Durham rowers complete indoor challenge for breast cancer

Rowers from Durham ARC completed 100km on indoor rowing machines for the Big Pink Ergo Challenge earlier this month

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The Big Pink Ergo Challenge

After celebrating a fifth medal success at the Mizuno British Rowing Indoor Championships last December, 74-year-old Roger Stainforth recently took on the Big Pink Ergo 100km Challenge with fellow Durham ARC rowers to raise funds for breast cancer charities.

Roger tells the story below:

Here’s a question that might test even the teams in Brain of Britain. What connects Burns Night, 27 people aged seven to 74, 100km on the ergo, breast cancer and Harry Potter?

The answer begins at Durham ARC’s Burns Night supper back in January.

A day or two earlier, a message had appeared on the club noticeboard announcing that Durham University student Alexandra Nicholas was organising a Big Pink Ergo 100km Challenge for teams to raise money for breast cancer charities on 24 February.

The event was to be held at Durham ARC where we have a fleet of new rowing machines. It was very poignant for me because my wife Hazel had recently undergone surgery and radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

As it turned out, 24 February was not a good day for many Durham ARC people, so Alexandra was happy to move the challenge to Sunday 3 March.

I had experience of being a member of two 100km world record-setting 70+ relay teams and didn’t think the frenetic race format would work for a charity event. So we decided on four squads of four core rowers, each rowing 500m in relays for two hours, with others joining in when convenient for them. It worked out really well; a total of 27 people participated with many staying all day to do their bit in each of the four squads.

Appropriately kitted out all in pink, Hazel set the event going at 9.30am with the first 500m, did more 500m stints during the course of the day and took us through the final moments as the meter counted down to zero.

What about the statistics of the day? The 100km was achieved by 27 rowers in 7 hours, 3 minutes, 6.6 seconds, at an average split of 2.06.9 and stroke rate of 26. I’d thought 7½-8 hours would be achievable but what happens when you have competitive people taking turns on ergos? They compete!

Between my 500m pieces, I was treated to pictures and stories about Harry Potter

We all enjoyed the assertive 500m pieces by former GB rower Tom Edwards, powering to split-times of which the rest of us can only dream. There were some notable 500m by the women and as the metres ticked down so did the projected time.

What about the final clue and Harry Potter? No, he wasn’t in the team, but he was in the mind of our youngest and most determined rower, seven-year-old Sophia, who asked me – the oldest in the team – “Do you know about Harry Potter?” I had to confess that I didn’t know much.

Thereafter, between my 500m pieces, I was treated to pictures and stories about Mr Potter. Perhaps British Rowing could introduce something similar at BRIC 2019!

So far, the money raised for breast cancer charities is £770 and there’s more to come.

Thank you to everyone for the wonderful efforts, generosity and the cakes and flapjacks that sustained us through the seven hours. Together we can beat the Big C and a little useful wave of the wand from Harry Potter wouldn’t go amiss as well.

We’d love to hear what your club has been up to – you can share #YourStories here

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