Written by James Ketchell
Eight years ago I woke up to find myself in hospital with broken legs and a shattered, dislocated ankle. I was completely bed ridden for the best part of six weeks, I had to have a nurse wash me, so it wasn’t all bad I guess!
It was this underlying drive to row across the Atlantic Ocean that had been simmering away ever since I was a young boy, that motivated me to make a recovery. It took me six months to walk again and the best part of two years to make what I classed as a good enough recovery to say that I’d actually recovered.
So although it wasn’t quite swimming, I found myself in a very large space of open water, rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in 2010. This is usually something that you would do as a pair or even a four man, but for some reason no one would join me! So I decided to do it on my own, which looking back was the best decision I made. It was a tough trip that should of taken around 70 -90 days, unfortunately I experienced a lot of bad weather systems that severely hampered my progress and I ended up stepping on to land in Antigua 110 days, 4 hours and 4 minutes after departing La Gomera in the Canary Islands.
The trip wasn’t without it’s challenges, I ran out of food 230 miles from Antigua, I was hit in the face by flying fish and almost run down by a crude oil tanker. I also learnt that waves really do break in the middle of an ocean. I had a mindset on the row that if I simply kept going and didn’t give up, as long as I didn’t row in circles, I would eventually reach land. Thankfully that theory worked for me and it was a theory that I would use many times in the future.
Almost a year after competing the row I found myself standing on top of the world! An opportunity that came my way through someone I’d met during my preparations to row across the Atlantic. It was a big risk but I took it, thankfully it worked out for me. It wasn’t because I was some bad ass tough adventurer, it was just luck, lots of luck and a fair bit of determination I think that got me to the top. I also broke the mountain down into manageable chunks in my mind, you just can not grasp the size of Everest unless you have stepped foot on the mountain, it literally just keeps on going, even when you think you’re close to the top.
Upon my return to the UK I found myself in hospital with a severe lung infection, it was only really then, when I was in hospital that it hit me that I had just climbed the worlds highest mountain.
Whilst I was in hospital I made a decision that I was going to cycle around the world. I cycled a lot during my recovery and training for the Atlantic row as it’s non impact movement was easier on my injured ankle which has permanent metal work inside. I thought this would be an amazing adventure and it certainty didn’t disappoint.
I left Greenwich Park in London on the 30th June 2013, my route took me through Europe, India, Asia, Australia, North America and eventually back to Europe, a distance of just over 18,000 miles. I didn’t want to be just another British lunatic fulfilling my own dreams gallivanting around the world, so I decided to speak in a school in every country I visited. Just sharing stories of fun and adventure, hopefully inspiring some young people to one day pursue their own dreams.
On the 1st February 2014 I arrived back into Greenwich Park, I actually didn’t realize at the tine but when I crossed the finish line I became the first and only person to have rowed an ocean, summit Mt Everest and cycle around the world. It was only a combination of three things but was quite special to me. There wasn’t much going on in the media at the time when I arrived back, so when they found out this fact, my arrival was being billed as “The Ultimate Triathlon”. I actually felt a little guilty at first because it wasn’t a triathlon in it’s original sense but was three events that were almost back to back.
This was to end up sticking and is now the name of my book which came out last month and is available here.
I’m often asked what I’ve learnt from completing this endurance feat, but the honest answer is I can’t really sum that up in one or two sentences. I did realise that pursuing your dream is not as difficult as you might think, or expect it to be. The hardest part is actually taking the first step, it actually gets a lot easier after that.
You can read our review of James’ book here.