“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports,” wrote Daniel James Brown in his classic The Boys in the Boat. “Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon on the limits of human endurance.”
Held on the penultimate full-weekend in October, the Head of the Charles is “the world’s largest two-day rowing event.” No time-outs. No substitutions. It will be, as Brown captured, a grand test of endurance for more than 11,000 athletes worldwide participating in 55 different races.
The course itself is known as much for its difficultly as its beauty. Weeks Bridge is the specific example that makes the general point. It was built for pedestrian traffic between Harvard Business School (HBS) and the main campus in Cambridge. The difficult turn is complicated further by heavy spectator noise.
This rigorous racecourse that is the Head of the Charles no doubt will make its impositions. It’s length is punitive. As Daniel Brown James wrote, difficulty is a given in rowing. “It is a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.” It is one reason the Head of the Charles has been called the Super Bowl of Rowing.
If you are in the Boston area, it is an obvious addition to the weekend list. If you haven’t been to the race, it is worth considering for your sports bucket list in the years to come.