Cancer Survivor Becomes First Woman To Swim English Channel Four Times Non-Stop

by : Cameron Frew on : 17 Sep 2019 09:49
Sarah Thomas English Channel ThumbSarah Thomas English Channel ThumbKickstarter/Lewis Pugh/Twitter

An American cancer survivor has become the first person to swim the English Channel four times in a row.


Sarah Thomas, 37, dived into the brisk water on Sunday (September 15). After just 54 short hours, she conquered the Channel.

The open water ultra marathon swimmer completed treatment for breast cancer a year ago, ‘using the swimming as her means of coping with the treatment’ – she dedicated her mammoth feat to ‘all the survivors out there’.

Lewis Pugh, the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world, called Thomas’s achievement ‘extraordinary’, adding: ‘Just when we think we’ve reached the limit of human endurance, someone shatters the records.’


Superhuman doesn’t even begin to cover it. After battling strong tides on the last leg, she finished her prolonged dip at around 6.30 on Tuesday morning (September 17).

As reported by BBC News, Thomas said after she came ashore:

I just can’t believe we did it… I’m pretty tired right now.

Thomas said the hardest part of the swim wasn’t the massive length: it was the salt water, which made her mouth and throat really sore.

Thankfully, she said her ‘crew was really great about helping me out and keeping me strong.’

Thomas added:

Every length had something that was really hard about it. Coming back from France the last time was definitely hard. It took forever and the current pushed me all over.

I got stung in the face by a jellyfish and it wasn’t as cold as I thought it might be but it was still chilly.


While four swimmers have managed three lengths across the body of water between England and France, Thomas’s accomplishment is historic: no-one had ever completed a fourth leg.

Sarah Thomas English Channel KickstarterSarah Thomas English Channel KickstarterKickstarter

From the outset, the swim was due to be about 80 miles. But, the water is a cruel mistress – due to its unpredictable nature, she racked up around 130 miles.

Her mother, Becky Baxter, told BBC Radio 4 that her daughter was ‘a freak of nature’, but had to battle issues with stomach ache during the marathon.

As heard on BBC Radio 4, Baxter said:

I’ve been on a lot of her trips. This was by far the scariest.

We were a little worried at the end of the first day as she was not able to hold anything down.

In order to keep hydrated and fuelled, Thomas relied on a protein recovery drink mixed with electrolytes and a little bit of caffeine to help fight tiredness.

Sarah Thomas English Channel Kickstarter 3Sarah Thomas English Channel Kickstarter 3Kickstarter

When she finished her English channel swim in Dover, she entered the history books, greeted with champagne and chocolates.

Official observer Kevin Murphy said:

It is a triumph, she has tested the limits of endurance.

It is amazing, absolutely inspirational. At the end we were very emotional.


This wasn’t Thomas’s first time in the Channel: she swam across it in 2012, and again in 2016.

Sarah Thomas English Channel Kickstarter 2Sarah Thomas English Channel Kickstarter 2Kickstarter

Despite the sickness, the salt water and the tides, Thomas said the four-in-a-row English channel swim was worth it.

Thomas explained:

I almost didn’t go back when I got back to England.

I thought I should just finish and quit, but my team said, ‘Guess what? You can do better. You can keep going.’

Thomas’s achievement is set to be the subject of a documentary, The Other Side.

More than 200 backers pledged $17,795 to a Kickstarter to help the project – you can find out more information here.

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, Sport


BBC News and 1 other
  1. BBC News

    Sarah Thomas: Woman first to swim Channel four times non-stop

  2. Kickstarter

    The Other Side