About Sean Conway and Q&A
Extreme endurance adventurer Sean Conway is the first and only man in history to cycle, swim and run the length of Britain. He completed the record-breaking feat in 2015 when he ran from John O’Groats to Land’s End in just 44 days, having previously cycled and swum the route.
Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sean had an adventurous upbringing in the Mana Pools National Park with his conservationist game ranger father, Tony. He spent his early years climbing trees and chasing elephants out of his garden, and this unique childhood has been the fuel for his adventurous ambitions.
In February 2012 Sean set out to pursue his dream of breaking the world record for cycling around the world. After three weeks he was ahead of schedule averaging nearly 180 miles a day. His dreams were shattered in America when a driver hit him causing severe whip lash, concussion, torn ligaments and a compression fracture to the spine. Despite this, Sean continued on dropping to 140 miles per day, changing his goal to get back to London in time for the Olympics and raise money for charity. He made it back with a week to spare, having covered 16,000 miles - 12,000 of them with a fractured spine.
In 2013 he became the first person in history to swim the length of Great Britain, having previously cycled it in 2008. After battling the weather, currents and seemingly endless swarms of jellyfish, Sean and his legendary beard wrote history on November 11 2013, after 135 days at sea.
In 2015, after a failed first attempt at running Britain, he completed the Ultimate British Triathlon when he finished his run from John O’Groats to Land’s End, without undergoing any kind of training in advance.
In 2016 Sean raised the bar once more when he took on the greatest challenge of his life. Starting in April 2016, he completed a self-supported 4000+ mile, continuous Ultra Triathlon that circumnavigates the entire coast of mainland Britain and Discovery Channel followed Sean’s incredible and dangerous journey.
A Q&A with Sean
What’s been your biggest challenge on a bike so far?
It seems every time I step on a bike it's a big challenge, mainly because I'm always red lining it. But I guess my first proper big record attempt was the hardest. In 2012 I went to break the fastest round the world cycle record. Not having much experience on the bike meant I properly struggled both mentally and physically trying to deal with 200 mile days. That was tough.
What type of bike touring do you prefer?
I was always a big fan of super light touring. One pair of socks kinda touring but nowadays, unless it's a record where I still only take one pair of socks, I like to take a few extra luxuries like a second pair of socks, a pair of lightweight evening shorts and may be even some flipflops. I still very rarely take any casual clothing.
How much do you carry when you tour nowadays?
On a record attempt I try and keep my entire setup to around 7-8kg. If it's for fast touring including some gravel tracks I still like to keep it light for a touring bike, at around 11kg + lightweight luggage.
What were your most memorable moments from your around the world cycle?
I love deserts. The Attacama was pretty bad-ass. Hundred of miles with just sand and a few truck stops. It was crazy tough but I loved it.
Did you have a nutrition plan in place when you’re touring 150+ miles per day?
Well I had a plan, then soon realised it's impossible to have a plan so just ate everything I could. If possible I try 1/3 carbs. 1/3 protein and 1/3 fat, but truthfully its better to eat anything rather than nothing. I love a good curry though. The korma and masalas are probably one of the most caloric meals you can order in a pub.
What are your three must have items when long distance touring?
I have to have a knife, a good paper map and my adventure mascot. I can pretty much do without most other things. If I have those.
Is there one place you would recommend readers of this go and bike tour?
Wow, Um, I don't know. If you’re a beginner then France and Italy are really easy with some big hills which are rewarding. If you’ve done that and want a little more adventure then America would be good for you. Then if you really want an adventure of a lifetime then South America would be my go to place. I'd love to do more of it.
Any advice would you give to those who about to embark on a long distance bike expedition?
Don't over plan things. That can often take away the sense of adventure. That and don’t pack too much crap. You won’t use half of it.
What have you learnt about the world and people on your journeys?
The dirtier you get on the bike, the more people feel sorry for you and offer you a meal and a bed. Never clean your clothes.
Do you find the first day or the last day of an expedition the hardest?
Neither. I find the middle bit the hardest. The beginning is exciting and the end means you’ve achieved your dream. There is a large chunk in the middle where I often question why I'm busting my ass and if anyone cares.
What’s the worst thing about long distance touring?
Losing sight of why you set out in the first place. Life can get too simple sometimes. Wake up, eat, cycle, eat, cycle, eat, sleep. Yes simplicity can be what you need but I get frustrated if I don’t have a proper hard and fast goal. Which is why I go for the records I guess.
What scares you?
Ballons popping and champagne corks.
What’s been your favourite place you’ve cycled?
Too many to chose from. I enjoyed Thailand and would love to do more of the east.
What keeps you going when you’re feeling the pain on a world record attempt?
Fear of failure. I've failed at two cycling based world record attempt and even 5 years on I still feel unsatisfied. That feeling of failure spurs me on.
What’s your next challenge on the bike?
Top secret of course.