On Saturday the 16th of October 2021, Michael Coates and Nathan Jones set a new world record for swimming 26.2 miles in what has been called ‘The most brutal one-day swimming challenge on the planet’ and they did it in a HUUB Varman Wetsuit.
Michael, a former soldier and firefighter, 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, a current RAF pilot who represented Wales in the commonwealth games. Nathan is also a multi-medal winning Invictus games athlete and co-founded a global mental fitness organisation, he uses swimming as rehabilitation following a broken back sustained whilst serving in the Military.
Here they tell us about their relentless 17-Hour marathon distance swim challenge in 10-degree water from West of Boveney Lock to Teddington Lock.
What does swimming mean to you and what inspired you to do the challenge?
NJ - Swimming for me is all about getting better and being the best version of myself. After breaking my back several years ago, I needed to find a sport that supported my recovery physically. But without realising it I needed sport to help my recovery psychologically. Low impact events have been great but swimming (different distances including in the Invictus games) has allowed me the time and space to develop my physical and mental fitness.
What were the conditions like during the challenge and how did you cope with the lower temperatures after the swim was postponed from September to October?
NJ - September water temperatures were around 16-18 degrees, but Michael tested positive for a certain virus 3 days before the event, so we had to postpone. We now faced water temperatures of between 10-12 degrees. This was now a different beast altogether.
MC - The challenge had gone from a swim event to a test of survival. The plan was pretty basic, keep the swim stroke and effort sustainable, increase it if and when we had to (to stay warm), eat and drink regularly and avoid stopping for longer than necessary. Having the right kit was essential and our HUUB wetsuit basically kept us alive and moving. A well fitted wetsuit is a must to maintain body heat but with over 40,000 strokes per swimmer we also had to concern ourselves with shoulder and back movement and restrictions a suit would bring. We had zero problems with our HUUB Varman. The perfect wetsuit for the job in hand.
What kept you feeling motivated throughout the 26.2 miles?
MC - Motivation is a funny word. Before it was through fear of failure and letting myself down. Raising funds was always on my mind beforehand and certainly afterwards, but motivation throughout the 26.2 miles was a case of looking after each other and not thinking too much. What’s happening right now, when am I feeding next and pretty much nothing else. Like Nathan said, we had a job to do.
How did it feel once the challenge was completed?
MC & NJ - Relief.
MC - With these kinds of challenges, you’re never happy to finish, you’re just relieved you’ve achieved it. That’s not to say you don’t become happy in the minutes after finishing but that moment is just a shared relief.
NJ - It’s been with us for 3 months (planning/training etc) and the fundraising had increased a lot during the day, so the pressure was on. Think we are both now very content with our 26.2-mile swim. We had some low points and we both agreed we were on a hypothermic knife edge. 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.
What is the importance of the charities you are raising money for by completing the swim challenge and how can the money help them?
MC - We decided to raise funds for 3 separate charities. 1. Unicef UK 2. ACT International 3. Canal & River Trust Two of the three charities support children who are and/or have experienced conflict. Both Nathan and I come from the Military community and appreciate that children in conflict are the most vulnerable people on the planet. This money will pay for therapy, food, shelter and well as other humanitarian endeavours.
NJ - Our third charity is the Canal & River Trust. I believe that our waterways can and do have such a positive impact on our physical, emotional, social and mental fitness. Not to mention the ecological power they bring. We wanted to support CRT to ensure we all get the best possible chance of enjoying and thriving in nature. CRT look after and bring back to life 2000 miles of waterways. From servicing locks and protecting heritage brides as well as cleaning, clearing and connecting wildlife habits.
You can support Michael and Nathan here.
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