Almost 300 people took part in Row The Tyne today (10th February), a very special rowing competition in Newcastle involving no boats – and no wet feet.

Joel Dickinson

Using Concept 2 rowing machines, 50 teams of up to six people were challenged to row a massive 118,000m in just 10 hours. It is the distance from the source to the mouth of the River Tyne and entrants needed to achieve an average pace of 2:30 minutes per 500m.

Held at Royal Grammar School, Row The Tyne was sponsored by Tri Construction and a host of local businesses and every team place was snapped up in just three days. The winning team, CF Glacier Icebergs, completed the row in an amazing 6 hours and 17 minutes.

Joel Dickinson, from Hexham, organised the event alongside friends Dave Shenton and Jamie Walton as a way to say thank you for the care he received during his cancer treatment last year.

Joel says: “It’s absolutely amazing to see the reality today. I hadn’t really thought about the end result because I’ve been so busy with the process and getting everything ready. But when we started seeing the first competitors come in and the start to room fill up, it really was quite special.

“I know the fundraising is a huge motivation and I there’s one guy in particular, he lost his mother last weekend to cancer, and he’s one of 300 people in this room. I dare say a lot of them will be thinking about where the money raised is going while they’re rowing.

“The amount raised already and the support we’ve had is unbelievable. It’s great to see the money coming in that we know will make a real difference.”

Joel was ‘stopped in his tracks’ in February 2017 with a shock diagnosis of Oropharyngeal Cancer on his tonsil and associated spread to the lymph nodes in his neck. He received three individual bouts of surgical treatment including Trans Oral Robotic Surgery at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Through the expertise of internationally-renowned surgeons, access to world class specialist equipment and unrivalled nursing care, he was lucky enough to be given the all clear in May last year.

The winning team, CF Glacier Icebergs

Joel adds: “I was completely overwhelmed by the quality of treatment and care I received at the Freeman Hospital and raising funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is my way of saying thank you.

“We’ve been staggered by the positive response to our fundraising. So many people have offered to provide equipment and raffle prizes and just wanting to do something to help.”

Liz Luff, from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, says: “The atmosphere at Row The Tyne is incredible. You can see many of the competitors are taking things seriously and working very hard.

“What’s great to hear is all the encouragement from team members who aren’t rowing. A lot of cheering and shouting. Even the DJ who’s providing the music to keep everyone motivated is a member of a team.

“We’re very grateful to Joel and everyone who’s put so much time and energy into this fundraising event. It’s a wonderful team effort.”