Keeping Pace with the Boys in the Boat in a Roppongi Gym

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

The German rowing teams had already won five of the previous six rowing events in the Olympic Games hosted in Nazi Berlin. At the beginning of the main event – the eight oars – the American crew didn’t hear the man say “start”, so lost precious seconds from the beginning. They were in the last lane, which had the hardest crosswinds to overcome. Their stroke, the pace-keeper of the eight-oared crew was so ill, he looked as if he would pass out any moment. And for the first half of the race, the men’s team from Seattle, Washington was in last place with another 1,000 meters to go.

I was on my step machine at the gym yesterday, my towel and water in their place, and my Kindle resting on the step machine display. I was reading the final chapter of Daniel Brown’s brilliant book about the legendary American crew from The University of Washington – The Boys in the Boat – Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

boys in the boat_seattle PI

The description of the race, as were descriptions of all the key races, were thrilling. And as I tapped from page to page, I noticed my pace picking up on the machine. The stroke, Don Hume, was a ghost, and the coxswain Bobby Moch, was hesitant, but shouted that he wanted the 7, Joe Rantz, to take over the stroke role. That woke up Hume, who resumed his role and picked up the pace.

And again, up went my pace.

Brown writes how they were straining to get every ounce of energy into the final meters of the race as sweat poured like streams from my forehead and forearms.

And when the team eeked out a victory a split second ahead of the Italians and Germans, I experienced this moment of joy, as if I had been there at the Grünau Regatta Course, running along with the boat at the moment of victory.

I was only a minute before the end of my workout, but I pushed it hard, and consumed far more calories and went further than I had ever gone in the previous 18 months on this machine.

Here’s a book “trailer”, which gives a sense of the book. There will be a movie I’m sure, but it’s likely the book will be better than any film that can be created.