Mississipi Million

The Great River Rowed

Two quick things…

Two quick things…

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014

Tiptonville, Tennessee. 29th Sept.

I have been reflecting on how I feel, with now 22 days rowing left in our march south and New Orleans.  A couple of factors are weighing in just now.

The first is psychological. When I was (trying to) prepare for this marathon, I spent hours on the rowing ergometer. I have one in the bike park at my office, one in France at our house in Chamonix and whenever I went to the gym. Whilst the erg, as it is unaffectionately known, is a very effective physiological training tool, it is painful and also pretty boring. On the long sessions, I used to get an image in my head of a hamster on a wheel…. The longest single sessions I did were 1.5 hours long. It was very hard, with your legs going dead as the edge of the seat would restrict the flow of blood to your legs and in any event, it was uncomfortable. The toughest part of the 90 minute pulls was the 15 minutes just after the hour mark. Here, you had completed the lion’s share of the work and the end was in sight, but the end was still a little way off. That 15 minutes was truly gruelling mentally and i remember it only too well.

I now rather feel like I am in that 15 minute slot after the one hour mark. I have now rowed around 1,500 miles, with about 800 to go. I can almost see the end, but not quite. So I am finding these six days into Memphis really draining mentally. Physically I am strong, but I am mentally weary. New participant crew members undoubtedly help, but I am longing to reach Memphis, from where I will definitely be able to see the end (I hope!).

Secondly, I am suffering pretty badly with Mosquito bites. We are staying in a gloriously beautiful setting next to a lake in Tennessee, but unfortunately we are by a lake! This means still water, which with hot humid days is a perfect combo for these little bastards. I was eaten alive on the first two days and this morning, whilst plodding through the miles, I counted 22 bites and 27 bites on my left and right big toes! Sadly, the rest of my feet and ankles up to my knees are covered in bites and I am slightly concerned that some of the bites on my feet are looking infected. Truly tedious. Oh well, it is only pain.

On a final note, after a recent long and difficult day on the river I received a private note ‎of support from my 15 year old son Charlie which gave me a real psychological lift.  It also reminded me of how much he has contributed to the project and how little recognition he has received for his contribution which I would like to try and rectify.

For the more than the first month of the project, I, and the team, had the benefit of the support of my son Charlie. He willingly gave up 5 weeks of his long awaited and precious summer holiday to trek out here with me and make himself available for any work that was going. He steered the boats and he rowed whenever called upon, which was especially brave as he had a partially torn tendon in his right wrist (note – please don’t tell his mum he was rowing!). He put up tents and he packed away tents. He cleared campsites and packed up vehicles. He made tea and brought drinks. He helped Alex, our physio, when required and he sold T shirts for the cause – the English accent helped a little in this regard, I think. Most importantly of all, he did all this unbidden and without trace of complaint. I was truly, hugely, proud of his efforts and demeanour and he was a credit to his school and his parents. SO, let’s hear it for Charlie – a 15 year old boy who wanted to hang with his mates and meet girls, but instead helped a charity raise a ton of money for children in desperate need. A top boy and, after discussion with his mum, we think we might keep him.

Radley (his school) should be proud. We all are.



  1. That is family for you. When support is needed it is given.
    Well done to Charlie. I hope that he is able to join you at the end.
    Brilliant. You have given him something to…. a great addition to to his future CV.

  2. Hi John,

    Hang in there, the end is nigh!!
    Regards to Paddy, Charlie & Crew.

    All the breast and the bust of luck.
    Your old friend

    (Egypt 1978)

  3. Cheers to Charlie!

    Hope the breeze picks up and chases away the Mosquitos!

  4. Way to go, guys. This is an amazing adventure and everyone at Right To Play is grateful and in a state of awe at what you are doing. Cheering you on from Canada! Clara Hughes

  5. Dear John

    Here are some more:

    Catfish Blues (the Jimi Hendrix version)
    Graceland (Paul Simon)
    Down by the Riverside (Elvis version)

    I think it has been a tough start for Colts 1 but they are playing pretty well; no doubt results will pick up soon. Haven’t seen much of Charlie but he seems fine – glad (but not surprised) to hear he was such good value at the start of your epic adventure.

    Best wishes as always and you will be in Memphis soon – go for it!


  6. Hi John, teenage boys are really quite amazing at times. Just when you think they are too busy eye rolling and tutting, they come up trumps. Well done Charlie. We have decided to adopt the “pick and lean” approach to raising our angel. Pick the battles and lean well away when they turn into mad Uncle Jack. Enough of that.

    I’m sure you can smell the end and if you listen very carefully you can hear it calling you!

    Plenty of support from this end John and the team. You are doing a momentous job.

    Much love theshortsdownunder xxxxxxx

  7. Dear John,
    Having seen Charlie row at the Nat Schools Regatta, it doesn’t surprise me at all ref his unstinting help with your cause.By the way – you are one crazy so and so ! I have followed your progress with ever increasing amazement.
    It is some bloody effort.
    See you on the riverbank with the Radley J16′s next year I hope.

  8. OK you crazy so and so. I’ve just sent out a plea to support you to all the key people in my address book. Hope you get some random donations in the next few days !

  9. Hi John
    There is a tidal wave of love and well wishes coming from us all for smooth waters and tail winds as you come towards the final parts of your big row for this amazing cause.
    Commuting by bike on the Thames riverside, I think of you all and wish you every strength. Testing the limits of the human mind and body is an extreme that most of us will never know in the way you are experiencing it now.
    “Let what I do flow from me like a river, with not pushing forwards and no holding back….”

    Caroline and team Haven

  10. Hi mate glad to hear all is going well nice tribute to Charlie boy
    who is becoming a very solid young man (and i don’t mean his physique)must get it from his mum :-)
    Watched FFC demolish Bolton last night although said Bolton were pretty poor FFC were very stylish Brian Ruiz completely ran the midfield,Ross McCormac looks worth every penny spent on him and in Hoogland we have a fullback who’s scored four goals in eleven starts.Great atmosphere chant of the night being “we’ve got Kit Symons we don’t need the cheese”.
    All the best to you and Paddy few more days until another deserved rest day go safe G
    PS I have it on good advice that Balham is the gateway to the south

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