Heroes

This weekend, Liz, 36, from Cumbria will take to the waters of the Kennet & Avon Canal and then the Thames to take part in the world-renowned Devizes to Westminster International canoe race. With concerns about water levels and freezing temperatures rising for the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race at the weekend, Liz is preparing for what could be an uncomfortable 24+ hour stint in her two-person kayak. Liz took some time to tell us about the race, the charity she is supporting and her preparations.

The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race is one of the most demanding non-stop paddling events in the world. The 125 mile race starts on the Kennet and Avon canal at Devizes before joining the river Thames at Reading and finishing just downstream of Westminster Bridge in central London. The last 17 miles are on the tidal section of the Thames. There are also 77 portages where you have to get out and run with the boat, one of which is a mile long. The event takes around 24 hours to complete.

It always starts on Easter Saturday morning with teams finishing sometime on Sunday. Because the last section is tidal you have to time it right to catch the tide, if you miss it you have to wait until the afternoon tide.

Our training has been going well, despite the cold weather and frozen water. Jill and I paddle early before work 3 times a week either on the local canal or reservoir and then go for a longer 15- 20 mile paddle once a week. We also have tried to fit in a paddle of around 35 miles once a month. We are paddling a K2, which is a very long, fiberglass double canoe. It has been very challenging with the cold weather, snow and strong northerly winds here in Cumbria the last few weeks. Staying warm has been the biggest challenge.

For the race we have a support team of 2 who meet us at various stages along the race, feed us jaffa cakes, coffee and hot pasta and provide changes of clothes. They are absolutely vital to our survival and we couldn’t do it without them.

Unfortunately the weather for the race is not looking great. Cold weather and strong winds are forecast. The Thames is all on red boards, which means the water levels are really high. If the water levels don’t drop in the week the start may be postponed till Saturday afternoon so that the Thames section is done in daylight as it will be considered too dangerous in the dark with weirs and strong currents.

Jill and I are not fast paddlers, averaging 5 mph. We are just aiming to get to the finish, hopefully somewhere between 24 and 27hrs.

We are raising funds for Bendrigg Trust a Cumbrian Outdoor Centre. The Bendrigg Trust runs high quality courses and holidays for disabled and disadvantaged people. It aims to promote integration, encourage independence and build self-confidence through the use of residential experience and the safe provision of adventurous activities delivered by dedicated, qualified staff.

Bendrigg Trust has recently started a new project, ‘Spirit of Adventure’ which provides adventurous activity holidays for disabled adults. Spirit of Adventure is committed to giving disabled adults the chance to take part in adventures that able bodied people take for granted. Last year they ran several, week long canoe and camping trips including some on the river Wye in Wales and the Dordogne in France, and they have more planned for 2013.

Disabled adults face many barriers especially lower incomes and the need to pay for carers on their holidays. This combined with the fact they need specialist equipment and high staff ratios mean holidays don’t come cheap.

Bendrigg Trust is a small independent charity but through dedicated fundraising offers courses at highly subsidized, realistic prices.

Liz takes Ginger & Turmeric tablets as well as Optiflex Glucosamine 1000mg. The Customer Heroes Scheme has helped Liz to enter the race and fund some of her kayak equipment for the challenge. We wish her the very best of luck, some warm sunshine and the wind at her back.



Congratulations to Liz and Jill on completing the non-stop race in 26 hours 4 minutes and 10 seconds, which is well within their target. 64th place out of the 101 who completed it. 57 boats failed to finish. It was said to be the coldest Easter for 50 years. (The race has been going for 65 years.) The canal was frozen in places, and there were sheets of ice on portages.

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