Guernsey rower breaks 40-49 lightweight world record for 24-hour solo row
Earlier this month, offshore rower Simon Johns from Guernsey broke the world record for a 24-hour solo indoor row in his age category
On 13-14 November, Simon Johns rowed 302.515km, breaking the world record for the men’s 40-49 lightweight by an astonishing 22km and two hours.
Proceeds raised for the challenge are being donated to Simon’s chosen charities; Bright Tights and the Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation (PPBF)both charities local to his home in Guernsey. So far, Simon has raised over £30,000.
We talked to Simon Johns about his world record achievement.
How does it feel to be a record breaker?!
Simon: I’m completely over the moon. While I always believed I could beat the previous record if everything went right on the day, I never imagined I would row more than 302km.
I’d also like to thank PraxisIFM for backing this event. Without the flexible working environment they provided, I would never have been able to prepare physically to the required level. Their assistance with promoting the event also meant that our fundraising efforts were equally as successful as the rowing.
“I was never on my own as people were turning up around the clock to cheer me on”
It’s quite an achievement…
Simon: Rowing 24 hours continuously at such a demanding pace is the toughest physical event I’ve ever done, both mentally and physically.
I’ve had my eye on this challenge for ten years after a previous charity row event of 100km back in 2011, but COVID restrictions encouraged me to take it on. I’ve been specifically training for this since the first lockdown in early 2020 and, in that time, I’ve rowed 7.5 million metres, further than London to Miami.
Can you tell us a bit more about your race plan?
Simon: Based on training data, I had set a race plan to achieve 290km rowed, with a managed drop off. I’ve done several endurance challenges in the past – albeit none as demanding as a 24-hour non-stop event. I broke everything down into 30-minute segments and had a detailed race plan, with hour-on-hour distance targets. This meant it was very easy to compartmentalise things rather than just looking at the 24 hours in total, which would have been very daunting.
Rowing in a public venue alongside a trusted support team, made up of friends and colleagues, also meant the atmosphere was amazing throughout. I was never on my own as people were turning up around the clock to cheer me on. I even had volunteers rowing on another machine next to me just to keep me company.
PraxisIFM, who I work for, was the main corporate sponsor of Row24Solo and were a valuable source of morale throughout the training process and the challenge itself. The PraxisIFM CEO, Robert Fearis, turned up at 2am to row alongside me for an hour, which was a great boost in those early hours.
What was the motivation for undertaking the challenge?
Simon: It was an honour to endure such an extreme physical challenge for two amazing charities, Bright Tights and the Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation. I was passionate about supporting these charities because they have helped close friends of mine, who I row with, so the experience was personally very meaningful. Challenges like this are invaluable fundraising opportunities.
Have you done similar challenges before?
Simon: I’ve previously completed four ultra-distance indoor charity rowing events, including two 24-hour tandems. The latter attempt resulted in the current world and British record, which I hold in the 30-39 lwt category, alongside James Coquelin.
I have also rowed a million metres as part of a four-man team and a 100km solo. After a successful sub-7 hours 100km and the tandem world record, back in 2016, I was inspired to take on the 24-hour row on my own.
How did you get into indoor rowing and what do you like about it?
Simon: I used to play a lot of football and use the Concept2 as a way of keeping fit, when I wanted to cross train. After a football injury, I got involved in offshore rowing in the Channel Islands. From this point the Concept2 became a vital part of the preparation for the on-water racing.
“I increased my weekly distance volumes to anything between 160 and 210km per week”
How did you prepare for a 24-hour solo row?
Simon: It was certainly a challenge preparing for the event alongside my personal and work lives.
I compete competitively at offshore rowing in the Channel Islands (not rivers). Ordinarily, I’d be clocking up anywhere between 2.5 and 3.5 million metres of rowing each year, which is a great base for any endurance event.
I’ve had this specific challenge in mind for a while; During the second lockdown, I committed to increasing the volume of training to see how my body would react. And it went well; I was rowing, on average, over 120km per week for the two months in the second lockdown.
My training stats started hitting historical highs which, given I’m in my mid-forties, was a surprise. I decided that as long as my body felt good, following the completion of the offshore season, I would have two months specifically preparing for the 24-hour row challenge, and then I’d attempt it. This would give me plenty of recovery time before the 2022 pre-season training starts.
Between mid-September and mid-November, I increased my weekly distance volumes to anything between 160 and 210km per week. Finding additional training time is very hard while balancing work and social lives, so I did this by removing weights sessions, and replaced them with very light sessions with the weights in front of the TV in the evenings.
Because of time constraints, during this time, I adopted the “cumulative fatigue model”: I’d do as much as I could every day – often multi-training – during the week, and then started doing longer single rows on the weekends. Sundays would be a light recovery or total rest day.
What’s your next indoor rowing challenge?!
Simon: Currently, I have no set plans for future events, but I may look into an age group tandem 24-hour world record attempt with my rowing partner. And then, who knows… but I suppose once you’ve done 24 hours the natural next step is a million metres!
If you’d like to support Simon, you can still donate to his charities here.