James Ketchell

– Adventurer, Triathlete and Motivational Speaker –

“Just do it! the hardest part is taking the first step, everything get’s easier after that.”

“You need the right mindset. You don’t need to be an ultra fit muscle guru. You need to be prepared to take risks, take the first step and learn as you go. Adapt, improvise, and remain calm when things go wrong.”

Meet James Ketchell, who is nicknamed Captain Ketch, and lives with his family in Basingstoke, Hampshire in the UK. On February 1st, 2014, he became the first and only person to have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, successfully summited Mount Everest and cycled 18,000 miles around the world. It would be fair to say James was always a man to follow the more exciting approach to life. While working as an IT manager, he raced motorbikes at a semi-professional level. “Ever since I was a boy,” he says, “I’d always wanted to row across the Atlantic. Once I’d made the decision, I used it as a form of motivation – something to work towards. I had a reason to get out of the hospital and tackle my Physio and rehab.”

James Ketchell, is considered the Ironman that invented the world’s ultimate triathlon. A typical Ironman triathlon involves swimming for 2.4 miles, cycling for 112 more, and then running a full marathon, all in under 17 hours. It is, for all intents and purposes, the summit of triathlon participation. So what drives someone to make an Ironman look like a stroll around the proverbial park? James Ketchell, who has recently completed what is being termed “The Ultimate Triathlon,” explains the motivating force in typically humble terms: “You can do much more than you think. What you originally thought was quite difficult often isn’t.” James has just completed three frankly remarkable feats. First, he rowed the Atlantic Ocean, alone. Next, he climbed to the summit of Mount Everest. And finally, he took an unsupported cycle ride around the globe, completing 18,000 miles in just seven months. James became the first man in history to complete three such huge challenges, but seven years prior to all this, he was recovering from a serious motorcycle accident that left him with both legs broken, as well as a severely broken and dislocated ankle. The prognosis was that he was likely to suffer a permanent walking impairment, and would certainly not be able to continue the active physical lifestyle he had enjoyed up to that point.

Three years later, in 2010, he set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on a 3000 mile journey to retrace the original route Christopher Columbus had taken to the New World. His goal was Antigua. Initially, he wanted to do it with someone else, but for some reason no one wanted to join him. So he did it on his own, and it was the best decision he has ever made. The journey wasn’t without incident; he ran out of food 200 miles from Antigua, almost got hit by a 300 metre long oil tanker, was bashed in the face by a flying fish and bitten on the nipple by another. But, James’s natural resilience saw him through. Looking back, he says his strongest memory is of the delight of swimming in the Atlantic. When he finally got home, a friend casually asked if he’d like to climb Mt. Everest. Six months later, after raising £28,000, and despite intense diarrhea and a dangerous struggle to remove his crampon caught in a ladder above a 50ft crevasse, he stood on the summit of Everest alongside Dorje, his loyal Sherpa.

But, getting to the summit was not all joy, as he discovered when he arrived home, finding himself once more in the hospital with X-rays showing his left lung was black and thick with infection. A doctor tersely pointed out he was “very lucky to be alive.” Once again, the enforced hospital stay gave James another idea. This time he decided he’d cycle around the world. “When I told a friend my plan, he said no one person had ever done all three things.” James didn’t consider this third challenge might form a new kind of triathlon, but that’s how it turned out. On June 30th, 2013, he set off from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park on his global challenge to take a course that would lead him through Europe, Asia, Australia and America. Twenty countries, 18,000 miles and more than one hundred punctures later, he arrived back in the UK in February 2014.

“You need the right mindset. You don’t need to be an ultra-fit muscle guru. You need to be prepared to take risks, take the first step, and learn as you go. Adapt, improvise, and remain calm when things go wrong.” This is great advice and in his role as Scout Ambassador for Hampshire and through speaking and charity work, James encourages, motivates, and inspires. He adds: “Human beings are naturally programmed to come up with reasons why they can’t do something. You need to start thinking outside the box and find a way around problems. Don’t create negativity in your head.” James is living proof of his philosophy. We can all do much more than we think.

He describes his approach to these extraordinary tasks, how he continuously set incremental and achievable goals, how he drew upon a capacity for making and cementing contacts to secure the necessary support, and how he prepared for an experienced the physical effort these challenges demand. As James recounts his story, the listener will often find it easy to believe that they too could achieve the extraordinary. James is also passionate about the places he has been and the people he has met, and talks with knowledge and affection about their lives, cultures, and beliefs and of the debt he owes them. He is particularly grateful to the Sherpas who assisted him on Everest, as they were instrumental in helping him off the mountain when he succumbed to a severe lung infection on the descent. The key message James reveals is that we can all potentially set ourselves difficult goals and achieve them: the capability to succeed is within everyone. His practical and pragmatic lessons include the importance of interim goals, breaking the task down into small, achievable steps, each one of which increases the commitment to the overall goal; the need for self-belief; the willingness of others to help if only you dare to ask; and finally, the value of persistence.

James is a fundraiser at ELIFAR Foundation, a charity that is run by volunteers to provide specialist equipment to disabled children. If you want to know more about ELIFAR and support the cause, please visit www.elifarfoundation.org.uk James sets out on his next adventure rowing across the Indian Ocean next year; for more information at www.nothings-impossible.co.uk

James in his own words

How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?

I never expected it at all but it’s certainly a good feeling.

Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?

It’s that sense of achievement for me personally that I get when I cross the finish line.

When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?

Around 5 years ago, and my first triathlon was Windsor Triathlon.

What motivates you in life?

Helping others, and working towards my goals.

What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?

Just do it! the hardest part is taking the first step, everything get’s easier after that.

Who inspires you? Why?

My father inspires me because he has an incurable work ethic and is mentally very strong.

How did you deal with obstacles in your life?

Just keep moving forward and stick to a routine. Routine will help you through most situation if you stick to it.

What do you like most about Triathlons?

The feeling of accomplishment.

Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons

Rowed the Atlantic Ocean in 2010 Climbed Mt Everest in 2011 Cycled around the world in 2013

Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations? 

ELIFAR Foundation a charity that is run by volunteers to provide specialist equipment to disabled children. For more information, please visit www.elifarfoundation.org.uk Also, I am promoting and supporting my rowing adventure at the Indian ocean next year; please click on www.nothings-impossible.co.ukfor more information.