STUDENTS at an Oxford college rowed a metre for every person who suffers a stroke each year in the UK, to raise money for the Stroke Association.

The students at St Peter’s College, New Inn Hall Street, were inspired to organise the ‘Stroke for Stroke’ event after their rowing coach Francis King had a major stroke at the beginning of December.

Mr King, 62, from Grandpont, is still an inpatient at the Oxford Centre for Enablement, but he cheered on the rowers from his wheelchair as they tackled each other in head to head 2km races. In all, they rowed 150,000 metres and hope to have raised £3,000 for the charity.

Mr King said: “I’m deeply impressed by the students, but then I am very deeply impressed in the first place because they turn out at 6am in all weathers and all I do is shout at them.

“I am delighted, but not surprised at their efforts.”

Rowers and students less unaccustomed to exercise took their turns on the rowing machines for 36 different races over about six hours.

Joining them were Mr King’s two youngest children, Beatrice, nine, and Henry, seven, who took each other on in a 1km race.

Mr King has a long association with the college.

He was a member of the first eight at St Peter’s during his undergraduate days, returning when he came back to Oxford in later life.

The stroke paralysed Mr King’s left side and has left him unable to walk, but it is hoped with rehabilitation and progress he will make a good recovery.

He said: “You are dependent on others and have to learn patience — and I have never been very good with patience.

“I have to trust other people to do things which is quite difficult.”

He said he was happy to leave the physical exertion on the rowing machines to the students.

Mr King said: “As one goes through life, things are passed on to the next generation, and it is both exciting and humbling.”

Boat club president Rebecca Howett was first up on the rowing machines for the marathon.

She said: “Not everyone here rows, so it’s great to see them doing their best.

“After Francis’s stroke,we thought it would be a perfect opportunity.”

Speaking about the Stroke Association, Mr King said: “I am never sure if it is the kind of thing you ought to expect the state to provide or not, but there are always the ‘candles on the cake’ that need providing.”

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