Racing in the 2021 Scullers Head

Mary Mortimer is a member of the masters’ women’s squad at Putney Town RC and was one of the 402 single scullers racing in the Scullers Head on Saturday


Mary Mortimer racing at the Scullers Head (c) AllMarkOne

Held on the Thames from the University Stone at Mortlake and finishing at Putney Pier, this year’s Scullers Head was held in September instead of the usual chillier December day.

Putney Town masters rower Mary Mortimer was taking part in her third Scullers Head. Read on to hear how Mary’s race campaign went…

“In 2017 I overcame my fear and entered the Scullers Head for the first time. I just wanted to get down the course without freezing to death, falling in or being overcome by the need to deal with over-hydration. In the event, I was on the water for three hours.

“The 2018 race was cancelled due to inclement weather and in 2019, I had a positive wintery experience, but with no medals.

“I am therefore excited at the thought of competing this year, in what is predicted to be balmy conditions. No bobble hat or bin-liners this time!

“The transition from summer sprints to the preparations for the head-race season was put on hold this year whilst I was a volunteer at the Sea Forest Waterway for the Tokyo Olympics, assisting with the rowing – pictured below.



“The fantastic opportunity to observe the best of the best, on and off the water, certainly spurred me on to continue my journey in the women’s masters F single sculls. I just needed a little time to allow my knees to recover from the effects of standing and running around in hot and sticky temperatures for prolonged periods of time.

“On my return, training started in earnest. With knees back in the land of the living and after several UT2 outings down the course, plus the odd time-trial with a coach to encourage that sense of jostling for position on the water, I was on my way. What a bonus to be allowed to row under Hammersmith Bridge again.

“The wind against the tide made everything challenging and I clung onto my blades for dear life, as I struggled from Barn Elms to the finish”

“A land-training plan which included the weekly 60 minutes rate 20 and high intensity training ergs plus weights and core was in the diary and enabled me to get back into shape. The official season starter at Putney Town RC kicked off on 11 September with masters and senior women doing a 1k rate 24 test all together. It was very empowering, noisy and sweaty as our buddies cheered us on. It was so great to all be back training together again. This was followed by a 14k water outing on both Saturday and Sunday and a monster 30 minutes rate 20 power erg early in the week before tapering off in preparation for the race on Saturday.

“On race day, the sunglasses and factor 50 were on and I was destined to go off as crew no 381 out of 402 scullers competing.

“So, I lurked in the foliage somewhere near the crossing point of the race, surrounded by a cluster of fellow masters F scullers; necks craned as we inched our way for 90 minutes towards the start line.

“With marshals encouraging us to keep to the centre of the river, all went well until after Harrods Depository. Here, the wind against the tide made everything challenging and I clung onto my blades for dear life, as I struggled from Barn Elms to the finish, desperately trying to avoid capsizing or having my number knocked off!

“The dwindling euphoria helped propel me as far as St Paul’s BC. Then wild exhaustion and monumental glute-ache kicked in, and even diving into the bag of jelly babies didn’t lessen the slog back to Putney Town RC with the setting sun behind me and mirror-like water all around.

“However, at the end of the day – and back on dry land – the sense of personal achievement is huge after completing the race in 28:16.66 – sixth in my category.”