Last updated: 15-Nov-18
“I’m an endurance adventurer nomad who lives on a WW2 gunboat“.
By Luke Jarmey
That is how Sean Conway with the wild, ginger hair introduces himself. He is also the first man to cycle, run and swim the whole British Isles – the Ultimate British Triathlon.
Runultra caught up with him to find out how it was done.
Q. You’re obviously an adventurer, rather than a specific runner/cyclist/swimmer. But how big a part does running play in your overall outdoor psych?
A. None at all up till now. Never really been into running. Cycling is my thing. I’m now adding running into my training as it’s a lot more accessible to do. All you need is a pair of trainers and you’re off.
Q. Have you always been a runner or did you start running in prep for your ‘Ultimate British Triathlon’?
A. I just started for the run itself. I ran at school because I had to but never owned a pair of trainers since then really.
Q. Have you ever entered a race or do you prefer to do your own thing?
A. I have never entered a race. Never done a marathon or even a park run. I do prefer my solo adventures. I like the mental game as much as the physical.
Ultimate British Triathlon – swam, cycled and ran the entire length of Britain
Q. Where on earth did the idea for this spring from?
A. It was never a complete idea. It was only after the swim and cycle that my mates said to me, ‘Sean, you know you have to do the run now.’
My first thought was, ‘Damn it.’ But they were right. I liked the challenge of learning a new discipline.
Q. We heard jellyfish often stung you during the swim! How did you deal with this?
A. I grew a beard. Honestly. It stopped the tentacles touching my skin.
Q. You’re the first person ever to swim from Land’s End to John O’Groats and the first person to complete the ‘Triathlon’ – has this given you an appetite for future records?
A. Records have always been a priority. Either the fastest or the first. I love the challenges they throw at me. I think of myself more on the athletic side of adventure rather than as an explorer.
Q. What was your average distance per day during the run?
A. I worked up slowly starting at 15 miles per day and ending at around 35-40 miles per day.
Q. What was the toughest leg of the run?
A. Devon and Cornwall. It’s soo hilly.
Q. What was the furthest distance you had run before this challenge?
A. Well I attempted the run before and managed just over a marathon but my longest run in training was 19 miles.
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights?
A. You’ll have to watch the show. Haha. There was this time I stripped off and had a naked ice bath in Scotland. That was hell but I loved it in the end.
Running Training, Gear and Nutrition
Q. Tarmac or trail for training and why?
A. Trail by a long way. No traffic. Easier on the knees and you get better Instagram photos.
Q. What’s your preferred training distance?
A. Not sure. Haven’t had enough training practice. I’m good after a few hours so anything more than 15 miles I guess.
Q. Do you have a set training plan – cycling certain days, running others. Or do you just spontaneously mix it all up?
A. Not at all. I’m a bit of an all or nothing type of guy. It takes me months to recover generally and then unless I have a big goal ahead I tend to just go out and enjoy myself on the bike and trails whenever I feel like it.
Q. Minimal, maximal or traditional cushioned trainers and why?
A. Jeez. No idea. Blue ones!
Q. Any special tricks or bits of gear to keep your overall equipment load light enough?
A. Loads but food and water are the heaviest. Take a water filter so you can drink from any muddy puddle and get efficient at burning fat so you can carry less food for the same calories.
Q. Can you give us an idea about your daily nutrition plan during the run phase of the Triathlon?
A. 1/3 fat. 1/3 carb. 1/3 protein. Lasagne was best choice from pubs otherwise bananas, chorizo, oatcakes, salami and stuff like that from supermarkets. General rule. EAT EVERYTHING. It’s better to eat something than eat the wrong thing and when you’re self supported you need to make the most of any available food.
Q. Are you able to give us an insight into the next challenge you have brewing or is it all top secret ;)?
A. Top secret but it involves swimming, cycling and running in one epic Ironman.
Q. We get the impression you’re very much someone who makes your own challenges, but have you ever thought of entering an organized extreme endurance event like the Marathon des Sables or the Artic Yukon Ultra?
A. Those races don’t attract me because they are often a bit short for me. I’m good after 3 weeks. That’s when I get into the swing of things. Anything shorter is a bit too fast for me. Never say never though.
Sean Conway: Running Britain aired exclusively on Discovery Channel in June.