Meet the Team: Henry Blois-Brooke
We caught up with U23 gold medallist Henry Blois-Brooke to talk about his marathon running, his career in the British Army and Olympic ambitions
Since March 2019, Henry Blois-Brooke, 21, has had quite a year. He was part of the Oxford Brookes crew that won the Head of The River and then went on to win the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal. A former GB junior, he also went on to win a gold medal with the men’s eight at the World Rowing U23 Championships last year in Sarasota, Florida.
Henry has also completed gruelling personal challenges, including the 192-mile Coast to Coast ultra-marathon from Cumbria to North Yorkshire and a double marathon (51 miles) along the Thames Path, finishing in just over eight hours. More recently, in April, he ran seven marathons on seven consecutive days and raised over £10,000 for the NHS.
How did you get into rowing, and then how did you break into GB?
I got into rowing at Shiplake College when I was 12. I loved it after my first session on the water. I am not gifted with height, so I had to work very hard to get myself known in the school. Shiplake really encouraged me and I just thrived on the challenge.
What’s the best part of being in the U23 squad?
The best part for me was winning gold at the U23 World Championships in the men’s eight last year. It was the best year – I won the Head of the River, the Temple Challenge Cup and the U23 World Championships.
It is great being in a team having different universities/clubs coming together to reach the same goal – and winning the World Championships.
After being in the GB junior squad, was it a natural progress to U23s? How did you find it?
In my opinion, it is not a natural progression. I had to train extremely hard to earn myself a place in the U23 team the year after juniors. Oxford Brookes really pushed me physically, but more mentally, meaning I could push myself even harder than when I was a junior.
The training stepped up hugely too – we were completing three sessions a day and this massively helped me step on with my ergo scores.
The GB Rowing Team have been very supportive and have really helped progress my rowing to get to where I am now. I am looking forward to doing some more racing with GB in the near future.
Oxford Brookes really pushed me physically, but more mentally
Tips for juniors aiming to break into GB?
My main tip is to really work hard pushing yourself to your mental limit. Believing in yourself will allow you to achieve so much more than you think you were capable of. Work as hard as you can every session and the results will come.
More generally, how have things been going during lockdown?
I finished my third year at Oxford Brookes a few days ago. I handed my last essay in then, so I should know the result by mid-June.
I did online lectures – it was a bit hard when it was so nice outside! We were left to our own devices, so it was quite challenging. Exercise science is a more course-based degree, so it was just a case of knuckling down and getting it done.
Work as hard as you can every session and the results will come
I finished my dissertation five weeks ago, so I didn’t have to worry about that. My dissertation was on the effects of beetroot juice on rowing performance. My main finding was that it increases power output. It was a small study with only eight participants, but I found that having beetroot three hours before training sessions of between five to 30 minutes really improves your power output. It’s the nitrate in the beetroot that gives you the physical benefit.
Congratulations on raising so much for the NHS last month. Where did the idea to run seven marathons in seven days come from?
My friend Jack and I had a call on the Saturday, and we were talking about Colonel Sir Tom Moore and saying that what he was doing was awesome. We thought that doing marathons was as hard for us as him doing laps around his garden on his Zimmer frame – it’s all relative. So, we had a day’s rest on the Sunday and then we started on Monday 20th April and finished on the 26th.
I’m at Oxford Brookes and Jack’s at Newcastle so we relied on our rowing fitness to carry us through the 183.4 miles over the week. Having been an elite rower at Brookes, it really helped me with my mental strength when running.
I averaged 3 hours 40 minutes, so I was very happy with that – 3:34 was the fastest and 3:47 was the slowest. It was by far the hardest week I’ve ever had to do.
Last year, I ran the Coast to Coast. That was tough and the terrain was a lot more challenging, but this time because the run was relatively flat I was able to run faster, so it was more challenging. On top of this, I started the week with a small injury which was only made worse with each marathon.
We were talking about Colonel Sir Tom Moore and saying that what he was doing was awesome
The next run is this summer – I’m going to run the whole of the Ridgeway, 87 miles from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon; that’s three and a half marathons in one go!
It’s quite undulating and there are some hills which will be a challenging but I am very much looking forward to giving it a go.
I’m doing it on my own to raise money for the Parachute Regiment in the British Army.
I love keeping fit and that’s why I want to join the British Army as an officer. In two weeks I have the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) in Westbury, just outside Warminster. It’s normally over two days, but it’s going to be over one day now due to COVID.
I love keeping fit and that’s why I want to join the British Army
My cousin was in the Parachute Regiment, so I’ve been talking to him and he’s helped me a lot. Listening to his experiences, I thought that sounded like the job for me!
I want to start my army career with an eye on the 2028 Olympics. I am fully aware how challenging it is going to be to manage to keep ‘rowing’ fit whilst in the Army, but I am a very motivated and dedicated individual which will help me when training by myself.
You can still donate to Henry’s fundraising for the NHS here.
Follow Henry on Instagram at bloisy_649