A true test of endurance pushes the body to its breaking point. It’s the long-distance marathon, the weeks-long climb, the impossible triathlon. It’s about having the ability to block out the physical pain — sometimes excruciating — and take yourself to another place.

Ross Edgley of the United Kingdom centered his life around challenges that pushed his body to do the impossible. But when he set out to prove himself in the ultimate test of endurance, even those who knew him well couldn’t help but call him crazy…

Ross Edgley is a 33-year-old athlete, swimmer, and fitness expert from the United Kingdom. Everyday, he tries to push his body to — and past — the limits. He constantly thinks of new challenges he can perform that have never been done before.

Ross Edgley / Instagram

In fact, Edgley told Red Bull, “I want to inspire people to get out there and challenge themselves – maybe try your first open water swim, sign up for a triathlon, or your first park run – find something that you didn’t think you were capable of and prove yourself wrong.”

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Making it a point to make this kind of mission his lifestyle, he’s streamed several widely followed challenges on social media, proving your body is capable of more than you think it is.

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Most notably, Edgley held the world record for the longest rope climb in under 24 hours. He climbed a total of 29,029 feet in that period of time — the equivalent to the height of Mount Everest.

Hungry for another thrill, he attempted to swim over 62 miles in the Caribbean while holding a 100 pound tree. He made it to about the 24 mile mark but had to stop due to strong currents. This left Edgley feeling like he had unfinished business with the water.

Ross Edgley / Instagram

Edgley wanted to set a new goal for himself after not fully accomplishing his last, so he reached out to the Royal Marines and requested permission to swim off-shore for 48 hours straight. In his proposed challenge, he could not take a break or swim to shore to rest.

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A few logistics meetings later, Edgley swam for 48 hours like it was swim practice, and in that time, he swam about 78 miles. Everyone was impressed with the swimmer’s stamina, so one marine suggested Edgley do something even crazier…

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The marine suggested Edgley swim around the entirety of Great Britain. It was a borderline insane venture for even Edgley to take on, but he wanted to live up to the title of the book he was writing, The World’s Fittest Book.

Ross Edgley / Instagram

“I’ve always been fascinated by British explorers,” Edgley told Red Bull, “and it was Captain Matthew Webb [first person the swim the English Channel], who really inspired me. Back in 1875, they said no one could swim the channel because it was just too treacherous, but he proved them all wrong.”

As he’d done with so many challenges before, Edgley first plotted logistics: he wouldn’t be allowed to touch the shore — not even once — there needed to be feeding stations en route, minimal waves, predictable currents, and coastguard personnel to supervise.

And because the tide changes approximately every six hours, Edgley planned to swim for six hour intervals, which would carry him about 30 miles. There was no point in wasting valuable energy trying to swim against the current.

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Meanwhile, experts advised Edgley he needed not only to swim hard, but he needed to swim smart. “If you get it wrong around The Highlands,” he said, “you’ve eight knots coming against you. So even if you are swimming two to three knots, an Olympic level, you’ll still be going back four knots.”

One of the only things Edgley could control was the protection he used on his body. He knew wetsuits would cause irritation and blisters, but he planned on bringing multiple sizes to account for his deteriorating body over the course of his venture.

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As for trip planning, Edgley left that up to the captain of the boat that would be following him. The captain tracked the tides and current on an electronic map, and also plotted where Edgley would swim each day so they could map his progress.

Ross Edgley / Instagram

With all of the logistics planned out, it was time for Edgley to dive right into his record breaking challenge. On June 1, 2018, he left Margate Harbour and began swimming in a clockwise direction. Would this be another Caribbean swim?

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Edgley stuck to his plan and started swimming in six hour increments. During the six hours the tides changed in an unfavorable manner, he would swim to his boat station and enjoy a much deserved six hour sleep. The cycle just went on and on.

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As he was burning a great deal of calories during his swim, Edgley kept up his energy by consuming 15,000 calories each day. He would usually eat foods like, “whey protein, and for carbs, nut butters, coconut oil, foods void of texture and taste.” So, not cake.

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Of course, this venture was the hardest Edgley had ever attempted, and Mother Nature didn’t help: throughout the swim, jellyfish continuously stung Edgley. He recalled, “A giant jellyfish attached itself for 30 minutes to my face in the middle of the whirlpool and just wouldn’t let go.”

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Additionally, he experienced something called “salt mouth.” Essentially his tongue and mouth area deteriorated due to an overwhelming exposure to salt water. He also experienced wetsuit chaffing and, of course, intense sleep deprivation. 

Ross Edgley / Instagram

Through it all, Edgley continued to push himself physically and mentally. He suffered through every water-based affliction imaginable. The experience was painful in every way imaginable. And then?

He made it! Triumphantly waving the British flag, he set foot on dry the shore for the first time in 157 days — he had  planned it would take him approximately 100 days to complete. Still, his effort earned him four world records.

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He became tirst person to swim the entire South Coast of the UK, the longest ever staged sea swim, the fastest person on the planet to swim from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and, most importantly, the first person to swim around Great Britain.

Ross Edgley / Instagram

Some may wonder why Edgley put himself through such a ludicrous challenge. Why? What did he truly gain? Well, Edgley made one final statement: “All going well, my challenge encourages people to do what they love and let Mother Nature take care of your physiology. It’s about being fit for purpose.”

Ross Edgley / Instagram