So last night I was at the AU dinner, and as always I was blown away by some of the amazing feats achieved by students in Bangor. From competing on the world and European stage, being UK champions, even being the coach of a national team, it’s fair to say we have some elite athletes in Bangor.
Yet for me (and I speak, as always, personally), the AU has never been solely about the top end of the sport. My view of the AU was formed in my first year,as a member of the rowing club. Now, to look at me, you might think that I’m not really the exercise type. More to the point, those who know me will know my dread of water, swimming and any combination of the two. So why did I shelve out £50 to join? I don’t know. Maybe it was wanting to try something new, maybe it was acknowledging than being healthy wasn’t something that happened automatically, but either way, my first Tuesday of university was followed by a 2 hour circuit session at normal site. Many of the returning students pulled out during the session; I’m pretty certain I had a minor heart attack.
But that Thursday, I returned. And so on, and so on. I didn’t go every time, I didn’t always (ok, rarely) completed all the exercises at circuits, and I’ll be completely honest – I went on the water once and never again. But over the year miraculous things happened. Firstly, I stopped being last in every exercise. Sometimes, people tried to keep up with me. A few times, I planked for the whole two minutes. Once (and this is perhaps my proudest moment) I was the quickest in the club at shuttle runs. On top of physical developments, I started interacting differently with the club. Once I had been the gawky teen sat in the corner not talking to anyone, then I gained a circle of acquaintances, and by the end I was chatting with everyone, gaining applause for sponsored events and everything.
At the end of the first year, I sadly parted ways with the club – not through anyone’s fault, but simply due to time pressures from taking up two committee positions, and actually trying to do well in my degree. I look back on my time in the club with pride, recounting the achievements I made and the life steps I took. I learnt to be confident with who I am (both physically and mentally), I learnt that not giving up in tough situations led to respect, but most importantly I learnt that, with a bit of mental grit, anything is possible. I started almost as the runt of the litter, doing half the exercise of everyone else, but I pushed and I pushed, until I could do full barstads until the cows came home.
So thank you, AU, for being exceptional, for being persistent, and for teaching this little ginger kid that hard work will get you anywhere.