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Swimmer ‘like fish in a goldfish bowl’ in pool after record-breaking sea swim

Ross Edgley completed his 1,791-mile, 157-day Great British Swim in November 2018 in Margate.

Ross Edgley was the first swimmer to circumnavigate Great Britain (JSHPIX.CO//Red Bull Media House/PA)
Ross Edgley was the first swimmer to circumnavigate Great Britain (JSHPIX.CO//Red Bull Media House/PA)

Ross Edgley has said he now feels like a captive goldfish when he goes to the pool after becoming the first swimmer to circumnavigate Great Britain.

The 33-year-old, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, completed his 1,791-mile, 157-day Great British Swim on November 4 2018 in Margate, touching land for the first time since his departure from the Kent resort on June 1.

The adventure did not put him off swimming, though, as he swam again the day after completing his historic feat.

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Ross Edgley completed the longest staged sea swim with his five-month adventure around Great Britain (Red Bull Media House/PA)

“It was amazing,” Edgley told the Press Association.

“It was warm. It was very strange. I didn’t have to put a wetsuit on, there were no jellyfish. I was like a fish in a goldfish bowl.

“Even now I struggle to swim in a pool: I’m breathing and looking for the boat or the next headland.”

Edgley’s odyssey was compared from the outset to the feat of Captain Matthew Webb, who in 1875 became the first person to swim the English Channel.

Since Webb’s crossing, 1,900 others have swum the world’s busiest shipping lane; it is unlikely that many will follow Edgley, but he has been an inspiration.

Edgley already had world records, prior to his swim.

In April 2016, he completed a rope climb equivalent to the height of Mount Everest in 19 hours, two months after taking on a marathon while pulling a car.

The next challenge must have a greater purpose than just chasing records, he says.

“If a swim came up and it was for the right reasons, I would do it,” he added.

“I don’t want to swim now for records and accolades. That doesn’t really interest me any more.

“It needs to be bigger than myself. I don’t want to swim for a record. The Great British Swim was that, my Captain Webb moment.

“There’s nothing that springs to mind at the moment.”

Edgley is often approached in public and loves hearing about others’ swimming stories.

“I’m still basking in it a little bit,” he added.

From the ultimate marathon, to a sprint.

Edgley will on March 23 take part in the Red Bull Neptune Steps event in Glasgow.

The event combines 400 metres of swimming in the Forth and Clyde Canal with seven climbs of the Maryhill Locks, by rope, ladder and climbing holds.

The water was 2C in 2018 and Edgley was speaking at an acclimatisation session for the event at Parliament Hill Lido in London, discussing cold water shock reflex – the initial surprise at entering cold water.

He added: “It’s really interesting, just through educating yourself on the physiology of it you can get more comfortable being uncomfortable in the cold water.”

Edgley will take part, but in an interactive way with participants, whose backgrounds and attributes vary.

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Ross Edgley’s Great British Swim attracted an army of followers inspired by his exploits (Red Bull Media House/PA)

He adapted for the Great British Swim as the five-month odyssey was taking place.

Edgley has received messages from sportsmen and women encouraged by his mantra that the body is an instrument, not an ornament; the message resonated with many in the selfie era where image is overhyped.

He added: “There was a certain amount of necessity. Scotland didn’t care if you had a six-pack or not. I needed sea bulk; it wasn’t muscle or fat.”

Edgley has since lost 10kg (1st 8lbs) as he no longer has a daily intake of 15,000 calories to fuel 12 hours of swimming.

“It was nice to eat for enjoyment, rather than for survival,” he added.

“My tongue wasn’t falling apart, so things like granola were back on the menu.”

Having spent five months at sea, scarcely weight-bearing, Edgley had to effectively learn to walk again, completing his transition by climbing fells in the Lake District.

“I was going up some steps on the Tube in London and I paused halfway up with my bags, because my feet were on fire,” he added.

“A 60-odd sweet lady just put her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Do you want a hand with your bags?’

“Margate was the lasting image, but there was another side people didn’t see.

“Everyone forgets there was a whole period where I had to integrate back into society.

“Sea to summit signified me becoming a land mammal again.”

– Participants can sign up for the Red Bull Neptune Steps in Glasgow on March 23 here: https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/events/red-bull-neptune-steps-uk

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