Kayak marathon fundraiser

12th May 2019

A couple of months ago we featured a story about Bethan Davies who was about to take on a marathon canoe race and raise money for Meningitis Now at the same time

Bethan marathon kayaker

Well there’s some pretty amazing news about her: not only did she raise a fantastic £2,000 for us, she only went and won it!

Bethan was entered in the Ladies Singles Kayak category of the 71st Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race which took part over the sunny Easter weekend. Here Bethan tells us what happened over what must have been a long, tiring but very exciting weekend:

“The 125-mile race takes place along the Kennet and Avon Canal and the River Thames. Competitors must carry their kayaks and paddles, unassisted, over 77 locks and obstacles along the route. They can be supported by a crew, who can provide food, drink, encouragement and repairs if needed."

“I was competing in the Kayak Singles event, which takes place over four days: Devizes to Newbury on Friday (35 miles on the Kennet and Avon canal); Newbury to Reading on the canal and on to Marlow on the Thames on Saturday (36 miles); Marlow to Teddington on Sunday (38 miles); and Teddington to Westminster on Easter Monday, with the tide (17 miles). This year there was a strong female entry, and it was going to be a competitive race."

“I started on the Kennet Canal at 10 am on Good Friday in hot, sunny weather, aiming to reach Newbury and end of the first day’s racing in under six hours. I teamed up with Jenny for the first 13 or so miles along “The Pound”, and we worked together to overtake the rest of the female paddlers on the course. The kayak makes a wave through the water; you can ride or surf the ‘wash’ to make it easier (like slip streaming in cycling). Our support crews also joined forces and looked after both of us. Once we got to the portages, we both made some attempts to break away but neither managed to establish a significant lead. We finished the day together, and I had only a one second lead."

“On Easter Monday, the 50 singles kayaks all started in a mass start at 5.29 am at Teddington, to allow us to paddle with the tide to Westminster. This stretch of river is really intimidating - it is large, fast flowing, dangerous, and populated with fast boats that make big waves. This makes it a big challenge for us in our skinny, unstable racing kayaks. I also knew that I only had an eight-minute lead, and this could easily be lost if Jenny managed to find a fast group to work with. It was still all to play for."

 “After we started, we settled rapidly into a good group of four, working together and sharing washes. Over time, people dropped in and out. Jenny dropped back. I was so tired! But I thought - I just have to keep going."

“Eventually I dropped out the group too. Then Anna, who was having a cracking time on the Tideway, appeared, pulling a group with all the women - including Jenny! Anna had her head down and was pulling really strongly. She pulled all of us ladies into Westminster and was first lady to walk up the steps and receive her finishing medal."

“In the end, I managed to make another two minutes on Jenny on the Tideway, and was First Lady and First Veteran Lady, with an overall time of 19 hrs 26 minutes. I finished in seventh place overall, and am delighted. I had an excellent support crew, and Jenny was amazing - such a strong athlete. Working together mean we both gained faster times, and it certainly made the race more interesting! It was also an exciting year because four women made it into the final top 15 singles kayaks, showing the strength of female canoe marathon in the UK today."

“I also managed to raise over £2,000 in the process for Meningitis Now, a charity close to my heart as they supported us when our own baby daughter had meningitis and septicaemia.  Meningitis Now campaigns to raise awareness of meningitis, and funds research into treatment and prevention of meningitis.  Their vision is that no one dies from meningitis, and that everyone affected receives the support they need. You can still sponsor me on my JustGiving page."

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