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Stradbroke swimmer Kenny is ready for Ironman challenge

KennethTovell at Stradbroke Leisure centre where he has been training for the Outlaw Triathlon after learning to swim recently.

KennethTovell at Stradbroke Leisure centre where he has been training for the Outlaw Triathlon after learning to swim recently.

Archant norfolk

Taking on the Ironman Challenge long-distance triathlon is no mean feat.

KennethTovell at Stradbroke Leisure centre where he has been training for the Outlaw Triathlon after learning to swim recently. KennethTovell at Stradbroke Leisure centre where he has been training for the Outlaw Triathlon after learning to swim recently.

But for Kenny Tovell, embarking on training for the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle ride and marathon run was perhaps tougher than most - because he was hardly able to swim.

Although the 44-year-old from Worlingworth, near Eye, Suffolk, was able to struggle by to complete a few lengths, the goal of completing a triathlon was very much a jump in the deep end.

But in true Ironman spirit, a rapid training programme at Stradbroke Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre has turned him from an amateur swimmer into ultra competitor in less than a year.

“I could swim a couple of lengths but nothing recognisable,” said Mr Tovey, who has fitted in his demanding training schedule of about two to three swimming sessions per week - alongside running and cycling - alongside long hours working as a long-distance lorry driver.

“I do a lot of running and cycling but the fitness demands are completely different when you are swimming.

“I thought my fitness was well up there but when you start swimming, it is really difficult.”

Yet despite the challenges, what has impressed those at Stradbroke Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre is Mr Tovell’s determination to succeed.

Len Phoenix, a swimming instructor at the pool who had competed himself at local, regional and national levels - as well as international level as a veteran - said: “Everyone at the sports centre thinks he is an absolute legend already.

“His determination is beyond anything I’ve ever seen - and it is determination which will get him there.”

Mr Phoenix said he was a little surprised when Mr Tovey told him he wanted to reach Ironman-level in eight months despite starting from a very basic level of swimming.

“I said to him: ‘You’ve got to be in it for the long haul’ - but his attitude right from the word go was that he was going to do it,” said Mr Phoenix.

“He has not got what I would call a natural ability but he has stuck at it and he is determined he is going to do it.

“Anyone who can do an Ironman Challenge deserves a worthwhile mention but to do it from where he has come is amazing. It is a honour to think we have helped play a part in it.”

Mr Tovell, who will take on the challenge at Holme Pierrepont Water Park in Nottingham on Sunday, July 27, added: “Some days you have good days and you have bad days.

“You’ve definitely got to keep at it otherwise you forget what you’ve learned.

“Even when you have bad days and the water feels like wading through treacle, you have just got to keep on it.

Mr Tovell is hoping to raise about £1,000 for the charity Tom’s Trust, which helps children with brain tumours. He has already raised more than £600.

To donate, visit https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/kennethtovell1

Are you doing something for charity? Tell the Mercury by calling 01379 651153 or email dma.news@archant.co.uk


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