With just over a month to go until the Annual Devizes – Westminster marathon race, we caught up with Radek and Alexandra to find out about their preparations for this endurance challenge …

Tell us about the DW …

The race runs a course of 125 miles along the Kennet and Avon canal from Devizes and then joins the Thames at Reading, it then continues all the way to Westminster Bridge in London. It includes 77 portages where you have to get out of the boat and run around carrying said boat and all of your kit! The first completion of the course as it is now was in 1948 by the Devizes Scout group; and since this was accomplished it has become an annual event every Easter weekend, with the four day event starting on Good Friday and the overnight race starting on the Saturday. The record time for the overnight race is just 15 hours 34 minutes which has been standing for 36 years, however we don’t plan on breaking this! Our main aim is to complete the race in the mixed category overnight and achieve the best result we possibly can.

What attracts you to this race?

R: It is the ultimate challenge of body and mind as far as I am concerned and I want to see if I can achieve this!

A: I think pushing your body to the extreme can be quite rewarding in a strange way, it proves what you can do if you set your mind to it. It is such an achievement to complete this race, and the satisfaction it gave me last time has given me a kind of addiction for the race.

How long have you been training for the 2015 DW?

Throughout the year we continue to train, but we didn’t get in a boat together until October 2014, it wasn’t then until December that we seriously started to consider doing the DW together, and since then we have picked our training up.

Tell us about your training – what does a typical week’s training involve?

Each of us have our different training routines, but any time we are out on the water, it is together in the K2 and we try to get out 3/4 times a week. At the moment Sunday is a race day, as these are part of the Waterside Series and Thameside Series.

R: Most days consist of a gym session, I have also now started to pick my running up as this is required for faster portaging.

A: Normally involves at least an hour of cardio every day for me if not more. I don’t do too much weights, maybe one session a week, and then a core session as well. I spend the majority of my training time on the ergo paddle machines, running or on the water.

What is the hardest part of doing the DW?

When the alarm goes off first thing in the morning and you look at the time and it’s not even 06:00 yet and you know its below freezing outside, it’s not very tempting to get up and out on the water if I am honest. The race takes a huge toll on your body, however it is likely to be more mentally challenging as it is often the mind which gives up before the body.

Is it different training with two people? Have you ever fallen out?

Radek is a very experienced paddler in these less stable boats, so he has kept us upright from day one!

Because there are so many portages in the race, it is important to practise these and do them quickly otherwise this could add a lot of time or worst case scenario … break the boat! During the races in the run up weeks, we also practice with our support crew who will be feeding us along the way and encouraging us and also to find out what works for each of us and what doesn’t in terms of food, drink and kit.

What gear do you use for training, and why?

A: Tempo jacket – probably my favourite item of clothing, its warm, waterproof and very lightweight! If you get a bit too hot though, the half zip gives you a good way to stop from overheating whilst keeping you waterproof.

Descent pogies – nobody likes having cold hands, and it also makes kayaking quite difficult if you can’t feel your fingers, so these are the perfect solution as it doesn’t compromise your grip on the paddle and keeps the hands toasty warm!

R: Quantum longjohn – is my favourite under layer on a cold day. It keeps my legs and core warm whilst still allowing me the flexibility I require in my shoulders and arms.

What’s your favorite snack to take with you?

Lucozade sport is the drink of choice in this boat, but food wise … there is a list of favorite snacks: cheese and tomato ketchup sandwich, jelly babies, Jaffa Cakes, energy gels and any form of chocolate!

What are your top five tips for those who want to enter the DW?

  • Start your training and preparation early enough.
  • Use a boat which is suited to your capability!
  • Have a good support team, and be nice to them!
  • Use the right kit – stay warm! You will be training through the winter.
  • If you are planning on doing it as a double, make sure you get on with the person you are doing it with, otherwise it could be a long very race!

Thanks Radek and Alexandra, and best of luck in the race!