We’ve all seen a 24 hour rowing marathon: rowing machine relocated from the gym, people switching in and out and collecting money in buckets. Then there was the continuous CPR outside the union last week by LINKS. People underestimate how tiring doing CPR actually is. But how about Newcastle’s first ever 24 hour fencing marathon? Holding a sword, using your lightning fast reactions whilst moving swiftly in a semi-squat stance is the challenge.
At the Newcastle fencing centre in Walkergate on Friday 6th November, Newcastle University Fencing Club along with the Newcastle Fencing Sports Trust undertook the physically and mentally challenging task of having a fencing piste continuously running from 6pm Friday, all the way through the night until 6pm on the following Saturday.
The idea came from coaches Iain and Nicola Aberdeen as a way to raise money for the University Club and Fencing Trust. The funds were to assist in the maintenance of the 12 metal piste fencing centre opened for the University and locals earlier this year and to purchase new fencing kit for the 6 University fencing teams to continue their impressive scoresheet.
“The funds were to assist in the maintenance of the 12 metal piste fencing centre opened for the University and locals earlier this year and to purchase new fencing kit”
So the plan was to get down to the centre early on the Friday evening to kick it all off but when does something go to plan? On the Tyne and Wear metro an incident occurred resulting in the captain of the men’s seconds Nathan Miller attending to a medical emergency, due to being one of the most qualified people on board, shame he’s a dental student and only knows 32 things. Luckily at the centre there were already a handful of fencers ready to kick it all off before the 6pm start time.
It wasn’t just the squad that partook. The beginner’s class was moved to the fencing centre from the warmth of the sports hall and members of the alumni were invited to participate in the fencing challenge, such as Mr Hodgson and former president Dr Turnbull. It was clear a busy week has taken its toll on Dr Turnbull as he suffered a few rare defeats.
As the night wore on and the squad tired, the harsh fluorescent lights dimmed and the laser lights and smoke machines came on, giving the centre a Flares feel (although unfortunately without a light up dance floor).
At 2am the mini competitions kicked off, with a one hit epee competition won by Dentist Miller. This is when the night claimed its first squad victim when yours truly snuck off to the office for a nap. In total 10 Newcastle fencers stayed throughout the night including the club armourer Arran MacKay, who taught a 2 hour weapons repair workshop the morning after. Over the years, she become accustomed to staying up all night before matches and repairing faulty kit, to then fence as one of the captains, so this was a walk in the park for her.
“This is when the night claimed its first squad victim when yours truly snuck off to the office for a nap”
Alongside the fencing marathon, taster sessions were being ran throughout the daytime and on the Saturday, ‘Fence and Shoot’ sessions were undertaken by Andrew Dixon, the modern pentathlon coordinator, to interest people in the growing sports of modern pentathlon.
When Saturday afternoon hit, the beginners came back for more and revitalised the squad members, as being hit by someone who only picked up the sport a month ago was deemed unacceptable. This resulted in numerous flick hits, Flèche and prime parries to remind them who’s the most experienced (if you could pull them off after 20 hours of fencing). The beginners enjoyed being able to fence on the electric pistes and being able to see for certain if your hit has landed and not slipping on the glossy floor of the sports centre.
“As the night wore on… the harsh florescent lights dimmed and the laser and smoke machines came on, giving the centre a Flares feel”
The end was near: Henry couldn’t construct his sentences, Chessie was unable to move from her chair and Lia was admiring all her bruises. In the course of the marathon, too much caffeine was consumed, 40 pizzas were demolished (mainly by Genny) and 3 foils, 8 epees and a sabre were added to the repairs pile for Arran and Richard. The night and day had been long and tiring but we fence because we love it. But after five club fencers stayed for the full 24 hours in cold, wet kit, as soon as the words “Pub anyone?” were mentioned, they were already en route to their beds.
After his much needed rest, President Nav had these words to say: “A tremendous thanks is due to all the Newcastle University fencers, alumni, coaches, and the beginners for their masochistic and almost sadistic physical efforts that saw us through those long 24 hours. Additionally, we’d like to extend a massive thank you to all those who helped support us physically, mentally and financially throughout the marathon. Unfortunately due to the Fencathon’s success, I think we’re going to have to put one on next year.”