linguapress  Advanced level reading resources Intermediate reading resources English grammar online Language games and puzzles
Intermediate English 
Linguapress for mobiles - home page English Grammar Free advanced level resources Free inter­mediate level resources
linguapressIntermediate English
on your mobile
Linguapress for Mobiles

A short intermediate level English resource on  British life 


    Each year, one Saturday in September, crowds of people line the Thames through London, to watch one of the city's most unusual events; the "Great River Race".

Many big cities have one annual "marathon" race; London has two - one on dry land, the other on water.

   Technically, the Great River Race is not a marathon; it is slightly too short, and it is a boat race. Starting at Richmond, in the western suburbs of London, participants have to row their boats 22 miles, as far as the London docks, in the east.

   The race is a relatively new event in the London calendar. The first race took place in 1988.

   The idea was born in 1987, when members of the historic "Company of Watermen and Lightermen" (a very old professional organisation) rowed a replica 16th century royal barge from Hampton Court to the Tower of London.

   In 1988, they challenged other "traditional boats" to a race. Boats that want to take part must all be of traditional design, with at least four oars or paddles; furthermore, each boat has to carry at least one passenger.
    Over the years, the race has become a very colourful event, with the participation of a wonderful variety of boats. While most are ordinary rowing boats, there are also Viking longships, and other unusual boats. In 1995, for instance, the race was won by a Chinese dragonboat, in a record time of 2 hours, 6 minutes and 31 seconds!

   As the years go by, the number of participants keeps increasing; from 72 boats in 1988, the number of entries reached 295 in 1997, and will probably be even higher this year. Last year, there were teams from all over the U.K, and also from America, Canada, and five European countries.

   In order to provide a thrilling finish to the race, a "handicap" system operates. At the start of the race, the slowest boats set off first, the fastest ones last.

   In many ways, the Great River Race is a true race, in the traditional sense of the term - a race for amateurs, and a race without corporate sponsors.

Word guide
event: occurrence, occasion  -  suburbs: the outside parts of a city  -  lighterman: boatmen  -  row: in the picture, men are rowing boats -  replica ; reproduction, copy -  oars and paddles: your row a boat with oars or paddles   -  -  for instance : for example -  set off: begin, depart.

Return to Linguapress site index

Printing: Optimized for A4 printing with the Firefox or Chrome browsers
© Linguapress.  Do not copy this document to any other website

Copying permitted for personal study, or by teachers for use with their students.


Student worksheet

The Great River Race

Reusing information

Here is a postcard written by a young man called Joe. Last year, Joe took part in the “Great River Race”, and in this postcard he tells his friend about the experience. Complete the postcard, using information from the article, and putting all verbs in the right tense.

Dear Bill,
Yesterday we took ________     in the famous Great River Race. We _______ from Richmond to ________ ___________, a ___________ of 22 miles, which is _________  _________ than a Marathon. As our ______ was ________ than _____ the others, we were able to set _____ first.
    We _______ as fast _______ we ________, and managed to stay in _________ position as far _____ Tower Bridge. However, we _______ finally overtaken ____ a _________ dragonboat, which eventually ______ the race. 
    The Great River Race is a ________ race, and there ______ ________ ___ people on both ______ of the river. _______ ___ the boats were quite old, though others were just __________ of old designs. If you _____ in London next ________, you should try to ______ the race. It _______  ________ on a _________   ___ September.

This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress 2000-2016.

Originally published in Freeway, the intermediate level English newsmagazine.
Republication on other websites or in print is not authorised

Linguapress; accueil en Français Découvrez l'Angleterre (en français) Discover Britain
Intermediate level EFL resource

Readability - Plain English. Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 8.7
Reading ease level:  66.3

A selection of other resources in graded English
from Linguapress
Selected pages
Intermediate resources :
Mystery - the Titanic and the Temple of Doom
Who is James bond ?
Sport: The story of football and rugby
Big red London buses
USA: Who was Buffalo Bill?
USA: Close encounters with a Twister  
More: More intermediate reading texts  
Advanced level reading :
Charles Babbage, the father of the computer
Who killed Martin Luther King?
USA - Discovering Route 66
London's Notting Hill Carnival
More: More advanced reading texts  
Selected grammar pages
Online English grammar
Noun groups in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English

This resource is © copyright Linguapress 2000-2009.

Copyright notice.
All articles published on this website remain the copyright © of and/or their individual authors.
Reproduction is authorised exclusively for use by students for personal use, or for teachers for use in class.
Copyright 2000 - 2016
Multi-copying of this resource is permitted for classroom use. In schools declaring the source of copied materials to a national copyright agency, Linguapress intermediate level resources should be attributed to "Freeway" as the source and "Linguapresss France" as the publisher.
Multicopiage en France: en cas de déclaration CFEDC par l'établissement, document à attribuer à "Horizon", éditeur "Linguapress"..

Photo credits:
Creative commons photo by Cheric Baker, .

style="width: 250px; height: 250px;" -
Free EFL reading resources

European law requires us to inform you that like most websites Linguapress uses cookies. To remove this message click   or otherwise click for more details