Lycra, it turns out, is a necessary evil

Date posted: 05/04/17

Karen Bessent


“I’d like to try rowing!” announced Michael, then aged 12. We agreed to find out more. Three years on and my car, I’m convinced, could drive itself to Tyne United Rowing Club! We are there nearly every day.

I have stood and watched as Michael posted age-group records for times and distances on the “erg” (rowing machine). I have stood and prayed as a rescue boat fished him out of Talkin Tarn in Cumbria after capsizing in his first ever race in a single. I have yelled from the banks as he developed the stroke which would see him winning races in local regattas and bronze in a national competition in 2016.

We have talked and prayed about disappointments, performance pathways, injuries, physios, opportunities, social media, church, priorities, jealousy, losing, winning, Sunday training... to name but a few topics. Christian parenting, athlete parenting – it’s a real roller coaster!

Karen Bessent


Karen and Michael Bessent

All along, I was beset by this crazy idea... in my 40s, unfit, recovering from back surgery, I wanted to try rowing too!

After much hesitation (and six months of Pilates), I enrolled with a friend onto a Learn to Row course in March 2016 and, from then until December, was out on the water once or twice a week. Lycra, it turns out, is a necessary evil, but I love the exercise, the water, the sky, the wildlife and the company.

As friendships formed in those impossibly slim boats, I was able to extend invitations to church events and just talk about my faith. One summer’s day saw me stuck in a small safety boat with one other person covering an extra-long training session: “That’s our church up there” was all I said as we zipped along the Tyne past St Joseph’s, Benwell. It was enough - he fired questions at me for the next 20 minutes!

We were thrilled when Olympic rowing medallist Debbie Flood took a junior training session at TURC and spoke at our church. A direct result is the new Sports Plus Xtra in the North East on 30th May.

God is at work on the Tyne and in Tyneside! Praise Him - and pray for us!

Karen Bessent - St Joseph’s Church, Benwell & Tyne United Rowing Club




back pages - Spring 2016

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