Our athlete Ben Abdelnoor leads Team inov-8 to victory in one of the most unique races in the UK sporting calendar
Gummer’s How is one of the most unique races in the UK sporting calendar, with competitors twice rowing across England’s largest lake as well as running up a down a steep fell.
The race is over a century old and steeped in tradition. It sees 14 teams, each containing three members, do battle in a competition watched by a large crowd from the shoreline. In the team inov-8 boat I was joined by Carl Bell and John Helme.
Before the start organiser David Birch recalled that his great-grandfather competed in the historic event back in 1890. In those days a special train service was put on from the nearby town of Barrow to bring folk along to the race.
Starting with an 800m dash, all teams then rowed a quarter-of-a-mile across the windswept waters, before a run to the 1,053ft summit of Gummer’s How and back, culminating in a final row back across Windermere.
We decided beforehand that Carl would be helmsman, with myself and John taking an oar each. However, a slightly too exuberant push-off from shore left Carl having to launch himself face-first into the boat in order not to get left behind!
Myself and John then fell backwards off our seating as we attempted to power the boat across the lake. A misunderstanding between Carl’s commands and our actions resulted in a rather dog-legged outward journey, leaving us in third position on reaching the eastern shore.
Determined to make up for lost time, we pelted out of the boat and ran hard at the hill. Ascending into the mist, we first passed the team from Black Combe Runners and then the lads from Helm Hill Runners.
Turning first at the summit, and knowing that both Carl and John were excellent downhill runners, I began the steep and rocky descent at a fast pace.
By the time we reached the boats again we had opened a small gap on the chasing Helm Hill trio.
At this point I should mention that on returning to the boats you’re allowed to grab whichever one of the 14 you wish.
Earlier, in the individual race, we had watched Alastair Dunn win in great style while rowing boat number 6. We’d also witnessed my Ambleside AC club-mate, and England international, John Brown make a dogs-dinner of his rowing attempt in boat number 7. Due to that, we decided to avoid boat number 7 at all costs. But when I arrived exhausted on the shore to find Carl hopping from foot to foot shouting, ‘Which one, which one?’ I remembered incorrectly. ‘Boat number 7’ I yelled, and in we jumped!
Still in the lead, all that remained was to row back in a straight line. How hard could it be? It turned out that we managed to do exactly that; by keeping calm, and with clear directions and a steady stroke we made a perfect return.
On reaching the western shore we hopped out of the boat to rapturous applause and took the victory -and an ice-cold bottle of beer!
Our winning time was 28:57, with Helm Hill Runners second (29:22) and Black Combe runners third (30:44).