Cheating on running with kayaking

Today I cheated on running, and I loved it. In fact it’s not the first time I’ve cheated on running since the marathon – I’m having swimming lessons, have joined the gym for strength training and have been getting out on the road bike for some epic long rides over the past few weeks.

I don’t want to get to November and have to start marathon training again having only ran over the summer – there’s plenty of time for it to take over my life again. So for now, I’m rekindling my love affair with running whilst concentrating on two of my goals I set out at the beginning of the year.

Kayaking down the River Ouse with Martlet Kayak Club Brighton

Instead of joining the RunBrighton crew for the Sunday long run today, I joined a few of the guys from my Kayak Club (Martlet Kayak Club, if you’re wondering) for my first trip down the gorgeous River Ouse.

It was a beautiful seven-ish mile/four hour round trip following the meandering river from Barcombe Mills to Isfield Weir and back, sharing the water with a bunch of chilled out swans, geese, a couple of ducks and about 100 of the most stunning bright blue dragon flies I’ve ever seen. The sun was out, the water calm, and I didn’t capsize! I did lose my sunglasses though when I paddled through a low hanging tree and a branch smacked them off my head.

Kayaking the River Ouse with Martlet Kayak Club Brighton

Project water-bitch 

I’m still very much a beginner at kayaking, I’m constantly nervous when in the sea and sometimes have absolutely no control over the boat when coming back from the pier against the tide. The other week I had a full on panic attack in the middle of the sea when I couldn’t get back, and a very patient and understanding club member let me have my paddy and then helped me pull myself back together to finally get back to shore.

Paddling in a still river is much different – and if I’m honest I totally prefer it. No rogue waves or strong currents to negotiate, it’s a much calmer, chilled out experience and I wasn’t scared once. I’m definitely not a white water nut like some of the others at the club – give me a serene Scottish loch or a still river any day.

I still have a lot to work on; with the swimming and kayaking, Project Water-Bitch is well under way. I need to practice my rolls as I haven’t actually done it again since the pool sessions in February, and I think if I know I can still do it I’ll feel a lot more confident in the sea. I need to work on going in a straight line a bit more – today the guys tied a first aid bag to the back of my boat to act as a rudder and keep me straight on the river. It really helped and as the day went on we kept shortening it to see if I was making improvements, which I think I was.

It’s a weird love-hate thing I’ve got going with kayaking at the moment. When struggling to control the boat in the choppy sea I hate it, get all worked up and convince myself I can’t do it, but then somehow manage to get back home and feel great for doing so.

It’s a bit like a hard run – today was a lovely long run at a comfortable pace, nice and chilled, could’ve gone on forever, but still hard work on the upper body and core.

Kayaking on the River Ouse with Martlet Kayak Club Brighton

Kayaking in the sea for me at the moment is like an interval session. I don’t quite like it, and I spend the day dreading it but once it’s done, as long as I don’t die, I bask in the aftermath.

And with a club full of friendly, understanding and experienced paddlers who are more than happy to let me have my paddies and show me how to improve, things can only get better!

Come & play

If you live in or near Brighton and want to start kayaking why not come down to the club one Tuesday or Thursday evening? We go out on the sea every week from about 5.30pm, in various groups of different abilities. Some people go off to the pier and back (having strops along the way), some play in the dump and try to surf the waves, and others go off in groups to have coaching sessions on rescues and paddling techniques.

Martlet Kayak Club, Brighton

Membership is £90 for the whole year and includes full access to all of the club kit, including boats, paddles, spray decks, buoyancy aids, kags and helmets. If you want to come and have a taster it’s £12, which is taken off the cost of full membership if you decide to join. Visit the club website for more info or join the Facebook page for updates on trips and weekly sessions.

Even if you’re scared like me, give it a go, you might just surprise yourself!

If you’re not near Brighton and want to find your local canoe or kayak club, head over to spogo and enter your postcode to find your nearest club.

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Have you ever tried kayaking or are you thinking about starting? What other sports are you tempted to give a go?