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

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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 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 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 working as a long-distance lorry driver.

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

“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, 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.”

Mr Phoenix said he was a little surprised when Mr Tovell 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.

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? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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