Friends ‘smash’ rowing world record to spark conversations about mental health

Friends ‘smash’ rowing world record to spark conversations about mental health
The group finished the row on November 25 (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

Three friends have “smashed” a rowing world record by working together as a “well-oiled machine” as a means of symbolically highlighting the importance of getting support from others if you are struggling with your mental health.

British adventurer and endurance athlete Isaac Kenyon, PhD student Graham Moore and IT engineer Alex Pierrot completed the 30-hour row at 1pm on Saturday, in one-hour rotations, using a single indoor rowing machine.

They beat the previous record for the longest continual lightweight, indoor rowing world record for a small male-only team aged 20-29, which stood at 26 hours.

Writing on a boardThe group documenting their progress (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

The three shared how they have overcome mental health struggles including depression, which compelled them to take on the row to highlight that even though “we’re kind of trapped for 30 hours doing this really mentally taxing task”, they have each other to get through it.

This is a message they hoped would show the importance of seeking support if you are struggling with your mental health.

Speaking to the PA news agency after the challenge, Mr Kenyon, 29, who is based in Devon and was the first rower, said: “It was incredible to be able to create such momentum around the story of mental health and the rowing was amazing, but it was more about the meaning behind it.

“It was also special to do the row with my two friends, who haven’t really done a continuous row like this before, but I was really pleased to see them just absolutely smash it out of the park.”

Mr Pierrot added he felt a “massive sense of accomplishment” after reaching the finish line.

Group posing togetherThe group said it was special to be able to do the row together (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

“So many people came to support us physically in the gym – a lot of coworkers, family, friends, all three of our partners stayed with us all the way through the night, they were really our rocks,” the 28-year-old from London told PA.

“A lot of people supported us online too and I really enjoyed how many conversations we had throughout the 30 hours and beforehand, from people opening up about their mental health issues and asking us for advice.”

He said the group “smashed” the fundraising target for Movember around halfway through, so had to double it.

Mr Moore said the challenge helped the team to “learn a lot about each other”.
“I think we pulled together as a well-oiled machine and we supported each other through this and other people have supported us too, and we’re so grateful for all the help and to be able to have done this together,” the 26-year-old who is based in London told PA.

Group sitting togetherIsaac Kenyon, Graham Moore and Alex Pierrot tackled the challenge together (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

Mr Kenyon added: “It was so much more that just three guys doing a row, it was about unifying around a message that is so transferrable – that through difficult times, if you have a great support network, you can get through them.”

He said one of the trickiest things to contend with was rowing during the night, when “your body’s telling you, why are you on this rowing machine at 2am? You should be asleep”.

Mr Pierrot said he tried various techniques – including listening to a book and closing his eyes – to keep his focus on the record.

Mr Moore got to row for hour 15 – the halfway mark – and said from there “the only way was up” and at one stage he found the energy to do some star jumps.

Despite the challenge coming to an end, the group hope conversations about mental health continue.

Group sitting togetherThe team raised money for Movember which raises awareness of men’s health issues (Isaac Kenyon/PA)

“I want to inspire people to see that even if you have mental health issues – that’s not the end,” Mr Pierrot said.

“We’ve all had them on the team and look at what we’ve just achieved as a group.”

Mr Kenyon added: “We’ve always tried to share our stories about our mental health when we have been going through the difficult times, as that is when it is most important to seek help.

“I worry about the quiet ones – the ones who (we) may not know have issues – and we would really love it if those people could find the courage to open up like we did as things will get better.”

The challenge took place at Rowbots City fitness studio, in east London.

The fundraising link can be accessed here:

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