“Part of the reason we did this is because we felt we’d gone a bit soft in the summer,” says Michael Coates, explaining why he and Nathan Jones swam the full marathon distance of 26.2 miles down the Thames on 16 October.
The pair describe the swim, through which they raised more than £7,000 for three charities, as “brutal” and an “epic feat”.
It wasn’t meant to be so tough. Originally planned for 11 September, the swimmers expected warmer water and a modicum of current assistance. However, Michael came down with covid three days before the swim and needed time to recover. Lack of rain in October meant the current was virtually zero and a cold night before the swim resulted in a starting water temperature of around 10 degrees.
“Cold management throughout the day was an important part of the challenge,” says Michael as the swim took nearly 17 hours and required nine exits and re-entries into the water around locks.
The swim started in Dorney and finished at Teddington Lock. The swimmers were supported by a team of four comprising a safety kayaker, a team member walking the tow path alongside, and two people responsible for food and water.
With the last six hours swum in darkness, Michael says at times he was in pits of despair. “I made the rookie error of wearing tinted goggles and when night fell, I could barely see anything except for lights from buildings. I thought we had finished when we still had nearly two miles to go.”
Despite the struggles, Michael says the Thames is amazing and has a strange ability to evoke a range of emotions from awe to fear. Nathan added: “This was certainly a serious case of type 2 fun. No enjoyment throughout the 26 miles but I know we will be laughing about it for years to come.”
Michael Coates - Former soldier and firefighter who now runs a small, successful business. Michael is also a keen endurance athlete having competed in long distance races and challenges around the world. He is also a Lululemon ambassador and hosts the multi-award winning Declassified Podcast.
Nathan Jones - Current RAF pilot who represented Wales in the commonwealth games. He is also a multimedal winning Invictus games athlete and co-founded a global mental fitness organisation. Nathan is a champion skier and used (and still uses) swimming to help rehabiltate after a broken back sustained whilst serving in the Military.