I am certain that rowing doesn’t love me. It doesn’t matter though. I love it. Or maybe not. I hate it, but don’t want to. I’d love to get rowing out of my head, but I can’t. It is too devious/insidious/underhand. First it treats you badly everyday. Then, when you aren’t looking, it leaves something behind.
Only later do you realise that the something was happiness. That’s how it got me. Just at the moment when I thought our paths would no longer cross. Instead, one day at 7.30am, I sat in my single and wept.
Tears are like fragments of memories
Someone once wrote that water has no memory. Tears do. And this is why rowers always have tears in their eyes. So that they don’t forget. Rowing is not just a sport, but a collection of memory fragments. Regardless the current, I am calm today. On the water, my head is clear and my body knows what to do. My gaze is determined, and hands have a firm grip on my blades.
This is the part of rowing that I enjoy. Before you do it. The most beautiful moment of all in this sport is the instant just before the blade touches the water, and everything begins. That moment is second to none. When I am in my boat, a million things could go wrong, but none if it matters. When I am on the water, all that is important is me and the blades.
Even if I have lost feeling in 80% of my body, after 300 metres. Something inside me, though, has changed. Once, it was my head that would give in first. Not now. I have a clear mind and the rest of my body is clinging on to my brain. I have always found it difficult to find the water. Not today. I carry on squeezing my way along, repeating “Take it. Take it. Take it”. Again. Again. Again.
I am thrilled when I overtake a double. That’s enough for today. I know my limits, but I am happy nonetheless. I’d like to shed a tear to remember this moment. But I can’t. I think I have sweated them all away. Then I look at my hands, and I know I won’t forget. As Cecilla Seppia (Italian MP) says, when we no longer remember with words, or our eyes, we shall remember with our hands. In the end, there is only thing worth holding onto. The handle of a blade.