5. The Big Row

Courtesy of Love Rowing.

Up until recently, my experience of learning to row has been confined within the walls of our garage on a secondhand erg. Last Friday, however, I took the plunge – pun intended – and headed out onto the water for the first time, with a coach from local charity Just Row Gloucestershire. Even though the amount of information that I needed to retain just to execute a single stroke felt like a mammoth undertaking in and of itself, I’m already looking forward to my next outing. My coach is wonderfully patient and allows me the time to mentally process everything that is going on during our session, from remembering the right technique to navigating around an incoming canal boat!

Having charities like Just Row Gloucestershire in the rowing community is so important to ensure that the sport is inclusive of and accessible to all. That’s why I’m proud to be a supporter of Love Rowing, a foundation seeking to make this the norm through the provision of grants, guidance and support. Their inaugural annual fundraiser, The Big Row, is due to take place between Monday 28th June and Sunday 4th July. You can find out everything you need to know about participating in the event here.

Whether you are new to rowing or a seasoned pro, or even have another activity that you’d like to do instead to help this worthy cause, I would encourage you to get involved. The beauty of The Big Row is that everybody who participates is contributing towards an overall goal, so you can choose your own challenge. As I am new to the sport, I will be taking Love Rowing’s advice and aiming to simply row every single day of that week in our little garage. Whilst this won’t make much of a dent in the total distance goal of 19,271 km for the event, I’ll nevertheless be proud to be a (very small!) part of it.

4. What To Expect From This Blog

My usual method of adventuring.

Now that the big launch is out of the way I’d like to let you, my readers, know what to expect from this blog. For me, writing a post like this is important – not just as a form of expectation management, but also to inspire me during the times that I despair about what I should write! I’d like to keep my content focussed, covering autism and the oudoors and the places where those two phenomena converge.

Training Updates
As I discussed in this post, over the next 18 months my fitness routine is going to revolve around training to rollerskate a marathon, as well as learning how to row. Both are very different challenges at very different levels, but I am equally excited to get stuck in and see myself progress.

Writing Updates
From this post you will have realised that I like to collaborate with others when it comes to sharing my thoughts with the world. I have some truly awesome projects lined up for the rest of this year that I am really looking forward to talking about here on the blog.

Book Reviews
An avid reader, most of my adventures to date have occurred within the pages of a book. It would therefore be remiss of me not to include the odd book review, when the topic is either autism, the outdoors, or ideally, both. I would welcome recommendations if you know of a book that you think I’ll love – my Twitter DMs are open!

Advocacy
I’m thrilled to be working with a number of different organisations to advocate for inclusion within sport. From time to time, I’ll be sharing with you events and campaigns that I am supporting, especially when there is an opportunity for you to get involved too. Watch this space for something like that coming up next month.

I’ve been genuinely humbled by the kind feedback that I have received since launching alliewrote.com at the end of last month. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to let me know how much you’ve enjoyed reading my posts so far. It really means so much to me!

3. Articles I’ve Written Elsewhere

Courtesy of We Work With Autism.

We Work With Autism
This was an interview feature where I wrote responses to questions such as ‘what do you love most about being autistic?’ and ‘if you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?’.

Tabou Disability Magazine
I wrote this article especially for Autism Acceptance Month in 2020, addressing the misconception that autistic individuals lack creativity and imagination.

The Game Changer Collective
Way back before I was even diagnosed, I wrote a feature on overcoming adversity to achieve professional success. Although I very much still stand by the main points, it’s so interesting for me to reread this and reflect on how much my goals have changed!

2. Rollerskating and Rowing

The Rio Rollers!

I have set myself two challenges for the next 18 months. The first is to rollerskate 26 miles through Berlin to raise money for the charity Ambitious About Autism. The second is to learn to row at a local club in Gloucester.

Berlin Inlineskating Marathon
During the first lockdown that we had here in the UK last year, I bought myself a beautiful pair of Rio Roller Quad Skates. As a child I had always enjoyed rollerskating and, equally as importantly, it was an activity I knew I could actually do. However, my naïve optimism wasn’t sufficient to transform my sporadic skating sessions into a regular scheduled activity. A goal to aim for was what I needed! So that is how, at the beginning of this year, I came to find myself signing up for the Berlin Inlineskating Marathon. My race will take place in September 2022, which means you can expect training updates on the blog whilst I prepare.

Just Row Gloucestershire
In addition to training for the marathon, I will also be learning to row through a new charity in my area. JRG was founded to make rowing more accessible to those of us who need some extra support. When I was at university, I went along to introductory sessions run by the rowing club and was keen to get involved. However, the membership was huge and the sessions oversubscribed, leading me to abandon my hopes to join, as the coaches simply didn’t have enough time to offer me that extra support. I’m so excited to be revisiting rowing and look forward to sharing my progress here on the blog too!

1. Why I’ve Started This Blog

Lena and I at Dunraven Bay.

The short answer: to document my life, the challenges that I encounter and the adventures that I have along the way.

The long answer:
The fatal flaw in my character is that I am the type of person to dream the biggest dreams, plan how I am going to achieve them in minute detail, and then not follow through. It’s quite scary to admit that so publicly, but it’s the truth. Sometimes, not reaching a goal that I have set myself is because I don’t have the right support in place. Most times, it’s because I give up; I don’t believe I have what it takes and I stop trying.

Since being diagnosed as autistic last year, the first barrier is not as much of a problem. I now know the accommodations and adjustments that I need to thrive, and I’m not afraid to ask for them. The second barrier, however, is very much still present. The worst part of that is, it is a barrier entirely of my own creation. As the familiar adage goes, nobody is standing in my way except ME.

This blog is going to be a tool I use to overcome that second barrier. Not only will it increase my accountability, but it will hopefully also be a resource for others whose dreams are currently out of reach due to a lack of self-belief. I don’t think I can achieve the challenges that I have set myself and that’s exactly why I need to. Looking back on this blog in years to come, I want to be able to relive my journey and smile at the many impossible things I’ve made possible.