Returning Label Volunteer Bella Butler gives you a piece on the incredible Ross Edgley.
It was deemed an impossible challenge, but Ross Edgley, a Loughborough University graduate, has become the first person to swim around the whole of Great Britain. On 4thNovember, Edgley swam into Margate Harbour with 300 swimmers behind to take him the last half mile. 157 days earlier, Edgley had been at the exact spot to begin his 1,791-mile swim – about the distance from London to Moscow. To many, this seemed an unfeasible task, but Edgley is no ordinary man. Before he began, he stated that “oddly enough, in very bad conditions, my open water swimming times are the same as those of rowers”. He has also rope climbed the height of Everest in one go, swam 62 miles in the Caribbean in 32 hours whilst pulling a log weighing 45.4kg, and ran a marathon dragging a Mini in tow. Again, he is no ordinary man.
Yet, the swim around Great Britain was set to be one of Edgley’s toughest challenges. The 33-year-old completed his swim by averaging 12 hours in the water each day, never setting foot on land throughout the whole process. This made it the world’s longest staged sea swim powered only by muscle strength recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. Through his weekly vlogs with Red Bull, we were able to see how hard, and at some points, dangerous, this ‘adventure’ really was.
Only an hour into the swim, Edgley developed a nasty cut in his neck from severe chafing from his wetsuit. This wound did not heal properly for the entire challenge, causing him constant pain whilst swimming; it was “like sandpaper over a wound, 6 hours a day, twice a day”. However, this became the least of his injuries. 100 miles in, he woke up to chunks of his tongue on his pillow, which left him struggling to eat, swallow or even talk due to the salt water making his mouth and throat dry and hoarse. Salt mouth caused Edgley’s tongue to literally begin to rot, and he had to have much of his food liquidised and fed to him in a piping bag.
This never stopped him swimming. Neither did a presumed torn muscle in his shoulder, which will be seen to now that the swim is over. The injuries don’t stop there, as Edgley suffered from a total of 37 jellyfish stings, the worse being during a night swim in Scotland. The Gulf of Corryvreckan is infamous for being the third-largest whirlpool in the world – hard enough for Edgley to swim, let alone complete with a jellyfish stuck to his face for 30 minutes; “The sting was searing into my skin; it wrapped around my goggles… It was brutal, but you couldn’t stop”.
Despite his exertions, Edgley did witness moments that made it all worthwhile; his favourite being companioned for five miles by a Minke whale that is thought to have mistaken him for an injured seal. He stated that “For all the jellyfish stings and the hardship, you get a moment like that which you’ll only ever get if you spend 12 hours swimming in the sea every day for 157 days”.
Edgley’s ferocious personality and courage is the real talent when reflecting on his challenge. Having the mental strength to power through this monumental swim is simply incredible. Throughout the process, he remained positive and humorous, and never complained about his injuries to his three-man support crew. As well as these external pains, the act of swimming for so long left him fatigued and freezing on most occasions, meaning he had to consume up to 15,000 calories/day. Back in Margate, he said that it was “Hands down the hardest thing on so many levels: physical, mental. I felt a fatigue that I’ve never felt before. The neurotransmitters, chemical signals in the brain, were just like ‘what are you doing?’.”
Yet this will not be the last we hear of Edgley. He hinted that there is another challenge arising on his radar soon, and he suggests it might even make the hardest swim of his life look easy.
Featured image by: Omeiza Haruna