By Elzaan Pienaar
Ever wanted to tackle the 111km Canoe Classic? I didn’t think so. Because who in their right mind would sign up to canoe for +/- 12 hours through the dead of night in shark-infested waters? At first, I thought signing up with my colleagues to do this was just crazy and ‘all talk’. Top that off with an ambitious goal of raising $10,000 to go towards the Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation (Arrow) and I really wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I soon heard about the relay option, which can be done in a group of 3 (~35km each) and I immediately thought I could get away with doing that (which is still crazy in my books!). I mean, I am a keen runner and I had never even run that distance before! And running is a form of movement I am very used to. Kayaking is very new to me, in fact, it’s quite foreign.
Then last night, something happened that made it seem like it was all just meant to be…
I jumped in what I thought was a regular Uber. Whilst commuting over the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, the driver and I started chatting about the beautiful harbour and I mentioned that I was actually getting in the cold water at 6am the next morning for a kayak training session (I may have emphasised the cold, thinking he’d be very impressed). He gave me a mediocre ‘good on you’ response — then went on to ask, “Have you heard about the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic!?”.
I almost couldn’t believe it. I had only just found out about this event (and I am a lover of all types of events) — How did he know about it!? Well, it turns out he happens to be a former board member of Arrow which is the charity affiliated with the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic (HCC) and has been since inception. He has therefore been involved in the event for ~11 years. My Uber ride quickly turned into an educational session, where I subsequently learned about the ins and outs of the event and much more.
I realised that it’s definitely more of an endurance race and a mental battle than a physical one (proving my concern for my lack of kayaking muscle memory to be somewhat insignificant). I also learned that the Canoe Classic organisers chose to align with Arrow specifically because they didn’t want to support a charity that received Government funding. I didn’t realise that Arrow receives zero Government funding and is 100% volunteer based. The driver explained to me where all the much-needed funds are distributed to. I learned that they support 1) Families and patients going through treatment 2) Nurses who require sponsorship to treat those in distress, and 3) Highly skilled PHD students — all to advance the medical research.
He went on to tell me about his personal battles with Leukaemia and how he survived 3 bone marrow transplants, which quickly made my early morning wake up struggles seem oh-so-insignificant. When I asked him whether he had participated in the race himself, he proceeded to tell me that he couldn’t, however, that his wife did it at the age of 45 with minimal training on his behalf. It was the best pep talk I could’ve imagined to help me get up in the cold the next morning!
This all made me realise that if I am fit and healthy — I have no reason not to be able to get through the race, and raising money is just a must! I am lucky enough to be training in the Sydney Harbour — watching the beautiful sunrise as the morning ferries charter by.
So over the next 6 months, my team and I will be training through winter to take part in the event on October 26. Click on the link below to follow our journey — or if you are feeling generous — please donate to help us help those in great need.
Every year tens of thousands of people are diagnosed with leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma. In many cases, a bone marrow or stem cell transplant offers the best, if not the only, prospect of recovery. I want to help more and more people to have access to this treatment.
The lesson: Always talk to your Uber driver.
Join us in support of the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic: