Late in October, Whistler rower Maureen Harriman made her way to Boston, Mass. for the Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) where she came second out of 75 women in her age category in her first race in nearly a year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Later at that same event, Harriman and three other women took third place in the Senior Master’s Fours category.
While happy with her finishes in her two races at the largest race of its kind in North America, Harriman believes she could have taken the gold, something she’s only managed one other time in the 13 times she’s competed in the regatta, except for some interference in her five-kilometre singles race due to the head-style format.
“[Head style means] boats go one behind the other every 15 seconds, so it’s a timed race and they try and seed it so it’s fastest to slowest so there isn’t too much interference. But it doesn’t always work,” she said.
“So I had a really good race, unfortunately I had a lot of interference with the boat in front of me and I ended up coming second, which is still great but it would have been nice to win it.”
However, her success didn’t end there. Two weeks after the HOCR, Harriman made her way over to Turin, Italy to compete in the Silver Skiff Regatta where, in her first time competing in Italy, she placed first out of more than 100 contestants in her category in the 11-kilometre Master’s Singles race.
“That was a race that I wanted to do for over 10 years, and I went over in 2018 but unfortunately there was a lot of storms so the race was cancelled because the river was so fast flowing and I didn’t get to race it, so I was really happy to be able to go back and race such a great international event,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful city and the river is gorgeous and the race is so well run and so well organized and the Italian hosts are so gracious. I really, really enjoyed the race, so I definitely want to go back. If you win it three times the trophy for that is quite gorgeous so I guess I need to go back and see if I can do it again.”
Harriman, a doctor specializing in ear, nose and throat at Sea to Sky Medical Specialists in Whistler, has been competing in rowing sports since she was 18 when she joined the local rowing team in her hometown of Peterborough, Ont.
From there, her rowing career took her all the way to the Canadian National Team where she competed in the World Rowing Championships in Czech Republic in the ‘90s.
But despite describing it as a life-changing experience, Harriman eventually gave up the sport so she could focus on school and starting a family.
After moving to Whistler in the early 2000s, Harriman took the sport back up around 2010 when a friend, who had heard that she used to row, convinced her to get back out on the water.
“I really didn’t have much intention to [compete], but I started by going back to the [HOCR] and 11 years later I am still competing and having fun and travelling to many different regattas around the world,” she said.
“It’s opened up a lot of great doors and I’ve met a lot of really great people internationally. I didn’t really know that masters rowing existed when I rowed for the Canadian team but it’s a whole other world, which is great. It keeps me fit and it’s actually still intense but not quite the same intensity, so you are actually meeting everybody and getting to know them and racing with and against them. It’s just a really great community.”
Harriman trains in Whistler about five times a week from April until the lakes start to freeze over in mid-November before she switches to cross country skiing for the winter months.
But as soon as the ice comes off the lakes in the spring, Harriman will be right back out there training for her next season of international races.
“There’s a big race in Amsterdam in March and then Head of the Thames in England in July,” she said.
“Unfortunately, I’ll have to miss the World Masters races in Japan, because we have some other commitments that I have to go to,” she said. “But then it’s back to Boston because otherwise I lose my second start position—they kind of keep you [coming back] that way. Then hopefully back to Turin—maybe don’t tell my husband that I’ve got all these races lined up.”