The Head, Nicola Huggett

A few thoughts on... Determination

On Saturday evening I was lucky enough to sit beside Tom Rainey, the Old Blundellian formerly of Old House, who came to speak at the Sports Dinner. He was really impressive – not because he was confident and talented and there to speak to 200 people about his Trans-Atlantic crossing in his rowing boat Ocean Valour, but because of his humility.

Tom was an ordinary young man in many ways. He studied Oceanography at Plymouth University and has had a successful career with an oil company, surveying the sea-bed and enabling the oil workers on a rig just off the coast of West Africa to position the drill bits correctly for sea, current and weather conditions. I think he could just have talked about his work life to us and it would have been fascinating too. But in 2012 his beloved father died of a brain tumour and he decided to join the ranks of ordinary people who just get up and do extraordinary things.

He looked up (perhaps dubiously on Wikipedia) what the hardest Atlantic crossing would be, because by aiming to break some records in the Guinness Book of Records he would gain more sponsorship for his cause, and he set up planning to row across the Atlantic, with a friend, in a customised rowing boat. His story of raising money, getting fit and coping with disaster was fascinating, as you might expect, but what perhaps he was most keen to stress to us in the end was that whilst it started off being about the winning – breaking those records, it finished up being all about the taking part. That old cliché, that you will have heard so many times, was based in truth for him.

If you watched any of the London marathon this weekend, you will also know that this is one of those challenges that is not about winning. In the process of 40,000 people committing themselves to run 26.2 miles, including Major Tim Peake on his treadmill on the International Space Station, they will raise an incredible £50 million for charity. That too is all about the taking part and it is certainly a once in a lifetime challenge.

This great attitude, shared by all those runners and also Tom Rainey, is probably summed up by a quote by Basketball coach Tom Notke that we heard at the start of term: ‘Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard’. So I hope you can work hard towards your goals today and I hope you have a very good week.