Zimbabwean-born adventurer Sean Conway recently became the first person to complete the Ultimate British Triathlon. Having cycled the length of Britain in 2008, then swam it in 2013, he knocked off the running stage—the equivalent of 38 consecutive marathons—in May. But the 34-year-old U.K. resident is far from your stereotypical extreme athlete.
THE RED BULLETIN: Huge congratulations for your latest success. Did you ever consider giving up?
SEAN CONWAY: I was in a lot of pain, but I knew I could keep going. Physical pain subsides, but the emotional pain of failing stays with you.
How did you become a professional adventurer?
I became sick of just existing and I wanted to push myself. I cycled 16,000 miles around the world and got into a lot of debt, but I persevered and my life was transformed.
How have things changed?
I still live a simple life. I don’t have a mortgage; I live on a 60-foot former military boat I bought on eBay for $4,000. It means I can be more creative with my ideas and run a scholarship that helps fund other people’s adventures.
How will you top the Ultimate British Triathlon?
I’m competing in an Ironman, but it runs over three months rather than the usual 12 hours. The location is top secret for now.
Can anyone become an adventurer?
Yes. I’m 5ft 8in tall and weigh 143 pounds. I’m not an Olympian or ex-army. I’m just this hairy kid who wasn’t any good at school sports. Luckily, the bad decisions that I made in my 20s forced me to go in search of something better.
Have any of your missions ever scared you?
Living a normal life scares me. But adventure isn’t always about rowing across oceans and climbing mountains – it’s a way of thinking. You don’t have to quit your job: you have the nine-to-five, but you also have the five-to-nine.