“Before setting up this challenge I had never swum more than eight miles. I started open water swimming only last year!” laughs Tom Milner.
Eighteen months later the 28-year old from Nottinghamshire has become the first person to swim the entire length of the River Trent: 139 miles in nine days.
Tom joined the Midland Inland Swimmers 18 months ago and it was there that the seed of the idea was sewn.
“The River Trent is special to Midland Inland Swimmers, we have been swimming it for six years,” says Sarah Lewis, who organised the challenge and supported Tom on the swim. “We discussed a relay swim of the Trent and I suggested he swim it all.”
From that casual suggestion followed nine months of preparation and six months of hard training from coach Dave Akers for open water novice Tom, who only learned to swim at age 16.
For completeness, the swim started with a walk. In May, Tom walked the first 34 miles of the Trent, from Biddulph Moor to Shugborough Hall, as the head of the river is too shallow to swim. On 11 July he entered the water at Shugborough Hall for the start of the swim proper. Nine days and 139 miles later, on 19 July, he exited at Trent Falls.
Despite covering between 16 and 17 miles each day, Tom kept his spirits up with flapjack and lots of support from his crew of two to three kayakers, as well as a team of road support.
“He would swim 17 miles a day and still be smiling,” says Lewis, “looking as if he had done a few lengths in the pool.”
Through the course of the swim, Tom has raised nearly £3,000 for Matthews Hub, Rainbows, Treetops and the Alzheimer’s Society. He hopes to raise more money with a charity auction at the Riverside, Branston, on 8 August. More details can be found at Tom’s JustGiving page.