“Just keep paddling till you see the pub.”

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“Are we nearly there yet?” It’s a question any parent who travels with small children has come to know and dread. On Monday, it was an oft-aired query as Team Moodie #1 and #2 kicked off the company’s 2013 Great Travel Retail Educathlon efforts (there are more to follow this weekend).

I’d like to say we did it in style. I’d really like to…but it would be more honest, perhaps, to say we made a splash. Literally.

To recap: London-based members of the Moodie team opted to complete the requisite 7K Educathlon distance by katakanu (not a typo). A katakanu is a sort of hybrid kayak/catamaran that seats up to six. Our route took us from Brentford lock, close to the UK headquarters, towards Hanwell. And, thankfully – eventually – back.

Team Moodie #1 pre-katakanu Educathlon challenge

We certainly looked the part, thanks to our snazzy Team Moodie Educathlon T-shirts and sunglasses from official sports sponsor Oakley. Alas, handsome is as handsome does, and we could perhaps have done with a little more substance to match the style. Some of us, (no names, I promised), couldn’t even consistently differentiate between our left and our right, as we discovered during our land-based, warm-up ‘swap the paddle’ game. I have the bruises to prove it.

It was fun, but a hard paddle, over water that was cold, murky and frankly quite whiffy at times. The worst bit, though, was negotiating the locks (two on the way there, and two on the way back). Because that involved a) all of us getting safely out of the katakanu – harder than it looks b) lifting said katakanu out of the water c) carrying it for what seemed to be MILES AND MILES before d) lowering it back in the water and e) finally lowering ourselves in on top. How we all escaped several impromptu swimming lessons I have no idea.

Going round the bend. Not for the first time…

There was much jockeying for position and mid-canal position swapping as arms tired, hands blistered and everyone realised that if they sat at the back nobody could see them slacking (yes, Matt Willey, I am talking to you).

“It’s much easier to get a rhythm going if you sing while you stroke,” advised our instructor from her bicycle on the bank. Not when the song in question is “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and I’m in the boat, I can promise you. My team members made up for it with a rousing chorus of “Bread of Heaven”, which obviously worked a treat.

After two hideous lock negotiations and almost 3.5K of lung-busting, tricep-tearing paddling we were, it’s fair to say, flagging a bit. “Almost halfway!” called the instructor cheerily. “Just keep paddling till you see the pub.”

Reader, forget Welsh rugby songs, those eight words were music to our ears. We redoubled our efforts and in no time at all were sat in the pub, soggy but smiling, enjoying our isotonic, er, beers.

Locks aside, the 3.5K route home was easier, as we had the wind at our backs and alcohol in our bloodstream. My kind of exercise.

It’s very important to keep hydrated when you exercise

The Educathlon begins in earnest on 28 June, when participants from the global travel retail industry will complete 7K in any location in the world, by any means they like. Earlier this week, in the Middle East, nearly 3,000 Dubai Duty Free staff, plus senior managers, got the event off to an early and spectacular start, via a 7K walk and run for charity at the Dubai Autodrome. Already this year’s event has raised over US$140,000, with the final amount set to rise much higher.

It is not too late to play a part! Forget Wimbledon, Glastonbury, the second Lions Test or whatever other plans you had for this weekend. Instead, think of a way to cover 7K (walking, running, cycling, swimming, flying, ballooning, busking, surfing, triathlon) and help raise some much-needed funds for this year’s Educathlon charities, as nominated by some of the world’s leading travel retailers and industry bodies.

Alternatively, please dig deep to support the efforts of others. The fundraising site for ‘Team Moodie’ is up and running – visit www.charitygiving.co.uk/joannapuckett to donate or sign up yourselves at www.moodieeducathlon.com

The charities are:
– ALIA PRIMARY SCHOOL – Nominated by Aer Rianta International-Middle East
– KARATAS VILLAGE SCHOOL – Nominated by The Nuance Group
– THE LOTUS FLOWER TRUST – Nominated by WDFG and WiT
– SOS CHILDREN’S VILLAGES – Nominated by Dufry

Every dollar will make a real difference. Thank you.

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