Sean Conway, Adventurer of the Year 2014: “No one will come close to Tommy Godwin”

We chat to the first man to swim the length of the UK about his personal inspirations, lucky talismans and dig-deep mantras

Sean Conway, adventurer of the year 2014

Whether it’s fighting off jellyfish with his beard, chasing elephants or cycling the length of Africa, Sean Conway is a man who relishes new adventures.


We chatted to him about being recently named ‘Adventurer of the Year 2014’ at this year’s Scottish Adventure Awards, what challenges he is up to this year, and which athletes are an inspiration to him.

Adventurer of the Year is an impressive title! How did you earn that?

Thanks! I earned it through becoming the first person to swim the length of the UK which I did at the end of last year.

Have you always been into crazy challenges?

I guess so, I’ve always had an adventurous spirit which probably stems from growing up in the middle of the bush in Africa. From a young age I was chasing elephants out of the garden, climbing trees and generally running around the bush! As I got older I did get into some wacky challenges including the cheese rolling in Gloucester and climbing Kilimanjaro dressed as a penguin! 

What other challenges are you up to this year?

Running is my new thing so besides keeping swimming – which I’ll be doing at the Human Race Events FT Eton Swim. I’m hopefully also going to run from Lands End to John O’Groats in the summer, I’ve also got a few small cycle adventures in the pipeline such as cycling seven countries in seven days. I’ve also got a huge challenge which I’m preparing at the moment, it will be an eight-month long adventure and will really test me to my limits. 

What’s the hairiest adventure experience you’ve ever had?

Sean Conway coming out of the water

There have been a couple of hairy moments, I guess fighting the jellyfish in the sea was pretty hairy – especially when I grew a massive beard to stop them stinging my face!

The most terrifying moment was when I was attempting to break the world record for cycling around the world and when I was in America I got hit by a car travelling at 50mph. I suffered some nasty injuries including a fractured spine but still kept going and 12,000 miles with a fractured spine is pretty hard work!

If money and time to train were no object, what would be your dream challenge?

I would have to say going back to my heartland and running the length of Africa.

Sean Conway running

Do you have any lucky talismans that you always carry with you?

The Little Flying Cow! It’s my adventure mascot, you can find out more about him at!

Is there a mantra that runs through your head when the going gets tough?

“The short term pain in pushing myself is never as bad as the long term pain of quitting.” 

Which athletes inspire you, and why?

Tommy Godwin, he cycled 75,000 miles in a year in 1939 which is an average of 205 miles per day. No-one will come close to him, he’s such a legend.


Sean Conway will be taking part in the Financial Times Eton Swim on Bank Holiday Monday 26th May, where he will be swimming alongside and greeting other competitors, for full info please visit: