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Stradbroke swimmer shows true Ironman spirit after completing challenge

PUBLISHED: 13:13 31 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:13 31 July 2014

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

A lorry driver has spoken of his relief at crossing the finishing line after successfully completing a gruelling 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.

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 eight months ago.

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 turned him from an amateur swimmer into ultra competitor in less than a year.

He completed the swim in 1hr 35mins and 55secs - much faster than any of his training practices.

He did the whole challenge at Holme Pierrepont Water Park in Nottingham in 12hrs 27mins and 5secs. He had originally aimed to complete it within 14hrs.

Mr Tovell said that he was “ecstatic” to complete Sunday’s event - especially in the sweltering heat - but that it was his swim that pleased him most.

He said the key thing needed to complete the route was determination.

“You’ve definitely got to want to do it and not skimp on the training,” he said. “You’ve got to be mentally strong to get through it.”

Mr Tovell fitted a demanding 20-hour per week training schedule, which included two to three swimming sessions, alongside long hours working as a long-distance lorry driver.

“I could swim a couple of lengths but nothing recognisable,” said Mr Tovey.

“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.

Beforehand 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.

“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 is hoping to raise about £1,000 for the charity Tom’s Trust, which helps children with brain tumours. He has already raised about £700.

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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