On the 25th September a team of mostly PGR students (with a couple of additional staff members) took part in the Milton Keynes Charity Dragon Boat Festival at Willen Lake. Someone described us a band of misfits! None of us had tried dragon boating before signing up, a couple of crew members were good athletes, some were fairly active and some not at all active. Alongside my PhD I am employed by the graduate school as a PGR Community Organiser. My job is to organise events for all the PGR students both in-person and online in an attempt to build a more cohesive community. I’ve watched the dragon boat festival in the past and thought it might be worth giving a go so we entered a team, found out who was interested and organised training with the local club, Secklow Hundred. We all attended between two and five training sessions ahead of the big day. We chose the name “Philosophical Dragons”, made some costumes and got ourselves ready for race day!
There were 44 crews entered and we never expected to win! We knew we shouldn’t come last and our coach was expecting us to make it to the semi-finals, so within the fastest 12 boats, but I never thought beyond that. The way the team came together both through training and on the day and became a single unit was a feeling I’ve never experienced before. To have students come together from all faculties, both in the boat and supporting us on the shore was incredible. It was hard work but everyone put a lot of effort into training and concentrating on the day and it was 100% worth it. We fought the weather, with sun, wind, and heavy rain but maintained our focus throughout. We ended up winning the gold medal for the fastest mixed crew (at least 5 ladies in every race) and the gold medal for the overall final! I really feel like we have a thriving PGR community now and everyone is so keen to do more. The dragon boat race will be an annual event for us now but we’ve got plans for a range of other events throughout the year.
We had a fantastic support crew too. Honestly, without the crowd screaming on the shore and the guys in the boat screaming come on, I wouldn’t have made it to the end of that final race. The support carried me home, I had nothing left. I am so so grateful to everyone who came along, we had the time of our lives!
Currently we have raised over £350 for Guide Dogs and the fundraising page will remain open for a couple more months. If you would like to show your support you can do so via this link: Lauren Rose is fundraising for Guide Dogs (justgiving.com)
Lauren Rose (Team Captain)
Devyani Gajjar (our fabulous drummer!)
Emmanuel Zuza Jr