Tag Archives: Run Dem Crew

The year of the dragon: a new adventure starts here

London's medal-winning "Thames Dragons" dragon boating team
Source: http://bit.ly/MelXrG
Photo by Rosanna Lau

It seems that maybe a new adventure sometimes comes along when you’re not looking for one.

Since before I even went to deepest, darkest Norway on my Arctic Adventure, I was thinking about what would be next.  The idea of a desert motorcycle race came up, and I did some research into the Paris – Dakar Rally, but while not yet being able to ride a motorcycle would have added an extra element to the challenge, the whole thing was impractical.

After the Arctic, a coast to coast trek in Cuba was considered — it would be another fundraising expedition for Macmillan Cancer Support, but the total being a much more modest £4,500 (rather than the £6k I raised this year) and I considered it would be possible to raise the entire total solely with full-day collections in railway stations or outside supermarkets.

This idea, too, was regrettably dismissed — I don’t want my adventures to be defined by charity fundraising, and I didn’t want friends and family to feel they had to support me financially.

I wasn’t even thinking about a new adventure when I got an email asking if I wanted to go to a Dragon Boat racing event.  I’d heard about dragon boats and dragon boat festivals before, but never seen one — though it had sounded interesting.  So I gladly signed up for this one, once I’d established I could actually join in and race.

One event does not an adventure make.

It was a good day, a fun day of racing in a dragon boat against other teams.  My team came second out of four taking part, which was a good result.  We were tired and sore but happy at the end of the day. But I think what might separate me from others on the day is that I went straight home and looked up London’s teams.

I found several teams, found the team nearest to me (although the 2012 Olympic Games in London have meant they have been evicted temporarily from their home in the docks) and contacted them to ask if I could come along to train with them.

Their answer was enthusiastic, explained to me what days they train, and that I would be welcome.

You know when you’re onto something special when it requires forsaking a Sunday morning lie-in and cooked breakfast, followed by a lazy morning listening to the radio.  Instead, I was out of bed shortly after 7am and pushing through Olympic crowds to catch a train out to Hackney and the River Lea to join the Thames Dragons for their Sunday morning training.

The team this morning were reportedly a little light on numbers — but if that made the paddling harder, it didn’t worry me.

Training with a dragon boat team is obviously different to a corporate fun day. Where last week was a few short races, with breaks in between while other teams competed, today was serious training for a serious sport.  It wasn’t altogether unlike Run Dem Crew — whom I regretfully left for a variety of reasons, but the most serious being the pain in my knees — something tough, but also enjoyable.

It was less social than Run Dem Crew, there you got good conversation while you ran, but in my dragon boat you couldn’t even really enjoy the scenery while paddling as you had to be watching the front people to make sure you kept time.  Occasional distractions on river banks or other boats would be quickly met with stern shouts to keep our eyes in the boat.  It stands to reason: this isn’t just a fun day on the river and conversation would be hard while concentrating on strokes — even though there was plenty of good humour in the quieter moments.

It being my first time with a dragon boat team, there was lots I didn’t understand — but wasn’t expected to.  I was warned of it in advance, that there would be terms used and directions shouted, but the most important thing for me was to just keep the pace — otherwise you end up being an anchor to the rest of the team.

That tired, sore but happy feeling is back — though this time I also have blisters on one hand, and can barely left my right arm above my head.  And let this blog post be a record: a new adventure starts here.

I am joining the Thames Dragons, and by the end of the summer of 2013, I want to have taken part in at least one competition. This is the year of the dragon.

Run Dem Crew

Run Dem Crew: The First Annual Zombie RunRun Dem Crew was formed in east London in 2007 by runner, writer and musician Charlie Dark.

Less than five years on, the running club he started has more than 100 members, with some now forming spin-off groups in other parts of the capital.

It can be hard to keep yourself motivated when you’re training on your own, but Across the Divide has provided me with a helpful guide to preparing for the Arctic Circle, and while I’m working hard with my fundraising I also need to be working equally hard on improving my fitness.

What better way to prepare than joining a running club?

A good friend of mine — the writer runner — has been running with Run Dem Crew for ages, and in turn inspired me to join up with them.

I turned up on Tuesday night at the 1948 Nike store in east London, where the Crew run out from.  Of all nights I could have picked, it turned out this was their First Annual Zombie Run: taking to the streets of London painted up like the living dead.

100 runners took to the streets of the capital under the cover of darkness, and as a pack we set off through Shoreditch and towards Liverpool Street station.

The different speeds and abilities of the groups within Run Dem Crew quickly spaced us all out, but the route was the same: through the middle of Liverpool Street Station, out the other side, across London Bridge, down along the river to the Millennium Bridge, across to St Paul’s (passing by Occupy London) and back towards 1948.

Next March, the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure will have me running in the snow alongside a pack of huskies  — possibly having fallen off my sled, or pushing the sled uphill.

This night had me running past ionic London sights instead, places that I see every day but don’t pay attention to in my 9-6 working drudge.

My fitness isn’t nearly as bad as I might have thought — which is reassuring, but my flat feet and bow legs don’t make me a natural runner, so I was left with a painful back and painful knees, but the reassurance that I can do this.

Next year, when I’m sat beneath the Northern Lights, I’ll know that running with Run Dem Crew paid off.

Please do your part to support The Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure and make a donation here.