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An insight into the toughest non-stop kayaking marathon in the world

Two friends have taken part in a 125-mile long kayaking marathon for two charities very close to their hearts.

Oliver Ainsworth and Matthew Hague took part in the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race, dubbed the toughest non-stop kayaking marathon in the world lasting between 24-27 hours, last month.

A target of £5,000 was set for the event, with any donations coming through to be split evenly between the Suffolk Community Foundation and the Essex Community Foundation (who manage the Charlie Watkins Foundation’s finances). Oliver had been life-long friends with Charlie Watkins before his untimely death in 2017.

Now recovered from his rowing exerts, Oliver has given us a snippet of the experience:

“Saturday for us and the support crew started at 0400 – so not very enjoyable.

“We got onto the water and started our epic paddle at 0658 with sun in our eyes and looking forward to getting one heck of a sun tan!

“Throughout the day we made good progress and even with 29C recorded in Newbury, we managed not to go down with heat-stroke and crack on.

“70 miles in and the night took hold. Temperatures plummeted to zero and it all became rather uncomfortable.

“Exhaustion, fatigue and the cold and wet conditions took effect which made the night paddling rather painful.

“Navigating the larger parts of the Thames became rather difficult with fog rolling on the water so all in all, it was not as enjoyable as the day-time paddling.

“At 0520, the light started to come back and with five miles to Teddington, we knew we had roughly 21 miles left before finishing.

“We met our amazing support crew at Teddington which is the final lock – we took on food and water, were given some emergency supplies and set off for the final 17 miles of the race along the Tidal Thames.

“A rather painful and lonely two hours later and we entered the centre of London and, shortly after, we could see our goal of Westminster Bridge and FINALLY… finally, at 0920, finished.

“Totally exhausted and broken we had accomplished our goal.” This year’s race was dubbed one of the hardest in its 71-year long history due to the high day-time temperatures.

And, out of the 145 boats that started the race, 31 did not finish. Oliver and Matthew’s final position was 77th out of 114 with a time of 26 hours and 20 minutes – a phenomenal achievement.

The pair are incredibly close to their £5,000 target. Please give generously and help them hit their milestone.