Three weeks ago, inspired by an Olympic gold medalist and Crossfit Games champion podcast guest, I rowed my first half-marathon. Before then, I don’t think I had rowed more than 7,500 meters at once, and even that distance happened probably five years ago.
But the inspiration came from seeing the Crossfit competitors rowing a marathon, not a half marathon, so the I knew I had to go the distance one day.
Why today? Because I exercise on a five-day cycle of lifting and cardio and February, with 28 days, gives the longest break between cycles. It was also crisp outside, about 30 degrees, making for comfortable rowing conditions on my rowing machine.
A side benefit I didn’t think about until starting was that my stomach didn’t feel good that day and my nose was running, which made rowing harder. Today I felt great. I walked three or four miles yesterday, as well as my usual contingent of stairs, which may have taken some energy, but those are my usual amounts.
Anyway, I got up as usual at 6:15am, ate a light breakfast of lentil-beet stew and a bowl of oatmeal, went to the bathroom, and started rowing about 6:45am. I programmed the reader to do intervals of 1/15th of a marathon — 2,870 meters — with 2-minute breaks between intervals. I had a 12:30pm video conference, didn’t know how long I’d take or feel after a couple hours in case I’d need to take a break so wanted to start promptly.
The picture above shows my result after my last interval. A marathon is just under 43,000 meters. My average pace was significantly slower than 2:14/500m. I just felt great on my last interval so rowed faster for it.
Here are my splits, which show my pace around 2:25/500m:
The 2-minute breaks that seemed long at the beginning went by faster toward the end. During the breaks I’d drink water, go to the bathroom, and eat chopped banana, apple, nuts, and raisins.
I felt a light pain in my left leg toward the beginning that went away. My left bicep hurt increasingly but not enough to stop. My left foot almost cramped a few times, but I could stretch it to keep from cramping.
The value of doing the half marathon was great: I knew to put duct tape where blisters almost formed and to put lube where I chafed. This time, no serious problems.
On the contrary, I found rowing a marathon easier than running. It seems more unusual, even exotic, so I anticipated unforeseen problems. Instead, I found it simply a matter of keeping my form so I wouldn’t injure myself, then to keep a pace I knew I could.
Not that it was a life goal, or even something I thought about before researching Anna Tobias, but I’ve accomplished something meaningful. It cost me nothing and took less time than the average American watches TV in a day.
EDIT (February 28): I feel remarkably un-sore compared to the half-marathon row a few weeks ago or after running marathons. I guess the lack of impact compared to running explains the lack of soreness in comparison.
As for comparing with the half-marathon row, I figure three explanations: I rowed significantly slower (about 2:24/500m compared to 2:20/500m), I wasn’t feeling well last time so maybe my body had to work harder, and maybe the extra experience.
I forgot to mention that the day before I did both sets of calisthenics in the morning to give my body more time to recover. I also did both sets of calisthenics after the marathon row. They were hard but not nearly as hard as after my last running marathon.
In case you wondered, I put a piece of cardboard on the seat for slight cushioning.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees