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At 12.15pm the organisers asked competitors to step out onto the road under the banner and into the sun where the heat intensified, what a silly idea!. Once there, all the team members were called out one by one. There were cheers for some and bigger cheers for others. We received a pretty big cheer for being competitors who had travelled the furthest to get there. We knew little about the other competitors, all we knew was that the record holders were there and many others had done it several times before. The mayor gave a speech and then it was time to go, thank god!
10, 9, 8, the countdown began 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO. We were off and running. Along the main street, across a railway line and along a gravel path that ran parallel to the river. The competitors started to spread. I knew that I wasn't fit, my rapid heart beat was reiterating my thoughts but I couldn't slow down. The intense heat burnt relentlessly and my breathing hastened. Ed was 15 metres in front by now and looking like a true athlete. I was clipping at other runners heals and feeling far from comfortable but I kept running hoping that I wouldn't collapse before reaching the canoe.
Fifty metres from our canoe some of the front runners darted down the bank and jumped into their boat. That didn't seem fair. The boats were laid out from one to fifty five, so if you were number one it meant that you didn't have to run or paddle as far as the higher numbers and therefore had a distinct advantage. We were number thirty, I suspect that competitors knowing the system probably entered early to get low numbers.
At the time I wasn't concerned about others leaving the shore before us, I could feel my chest drumming and my breathing labouring. I was probably the un-fittest that I had ever been in my life. Would I reach the canoe? I had to, I couldn't let Ed down. He was now at the canoe waiting. When I arrived we lifted the canoe off the stones and into the water. It was heavy.
When we dropped the canoe into the shallows we hopped in, I was happy that my lungs had a chance to rest. We hadn't paddled the canoe before, we'd only looked at it and we didn't know what to expect, however it soon became a friend.
There was no time to reflect on the frenzied start or to figure out how we were going to catch the competitors that didn’t have to run or paddle as far as we did. But time was on our side. We paddled out of the eddy and into the moving water being careful to avoid capsizing and making a spectacle of ourselves.
Like I said before, we hadn’t paddled the canoe and didn't know how it would react. Within two hundred metres we were amongst a group of six canoes. I noticed a brother and sister team who we had seen earlier and commented that they looked an odd pair and I was a little surprised to see them level with us, just the tonic to stir us on! The British SAS team was with us as well, they must have been good runners.