Once home to Victorian philanthropist John Ruskin, spiritual home of Donald Campbell; water speed record legend and inspirational backdrop for Arthur Ransome & his Swallows and Amazons, Coniston village, situated in the heart of the Lake District has in its time attracted some pretty fascinating folk.
If you’re lucky enough to visit the area in the near future then you may just spot our newest resident running up and down the fells, swimming in the lake or quietly sipping a pint in the local pub.
Instantly recognisable by his formidable ginger beard, the unpretentious soul that is Sean Conway is a somewhat unique breed of ‘outdoor adventurer’. He has been setting records long before ‘Insta’ likes became a thing, fulfilling his own need to live life to the full rather than for fame or recognition.
The colourful tapestry of life has now led Sean to the beautiful Lake District; and it’s not hard to see why. Over the coming months we will be partnering up alongside Sean to highlight the beauty of the Lakes, until then watch this space… (He’s pretty busy at the moment, read on and see why).
A Little History
Born in Zimbabwe, to parents of English & Irish decent (hence that fiery red beard) Sean enjoyed a seemingly adventurous childhood and at the age of 12 he swapped a packet of sweets for a camera (excellent bargaining skills at such a young age!).
Fast forward a few years (or more) and Sean had established himself a successful photography career here in the UK, however found himself stuck in a monotonous role, photographing corporate clients. Sean’s childhood dream of travelling the world with his camera as his ‘ticket to ride’ had seemingly passed him by.
This was until one day Sean decided to take a drastic step in order to change his life. He sold his share of the business for the grand sum of £1, choosing happiness over financial outcome; and bought himself a bike on EBay, needless to say Sean has never looked back since….
“Adventure is simply a way of thinking” Sean Conway.
Since that fateful day Sean has enjoyed his fair share of personal successes along with an equal amount of hiccups (hey that’s life). However throughout it all Sean’s sheer determination, optimism and self-belief have carried him through.
- In 2012 he cycled around the world, raising money for charity.
- He climbed Kilimanjaro for charity dressed as a penguin (yes folks you read that, a penguin).
- He set a new world record, with friends, for sailing the length of Britain in 83 hours and 53 minutes.
- 2015 he became the first man in history to cycle, swim and run the length of Britain.
(He grew his beard whilst swimming the length of Britain to help shield him from jellyfish)
- In 2016 he became the first person to complete a 4,200 mile round Britain triathlon (totally unsupported). A feat which took him 85 days.
- In 2012 Sean was attempting to cycle around the world, 20 days and 4000 miles in he found himself ahead of the world record, however he was run over and knocked unconscious. His dreams of a record were shattered, he did however complete the ride (with neck brace for a short while) and raised lots of money for charity. He learnt that there was more than one way to climb a mountain and that more high-vis was required!
- In 2014 Sean attempted to run the length of Britain, 200 miles in he tripped over taking a selfie while running (listen up kids) and spent the next 3 months recovering. He learnt, well we don’t need to tell you this one!
- In 2016 Sean entered the Route 66 bike race, after 24hrs he was in the lead but slowly dropped back. Unable to keep up the pace he had to pull out. He learnt that starting such an epic challenge on little rest (long haul flight/no sleep) was not the best idea.
- In 2017 Sean had to pull out of his attempt at cycling across Europe, 4 days in Sean picked up an injury as the result of starting off too hard.
The Next Adventure
On the 16th April 2018 Sean will embark on his latest challenge; attempting to break the current world record for riding across Europe (second time lucky). Setting off from Cabo de Roca, Portugal Sean will make his way east towards the finish line in Ufa, Russia (4,500 miles away). Sean will cover on average 200 miles a day, and in true Sean style this will be carried out self-supported. The Guinness World Record currently stands at 29 days, 18 hours and 25 minutes. A record which Sean is hoping to beat by some margin.
You can track the LIVE progress of Sean’s journey by following the link below
Track Sean Across Europe
Before he left for Portugal we put a few questions towards Sean..
Hi Sean, born in Zimbabwe; what initially attracted you to the English Lake District?
My grandfather spent some time up hear as a child and I remember hearing about The Lake District as a kid growing up in Africa. It sounded magical and I just knew that one day I had to come here. Then when I did I realised I have to live here and although that process took 8 years I eventually made it.
Many would describe you as an endurance athlete or extreme adventurer, how would you sum yourself up?
Ooh. I don’t know. Professional Risk Taker I guess. People seem to call me an endurance adventurer which I guess is what I am. I don’t go exploring. I go to break records. The 3 F’s. First’s, Furthest and Fastest.
You were the first person to complete a 4,200 mile triathlon around the coast of mainland Britain which is pretty impressive, have you always been physically active?
Only since I turned 30. I didn’t even own a pair of running shoes in my 20’s. I’m making up for lost time I think.
You’ve had your fair share of awe inspiring successes and a few hiccups along the way, when things go wrong how do you motivate yourself to keep going?
Fear of failure is my biggest motivator. When times are tough the options of giving up and going home a loser is far more depressing than the pain I’m currently in. That makes me carry on.
You’re just about cycle across Europe to try and break the current cross-Europe record (the very best of luck), how much planning and physical preparation comes into a challenge of this size?
The older I get the less training I need to do because I have years of latent fitness in me. I have cycled around 50,000 miles since 2011. That stays with you. Nevertheless l still need to train solidly for around 6 months.
You state “adventure is simply a way of thinking” Are there any other mantras you swear by?
If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training. Something I say a lot living in the lakes.
Finally, you’re currently residing here in Coniston; therefore the lake, surrounding fells and forests are your playground (lucky you). For anyone unfamiliar with the local area what would be on the top of your to do list?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Coniston has it all. I guess something that is quite fun and everyone can do it is to hire a boat and spend the day cruising up and down he lake. I know, you were expecting me to say run up the old man backwards or something and swim in a tarn but not everyone can do that. But everyone can enjoy the lake, young or old. I like that.
Thanks Sean, good luck with your challenge and may the wind be always at your back!
You can learn more about this fascinating chap here