Martha Birtles


Year of Birth 2000

Hometown Rossendale

Nationality British

College Mansfield

Undergrad/Graduate Undergraduate

Year 3rd

What are you studying? BA English Language and Literature.

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans after? I get to read about people and places rather than numbers and facts.

Future ambitions? Dismantling the patriarchy. Moving to Cornwall with teammate Georgie.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? You learn very quickly what needs prioritising and what can be put on the back burner. That means you get good at making the most out of smaller amounts of time. You also have to learn that sometimes what needs prioritising is doing the things you love (other than rowing) and seeing your mates in order to keep you functioning.

When did you start rowing, and why? I knew literally nothing about it until I got to uni, but it was such a big deal at Oxford I wanted to know why people were obsessed. I think the fact I knew nothing was probably a good thing, because if I had known it was so hard and the start times were so early I probably wouldn’t have started.

What was your first club? Mansfield College Boat Club.

What is your favourite part of rowing for Oxford? My teammates.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I learnt to row at Mansfield in 2018 when I came to Oxford. Naturally the other returners showed interest because I was large. I caught a catastrophic crab in our first ever side by side race, was out of the race for a good 30 seconds (was only about a kilometre), but managed to retrieve it and (whilst I was rowing as hard as I could and nearly crying because I thought I’d made us lose) we closed the two lengths between us and walked through them to win, no problem.

Do you have any race day habits or superstitions? I listen to a Stevie Wonder song - no one can not feel good and groovy when Stevie is on.

Your sporting idol? My dad.

If you could have any sportsperson in your crew, who would it be? Peter Crouch because he’s massive and he’s funny.

What gets you through a tough session? Do you have a mantra, rituals? I think of everyone else struggling for me in return or try to convince myself I’m not in pain or screaming.

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing? Rollerskating with teammate Georgie, singing loudly, and drawing nonsense.

How do you motivate yourself and your teammates, especially with Covid restrictions? (When we’re not in lockdown and on the minibus) I motivate myself with good tunes and great vibes on the journeys to Wally.