While swimming around Great Britain Ross Edgley's tongue began disintegrating. He kept going.

Ross Edgley swum for six hours or more for 157 days straight to circumnavigate Great Britain.

At 2884 kilometres, it’s about the same distance from London to Moscow.

So yeah. A very long way.

Edgley battled against storms, jellyfish stings, a raw wound caused by severe chafing from his wetsuit and uh, a disintegrating tongue. But he kept going.

In an interview with The Guardian, Edgley said he realised something was wrong with his tongue when he woke up with chunks of it on his pillow.

The flesh was translucent, but otherwise a lot like beef stroganoff or slow-cooked pork. “It’s that tender, you’re just pulling strips off,” he said. “You could see the tastebuds on it, it was that thick.”

Marathon swimmers call it salt mouth – the effect of salt build up on he tongue and in the mouth and throat.

Edgley’s was at its worst as he passed Dungeness off the coast of Kent in early June, about 85 hours of swimming after setting out on his journey from Margate harbour.

“Even a week in, it went from being a swim as most people consider it, as a sport, to being a survival exercise,” he said.

His survival exercise involved swimming for six hours, sometimes more, each day on no more than six hours of sleep.

All his spare time was spent sleeping or eating. Edgley ate 15,000 calories a day – devouring 649 bananas throughout the journey.

While swimming he would eat one every 20 minutes, and occasionally stop for porridge or noodles. Between swims he ate (very large) breakfasts, lunches and dinners: A full day’s meals every 12 hours.


Eating with a disintegrated tongue meant meal choices were important: “Can you imagine your salt tongue hanging off, then trying to eat granola?”

At the same time his tongue was disintegrating, Edgley was dealing with a raw wound on his neck. Efforts to protect it with layers of cream, plasters, vaseline, bags and tape did not completely work.

“Imagine having an open wound and rubbing it with sandpaper for 12 hours a day – that’s what it was like,” he said. “I woke up the next morning and my bedsheets were stuck to it. I was like, ‘Oh, for God’s sake’, ripped it off, then got in and swam.”

His girlfriend, Hester Sabery, was onboard his support boat Hecate at the time. “Oh yeah, that was horrific,” she recalled. “He just had blisters all over his shoulders, his neck, his chest. And when he moved, they were all just there on the pillow.”

Despite this, Edgley said he never once thought of giving up.

Asked whether he’s a masochist, he said he’s not sure. “I’m like: ‘Why wouldn’t you swim with your tongue hanging off?’ I would say I’m not a masochist, but maybe a month from now, when I’m looking back objectively, from outside the bubble, I’ll go: ‘What was I doing?'”

The holiday season and end of the year is only weeks away, so it seems like the perfect time for Edgley to put his feet up and relax, right?

Well. No. He’s planning to run a marathon by Christmas.