The woman who swam 134 miles without stopping

World record: Only four swimmers have swam it three times. No one has ever completed a fourth leg.

Is this the hardest challenge in the world? Sarah Thomas fought off illness, jellyfish and strong currents to swim between England and France, four times in 54 hours.

What’s happening

Swimming across the English Channel, in between England and France, is a big challenge for the best of swimmers.

However, Sarah Thomas has just done it four times without stopping! It took the American swimmer 54 hours.

Find out more

“I just can’t believe we did it,” Thomas said on the beach, after her achievement. “I’m pretty tired right now.”

Thomas did not sleep at all during the swim, and had to take small amounts of caffeine to stay awake. Her course should have been 80 miles long, but she ended up swimming 130 miles because strong currents pushed her off-course.

On the final crossing back from France, she was stung in the face by a jellyfish.

“Just when we think we’ve reached the limit of human endurance, someone shatters the records,” said Lewis Pugh, who recently swam from along the south coast of the United Kingdom.

Is this the world’s hardest challenge?

Some say…

Yes. Water is 784 times thicker than air. This means that you need to be very strong to push your body through water, especially when the current is against you. Almost 2,000 people have swam the English Channel, but none of them have matched Thomas’s achievement. It is the hardest there is.

Others think…

No. There are many other challenges that are even harder. In Mexico’s Marathon de Sables, entrants run 156 miles on hot sand, carrying their own supplies of water and food. Sometimes, temperatures reach 40C, which means runners must be careful not to overheat. This is truly humanity’s toughest challenge.

You Decide

  1. Would you like to swim across the English Channel?

Activities

  1. Design your own extreme challenge. Draw a map of the course.

Some People Say...

“Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance.”

Virgil, ancient Roman poet

What do you think?

Word Watch

Achievement
Something you have done that makes you proud.
Caffeine
A chemical in coffee and other drinks that wakes you up.
Currents
When a body of water is moving in one direction.
Endurance
Having the strength to go through things that are difficult.
Coast
The part of land that touches the sea.

Subjects

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