In his memoir “Coming Up For Air,” Tom Daley discusses his experiences with the “post-Olympics blues” after winning a bronze medal in the 2012 London Games and how he struggled finding his sense of purpose and drive once he accomplished that goal.
So after becoming an Olympic gold medalist for the first time last year in Tokyo, he found motivation by taking on a new challenge: rowing, biking, swimming, and running 270 miles in four days.
It was a novel way to kill time between knitting projects.
The premise of Daley’s feat of endurance was to travel from London to his hometown of Plymouth, which is near the southwestern tip of England. Appropriately enough, he dubbed the challenge “Hell of a Homecoming.”
It also served as a fundraiser for Great Britain’s Comic Relief charity and its annual Red Nose campaign. At the end of each day, Daley posted an update to his Instagram with a link to donate.
After training for nine weeks to get his body acclimated to the rigors it was about to endure, Daley’s itinerary played out as follows:
Day One: Daley embarked on his journey from his diving home base at the London Aquatics Centre by rowing six miles down the River Thames and finishing at Tower Pier. Things got off to a rocky start when he capsized his boat, properly getting into the Comic Relief spirit by channeling his inner Mr. Bean.
Despite being submerged in the Thames on a frigid February London Day, Daley got back in the boat immediately and completed the first leg. After briefly pausing to dry off and refuel at the pier, he hopped on his bicycle and rode 60 miles to Reading.
Day Two: For over a decade, Daley has insisted that he is a diver, not a swimmer. But he began this morning with a 1600-meter open-water swim, thus proving that he could do more in the water than leap into it gracefully. If he needed to warm up afterwards, he could curl up by all the fire emojis next to every picture of himself in a wetsuit.
Following the swim, Daley got back on his bike and pedaled 63 more miles to Southampton.
Day Three: Although there was nothing in the water planned for this leg of the journey, the English weather made up for it with a driving rain and fierce winds as Daley biked another 130 miles.
Fortunately, after 15 hours of what he described as “the hardest thing I have ever put my body through,” Daley got to meet up with husband Dustin Lance Black and spend the night at Bovery Castle, where the they got married in 2017.
Day Four: On the final leg of the journey, all that was left was a 30-mile ultramarathon to Plymouth. Daley was joined for his triumphant run home by comedian and marathon enthusiast Eddie Izzard, presumably in case they needed to fight off any evil giraffes or poke badgers with a spoon.
Upon entering Plymouth, Daley was greeted by his mother Debbie, and the two embraced before he continued to the finish line. It was the sweetest possible ending to a challenge accepted and completed.
Although utterly exhausted, Daley was justifiably proud of his accomplishment.
“These last three days, I have put my body through things that I never thought I would be able to do,” he said, via the BBC. “Raising money for Comic Relief is super important because it’s going to help so many people across the country.”
While Daley won’t receive a gold medal for completing the Hell of a Homecoming, hopefully he’ll still enjoy a well-deserved reward: lots and lots of rest.