‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ The alarm pierces through the silence, waking me abruptly.
Outside it is dark, the kind of pitch-black that isolates you. At this time of morning, you know you’re alone. Anybody with a sane mind is still fast asleep, blissfully dreaming the night away. Who would choose to wake before the sun? Only the fools are up at this hour. Only the rowers.
There is a mighty battle at this time, your will power against the darkness. You tease yourself away from the comfort and warmth of your bed to force down something that could resemble a breakfast. As you drive, music blares through the car just to keep you awake and you turn on the heating full pelt in a desperate attempt to stop your almost uncontrollable shivering.
After a series of grumbled hellos and yawns among your crew, you descend on the boats. The sun is yet to rise, but you know these are the last few moments before first light. As you approach the boats, your body is filled with energy – you have found your motivation. In a matter of moments you are out on the water.
At first it is a struggle to coordinate your sleepy arms with your heavy legs but you eventually get it together. Up the river, down the river, into the wind and against the tide – you’re flying. ‘Easy!’ The coxswain soon calls and everybody stops for a refreshing ice-cold glug of water. The relief comes at first light, as you sit there exhausted; you’re body so cold and weary.
The seven of you sit there quietly looking out to sea and it hits you. A wave of awe rushes through your body as the sun breaks the horizon, welcoming in the day. You sit there with your crew in wonder as the sky is set on fire. The whole experience consumes you with only the sound of water and shallow gasps for air breaking the silence.
It is at this time you remember why you fight the battle of the dawn. Despite the less than comfortable bench you’re perched on, the raw redness of your hands from the cold and the endless aching from your muscles, in this moment, it is all worth it. In this moment, you have won.
This is why we row.