Patricia Carswell |

Life on the river: inspirational people

Award-winning blogger and journalist, Patricia Carswell, shares her latest rowing adventures in her Life on the river blog below

Woohoo! We’ve made it to mid-March after an interminable, locked-down January and February. I don’t know about you, but I’ve needed all the inspiration I can get to make it through this winter. Happily, that inspiration has been there in spades, thanks to four amazing athletes who have provided light in the darkness.

1 – Pete Reed

Ever since I started rowing, Pete has been a huge source of encouragement. A brilliant ambassador for the sport, he’s always taken time to connect with ordinary, club rowers, with annual challenges and regular updates, and his positive attitude towards the various obstacles he’s encountered have made him an incredible role model.

Since his spinal stroke, Pete has shared the highs and lows of his rehab with humbling candour. “I’m very, very well. There are lots of positives to take out of it… I don’t need any pity”, he said in his first video after his stroke, and since then he’s been breathtakingly positive and genuinely inspiring.

Pete is also part of the Paravengers alongside former team mate and Race the Thames organiser Andrew Triggs Hodge. Their eight-strong team is training to (virtually) take part in the event later this month to raise funds for London Youth Rowing and Blesma.

You can find him at @petereed on Instagram and all his social media channels.

2 – Helen Glover


What a thrill it was to hear that Helen was launching a comeback after a break of four years, during which she has had three children.

Helen is not the first mother to compete at international level after having children – Irish champion sculler, Sanita Puspure, for example, has two kids – but that doesn’t make it any less of a challenge. Sanita has spoken about the difficulties of balancing family life with a career as an elite athlete, and Helen is open about how different it will be this time, especially as she’s still breastfeeding.

Whatever the outcome, I love the spirit that propelled her to choose Olympic rowing rather than sourdough as her lockdown project.

Follow Helen at @helenglovergb on social media.

3 – Kristin Jeffery


Less of a household name, but no less impressive, Kristin has made a huge difference to me in the last year. A former member of the Canadian lightweight women’s national team, and later a lawyer, she founded the fabulous rowing studio, Scullhouse, in downtown Toronto (which is where I met her in 2019).

It was Scullhouse’s online classes that kept my spirits and fitness levels up during lockdown #1, and Kristin provided further inspiration in March 2020 when she set a world indoor rowing record for a 24-hour row. Best of all, she’s been refreshingly honest about her struggles with mental health and with keeping her business afloat during the pandemic. You can find her at @scullhouse on Instagram.

4 – Cath Pendleton


I first met Cath on a dip in the River Usk on a chilly April evening. While I was shivering and fussing in my wetsuit, Cath was just in her swimming cossie and evidently feeling no pain. What I didn’t realise then was that Cath was the first person in the world to swim an ice mile inside the polar Antarctic, so a balmy Welsh river was no biggie.

What I love most about Cath is her attitude. When she was prevented from swimming during lockdown, she switched to a daily dip in a chest freezer filled with icy water (and rubber ducks), and swimming on a tether in an inflatable pool in the garden.

To learn more about Cath’s ice mile, check out The Merthyr Mermaid on BBC iPlayer. Follow her at @swimcathswim on social media.

Let us know who has inspired you and kept you going during lockdown.