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Redefiner Ed Horne, 67: “I am one of the oldest people to swim the Channel”

At 67 years of age, Redefiner Ed Horne has swum the English Channel, been successful in business and is now running life on his terms – and he couldn’t be happier.

At 67 years of age, Redefiner Ed Horne has swum the English Channel, been successful in business and is now running life on his terms – and he couldn’t be happier! INCREDIBLE! 😱👏

Posted by Life/Redefined on Wednesday, December 7, 2022

For Ed Horne, swimming the English Channel was an itch he had to scratch. He had failed twice but he wasn’t going to let that – or being 67 – stop him. In July 2022, after 15 hours and 51 minutes in the water, 42,000 swimming strokes and being stung by jelly fish, he finally set foot on French soil. Magnifique!

Ed’s journey to becoming a long-distance athlete was not an obvious one. He had a successful career as a high-level accountant, with senior responsibility for running multi-million-pound companies. As young man, he’d played rugby to a high standard but swimming had never been his thing.

“My daughter, Fizzy, got me interested it open water swimming. I’d had a prostate cancer scare in 2011 and I vowed to get a fit as I could,” he recalls. But a hip replacement ruled out any exercise that involved impact on the joint. That year, and with his daughter’s encouragement, Ed, who lives in Barnes in southwest London, made a short journey up the River Thames to Henley.

At 4.30am and in the dark, he dived into the river’s murky waters, swam upstream for 1.3miles (2.1km) and, as the sun rose, completed his swim. It took just 40 mins. “There I was sitting on the banks of the Thames, sipping Champagne and eating croissants and bagels with friends. I was well and truly hooked!”

Over the next few years, Ed completed longer and longer swims – crossing the Gibraltar Straits from Spain to Morocco, and swimming the length of Lake Windermere. It was on the latter trip that Ed’s boat pilot threw down the gauntlet.

Ed remembers: “He said, ‘What next?’ and before I could answer, he added, ‘If you can swim Windermere, you can swim the Channel!’”.

That was it, the challenge was on.

In 2020 and 2021, Ed made two attempts to swim the Channel but, despite hard training regimes, could not complete the challenge. Each time he was beaten by rough seas, taking in salty sea water, suffering dehydration and being afflicted by a severe cramp. But, Ed says, he had a mantra to get him through: “I am a completer not a competer.” It was the finishing that counted, it wasn’t a race.

And on 8 July 2022, finish he did. Starting at 3.46am in the dark, he made landfall in France at 7.37pm in the evening, nearly 16 hours later. Although the distance as the crow flies between England and France is about 21 miles (33.6km), swimmers take a snaking route as tides pull them first in one direction and then another. Ed had travelled nearly 34 miles (54.5km) at 44 strokes per minute, through chilly Channel waters, ignoring the jelly fish that stung him as he pursued his goal.

Ed says the last few hours were the hardest, but his crew shouted encouragement and read out messages from friends.

One message in particular stays in his mind. It was from Fizzy, his daughter who had suggested diving into the Thames 11 years earlier: “You’ve got this Dad! I am so proud of you.”

Ed smiles: “The roles were reversed – my daughter was being the parent.”

Ed looks back with pride at what he achieved. “Some people say that swimming the Channel changes your life. I don’t see that but I have finally scratched that itch.”

He adds there is a quote in his diary that drove him on, not just in swimming but in life: “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you won’t!” They are words he keeps with him to this day.

5 Things Channel-Swimming Ed Horne has Learned

1. Don’t Put Pressure on Yourself – and Plan

“As I trained, I was merely telling people nothing more than, ‘If I get fit and feel I can do it, my pilot will find a slot to take me.’ I was quietly determined but wanted to take the pressure off myself by staying under the radar. Between my second and third attempts, I came to finally realise that I couldn’t reverse the aging process. I had to accept that my body may not quite be as efficient as those of the younger swimmers taking up the challenge.” Ed took mineral supplements, muscle relaxant pills to make it easier to pass water while swimming (it’s a long-distance swimmer thing!) and added a steady intake of electrolytes. “This all helped reduce many of the mental doubts lingering from the two previous swims.”

2. Find a Mentor

When Ed started getting serious about swimming the Channel, he contacted Kevin Murphy. “He’s a delightful, if quirky man, in his early 70s who is also known as the King of the Channel having swum it 34 times. Kevin became my mentor, an integral part of my team for my successful swim and now a lifelong friend. Having Kevin Murphy on the boat was a bit like having Alex Ferguson on the touchline. There was no way I could fail a man who had swum the Channel so many times and who had volunteered to crew for me on a swim starting at 4.00am.”

3. Find Your Tribe at a Club

“Many people think that long distance open water swimming is a lonely, boring sport,” says Ed, but that’s not true. He has made friends for life at the RAC Club. “I am blessed to have three different groups of swimming friends: in central London, at a lido in Tooting, south London, and the real crazies in Dover Harbour.” He says he couldn’t have done it without them and the team around him.

4. Make Work “Work” For You

At the same time as training for the swims, Ed’s work life was busy. He had worked for the same company for over 30 years, in a senior financial role. He was orchestrating an acquisition that would double the size of the company and guarantee everyone’s jobs for years to come. When the acquisition went through, he thought, “What next?” Ed remembers: “It would have been the easiest thing in the world for me to continue doing more of the same for the next two to three years before formally retiring.” Instead, he decided to go out at the top and move on. “I wanted to extend my working life, not shorten it. By stepping out on my own and looking for a few roles within corporate life as a director or business owner, I can continue well into my 70s. I have flexibility and variety in my day, and can take breaks to allow me to give more time to the family.”

5. Change From a Position of Strength

“When I was at university and wanted to move to a different course, the economics professor said, ‘Always change from a position of strength.’ What he meant was make positive decisions to move on, not negative decisions based on wanting to get out of something. I have kept that advice with me throughout my working life. When I decided to leave my job, it was from a position of strength and on my terms. I gave myself 100 days and a holiday to consider the decision before announcing it. The actual handing in of my resignation was neither nerve-racking nor traumatic. There were no doubts. It was a day filled with quiet excitement about the future.”

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We are big believers that you should be able to design a life you love and not stick to a linear path, especially when it comes to your career choices. In fact, we'd go as far to say that the concept of retirement in its current form needs to be retired. Yes, that's right, there's no rulebook here!