Let It Run

M was a twenty-two year old Temple University rower, who grew up in New Jersey. His interest in rowing stemmed from his father’s history with the Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia, PA. Growing up, he spent time around boathouse row on the Schuylkill River watching his father race against other masters’ teams like Penn Athletic Club. Eventually, he spent three summers in between college on the U23 men’s team at Vesper. He heard this particular joke one summer while racing up at St. Catharine’s for Canadian nationals from a stake-boat holder during an afternoon practice. As a charismatic person, M was instantly considered to be the captain of the 2012 team. However, given his humor and teasing nature, he often playfully teased the foreign members of the squad with his silly jokes. This joke was directed primarily at a female coxswain A and a male rower T. One afternoon after a notoriously awful practice with a coxswain struggling to steer, M started to tell stories and jokes about coxswains and their ineptness. He continued on for a few moments as more rowers (male and female) gathered around. Among this group, there were two girls from New Zealand and one boy from Canada. M turns to the Canadian and began to banter about the disconnect between international rowing squads. The following week, the entire team planned drive up to St. Catherine’s for Canadian Nationals and M, being the senior member of the boat club surveyed the boats we planned to take up to the race. Strapping down the boats in the house, M looks at a massive hole in the hull of one and begins to tell the following joke.

M: There once was this American high school team who recently recruited a new coxswain from Canada. She arrived early to practice one morning and the coach was short one coxswain for lineups and decided to let her take out one of the eights with a relatively strong crew. Excited, she made calls and built the momentum from drills to racing pieces. The river that the crews practiced usually was wide enough, yet sometimes barges from port cities downstream ventured up the river to exchange goods. The experienced coxswains normally left enough space between their boats, but the Canadian was not familiar with this river. She soon found herself in a position where the boat was on a collision course with a barge that had started coming up the river. Frantic, she yelled, “Let it run.” However, the boat didn’t slow down. Instead the rowers began lengthening their strokes and thereby gaining more speed. She continued to make the call “let it run, let it run…LET IT RUN” until the boat crashed into the barge. Her coach, who had been too far away to prevent the collision hurried over in a launch and asked what had happened. One of the rowers said, “all she told us to do was to let it run. We didn’t know we had to weigh ‘nough.”

M passed away before I could properly conduct this interview, but in the rowing community there are two different rowing commands to stop rowing: let it run and weigh ‘nough. The majority of American rowing clubs use the latter. Let it run is easily confused with “Let it glide” in order to maximize the run, or distance of water travelled between strokes. After M told this joke, the entire boat club were dying of laughter, yet when I told this joke to a friend, she did not understand it. Almost all internationally experienced rowers know of this joke, but anyone outside the rowing community probably would not understand it.