Rowing a Marathon: How to Go the Distance

If you’ve spent a lot of time rowing—whether on a shell or in whitewater—you’ve likely thought about attempting a long-distance row. Most endurance sports have long-distance race options, but few truly long-distance opportunities exist for rowers. Well, there’s a new rowing opportunity sweeping the community: marathons. You might have thought about running a marathon, but spending 3+ hours on the rower? That sounds nearly impossible.  

Surviving a marathon row isn’t as difficult as you might think; athletes can have resting time, store nutrition on-board, and keep water around for the entire race. There are, however, a few aspects of long-distance rowing you might overlook. Here are some tips for marathon rowing success. 

Protect your hands. If hand pain or sweat prevents you from correctly holding the handle, you can’t row. Hand care is crucial in long-distance rows. Protect them by keeping your skin as dry as possible. Grab a few sweatbands and wrap them around your wrists and forearms. This will stop the sweat from dripping down your arms. Don’t be tempted to use chalk, or you’ll end up creating a hard-to-remove paste. 

Hydrate. If you’re going to be out for more than an hour, you’ll eventually need to put down the handles and have a drink of water. You should also bring easily-digestible snacks, like running gels or bananas.  

Hone your technique. Even if you’ve been training for a long-distance row for months, bad technique will make the experience painful and unfulfilling—even dangerous. Before diving into endurance training, ensure your row and posture is as perfect as possible. 

Pad your seat. Rowing machines and boats aren’t exactly built for comfort, and spending so much time in a seated position can lead to some serious pain. The best way to prevent butt pain is to wrap the seat in bubble wrap. It won’t deform or compress, it won’t stay wet, and you’ll get consistent support throughout your row.