The only time I have ever tried rowing was at a hen party a few years ago. The primary objective during this outing was to avoid being capsized or otherwise drenched by the Naughty Sisters' boat. So terrified of them we were, that we paddled for our lives, occasionally by way of a blackberry bush or some other painful shrubbery, screaming very technical commands like "FORMATION STRAIGHT!". We escaped the Naughty Sisters, who eventually settled for throwing each other off the jetty, instead.
Given these extreme conditions and the fact that I'm reasonably well hydrated on this pleasantly unfamiliar Sunday morning, I feel pretty relaxed about trying my hand at rowing again, today. Not least because I'm not actually going to be rowing on the water. Though my composure is compromised, somewhat, when I realise I don't know what rowers wear, other than unitards and it's really difficult to pull off a unitard.
As we all know, only posh people row (I should just explain that as an Essex girl, the criteria for what makes someone "posh" aren't very specific). So I head off to Barnes, home of R-Pattz (posh) and Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club, for an open day as part of Join In UK. I was promised Olympians, so I'm hoping for a showdown with Mark Foster about those unanswered Tweets.
At the club, I'm welcomed by friendly (but surprisingly, not particularly posh) folk who are keen to recruit new members for their Get Fit and Row course, which sees you out on the water within 6 weeks. No water for me today though. First up I'm on the rowing machine. I'll admit to feeling a little disappointed by this - we've all used a rowing machine in the gym. We've all used a rowing machine in the gym incorrectly though, it would seem, as I'm coached by the very lovely and patient Charlotte, who explains the numerous ways in which people cause themselves injury using rowing machines. Confusingly, it's all in the legs apparently.
Next up, we're in the "tank", which is exactly what it says on the tin - a static sort of faux boat in a tank of water, which makes me feel a bit like I'm filming some kind of water based, CGI intensive movie. Admittedly, it would have been a dull movie from a spectator's point of view. The addition of oars to the routine is all a bit much for me, and at this point, I discover that I've not been rowing previously, I've been canoeing (which is altogether a different thing - I refer you to The Rules). I also learn what a Cox is, and it turns out the whole "formation straight" thing wasn't that wide of the mark.
Despite the fact that I'm finding the whole thing a bit complicated, it's actually weirdly relaxing focusing on the process of the movement and I feel like this is a sport I could potentially be ok at. I'm even looking forward to the future "event" in which I must participate, though I do worry a little bit about my total lack of coordination in one of those dinky boats.
So too does Mo Farah, apparently, who turns up aboard the Join In UK battle bus and after what seems like a million years of thinking about getting in the boat, he decides to put his daughter in the boat, instead. Fair enough, Mo, we can't all be good at everything.
During the faff, I approach two time Olympic Decathlon champion and moustachioed legend, Daley Thompson, for a photo and to tell him about Inspire a Jen, tapping him on the arm to get his attention. He spins round and I apologise, to which he responds "Don't be sorry, Darling, I love being touched", grabs my hands and rubs them over his chest for what feels like a long and frankly mortifying length of time. I mutely nod as he suggests that we take the photo, and completely dumbstruck, I chicken out of telling him about Inspire a Jen. Foster, if you're reading this, you could learn a lot from this man.