One man taking self-isolation to the absolute extreme
Imagine a burning feeling inside you to make up for a lost youth, one that can only be satisfied by the most testing, challenging, demanding – life-threatening even – of experiences.
Each of these positive counterweights tips the balance, and just recently, there is a desire to lever a pretty hefty one onto the scales – to row the Atlantic singlehandedly.
For Martyn Thornton, an affable 62-year-old entrepreneur from Painswick, one of the biggest challenges is not just that he will be leaving his wife for the duration, or the hour a day training and 200 miles at sea so far in preparation, he is also not long starting a new business.
And we’ve not even mentioned the pandemic. Which brings us to taking on psychological challenges of the highest order.
“When I was in my late teens and right through my early twenties I had clinical depression. In that age, it was not something you coughed up. It was seen as a weakness,” he recalls, explaining where the feeling comes from that drives him.
We have getting better at talking about and dealing with these things now, he thinks, but with men's health there is still a long way to go.
“If I had been able to talk about it, and get treatment it probably would not have lasted for as long as it did. I’m making up for that time now.”
Physical exercise has helped ever since. Every now and again, something extreme is in order as he continues his quest to get the every most from life.
On this voyage he is supporting the charity HorseHeard, which promotes positive emotional health and resilience outcomes for children, young people and adults in need – including ex-services personal.
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“In 2017 I took five months off and hiked from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, through wilderness, which just a pack on my back. That took 2,600 miles. So, I am used to a challenge.
“I am used to the mental process you have to go through to get ready for something like that.”
Which is a good thing. In two weeks’ time he sets off to row from the La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean – let's call it 3,000 miles or, as the sponsor of the event would prefer, the 2020 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
His own sponsors include the likes of Concirrus, the insurance firm, and ActivEat Foods.
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Making the crossing – entirely under his own power, and perhaps the odd fair wind and helpful current (fingers crossed), will also make him the oldest man ever to manage it on his own.
“I don’t feel 62,” he said, sounding relaxed and a little perplexed as to how a 62-year-old should feel anyway.
The trip, he admits, is not exactly “convenient”. A lot of what Berkeley House Capital, the boutique wealth manage business he founded with Martin Goodwin and Michael Mould, have been working on is ‘coming to fruition’, but all men are vastly experienced at what they do.
Mr Thornton’s own career includes “the development and sale of his own business focused on the hi tech private equity markets and the establishment of several online businesses including the successful Chairman’s Network”, according to the firm’s website.
The Raikes Journal ask if he is aware of another intrepid to the extreme Gloucestershire resident called Roz Savage, who took on the same challenge of singlehandedly crossing the Atlantic – then added in the Pacific and Indian oceans too.
“Her’s was the first book I reached for. Inspirational,” he said.
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If all goes to plan he will complete the journey in less that 60 days. An astonishing feat, keeping in touch with his wife, two step children, friends and family via satellite phone.
“We have to take enough food for 85 days, just in case,” said Mr Thornton, who will be rowing away on his 25-foot boat through Christmas and what he calls ‘the better half’ of his sixty-second year.
“The food is mostly re-hydrated and we are advised to eat about 60 calories per kilo, so I need to eat about 4,500 calories a day.”
“The journey will test my mental and physical endurance beyond anything I have faced or undertaken before, and draw on every ounce of my courage, resilience, and spirit.”
There will be one exception to the ‘food is fuel’ diet – and that will come on December 25.
“My wife has made me a mini-Christmas cake,” he said, pausing at the thought of what it all means.
To support Martyn Thornton on his quest to raise £50,000 for HorseHeard visit his Atlantic Solo website or go straight to his Rowing the Atlantic Ocean solo page.