A Cheltenham man who last year cycled round the world despite suffering injuries including a fractured back when he was hit by a truck in the United States has completed a journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats the hard way – not by bicycle, but swimming.
Sean Conway, aged 32 and originally from Zimbabwe, arrived at the village in Caithness at the northeastern tip of the Scottish mainland just after noon on Monday, more than four months after setting off from Cornwall on 30 June.
Along the way, he had to battle freezing temperatures, poor weather and stinging jellyfish – the latter leading to him growing a beard to help protect his face against them.
He is the first person to have swum the entire length of Great Britain’s west coast – indeed, the first to attempt it – and estimates that his 900-mile journey meant that his arms had to make 3 million strokes.
The water temperature meant that by the end of the journey, his jaw was so cold that he was only able to eat pureed food.
The day before he completed the swim, Conway, who was raising money for the charity War Child, told the Gloucestershire Echo: "It is by far the biggest challenge I have taken up, and it was freezing in the water.
"It is the most fascinating adventure ever, but I'm now looking forward to finishing and coming home.
"The reception I have received in places where we have got on shore has been incredible, the support has been just incredible," he said.
"I didn't really know what I was getting into, but I have had the privilege of seeing the British coastline in a way most people will never do, and I am thankful for that.
"It is a side of the country I really enjoyed. I've met all sorts of people, including fishermen and other people living on the coast, all of whom have been amazing.
"This is the hardest thing I have ever done,” he added.
“That said, I'm really glad I have done it. I don't think anyone will try it ever again, if they know the reality of it. If someone wants to, I will definitely help them, but it will be cold!"
Last year, Conway took part in the inaugural World Cycle Racing Grand Tour, the round-the-world race that began in Greenwich in February 2012. He recounted his trip in his book, World Cycling Stripped Bare.
The low point of that 16,000-mile journey came in March last year as he rode through the US Midwest and was struck from behind by a truck, the collision leaving him with injuries including fractured vertebrae and torn muscles.
A couple working at the Arkansas medical centre where he was treated took him in as a temporary lodger to recuperate at their home, and a local bike shop helped him get back on the road, Conway arriving back in London ahead on 16 July to complete the circumnavigation.
It wasn’t the quickest time set in the race, won by Mike Hall in 92 days – but many would argue that Conway’s ride was the most heroic.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.