Swimming, cycling, paddling and running...Steve Prescott braced for next 48 hours

St Helens Star: Open water swimming has provided Prescott with his latest gruelling challenge. Open water swimming has provided Prescott with his latest gruelling challenge.

SEVEN weeks ago he could barely cover a few lengths in the pool, yet tomorrow (Friday) Steve Prescott will take a dip in the River Mersey and swim one mile upstream.

The former rugby league player’s catalogue of achievements are becoming almost too long to mention.

From climbing mountains, to running multiple marathons, rowing the English Channel and cycling thousands of miles, the list goes on and on.

Throw in the fact he has battled an incurable form of cancer for the past six years and his mental and physical toughness is hard to comprehend.

Steve, though, is a man who looks forward rather than back, on to the next challenge rather than reflecting on the last.

So, when drawing up plans for what has become an annual Race to Grand Final he wanted a new test and identified open water swimming as the answer.

On the eve of a relentless 48hour challenge (dubbed the quadrathon), he told the Star: “It is something I’ve not done before so I am a little nervous.

“Swimming a mile in Hull and then cycling through the night to Liverpool and swimming again the next day is a big test.

“Up until seven weeks ago the last swimming I had done was in school. Of course swimming in a pool is completely different to open water, with the breathing all knew to me.

“I think I’ve enjoyed it. At first I could only swim a few lengths, now I’m doing 100 lengths and for the outdoor swimming I’ve had to acclimatise to a wetsuit.”

Much of the training has been in the Albert Docks and at the Eccleston Delph Water Sports Centre in Chorley, where he has been joined by the likes of ex-rugby players Paul Sculthorpe and Steve Hampson, who will be team-mates taking on the The Engage Mutual Race to the Grand Final.

Prescott, 38, added: “In Liverpool we have had to be aware of the jellyfish while in Chorley there is some massive fish in there who swim up to you – expecting that you will feed them.

“There is also the temperature of the water – which seems to have really dropped in the last two or three weeks. It’s that cold you don’t want to put your face in the water.”

The race begins today, Thursday in Hull, although bad weather has led to an alteration in the course.

Torrential rain led the authorities to rule out the swim of Humber Estuary and the schedule has been amended to include a run over the Humber Bridge and a cycle to Welton Waters Adventure Centre.

There they will swim one mile in open water, the equivalent of the intended Humber crossing.

A cycle ride to Liverpool will follow overnight, before a swim up the River Mersey, an 18-mile run to the Runcorn Bridge and a kayak up the Bridgewater Canal to Old Trafford.

Among those joining Steve will be staff from The Christie which supports the specialist hospital where he continues to receive treatment for the rare abdominal cancer, Pseudomyxoma Peritonei , that he was diagnosed with in September 2006, the day after the birth of his youngest son Koby.

“When I look back at all what I have done it’s hard to take it. Six years ago to be told you will not see your kids grow up and that you have months to live...well it’s just amazing” he said.

“I have not looked back on what I have achieved in the last six years and when people ask you: ‘is this your hardest challenge?’ it’s hard to say because the pain you went through on the other occasions is put to the back of your mind.

“And that is why it is great that so many people – like the teaching colleagues featured in the Star last week – have signed up.”

Since setting up the Steve Prescott Foundation in 2007, the former Saints player – aided by a support network that includes the charity’s Martin Blondel - has raised more than £350,000 for The Christie and Try Assist, the Rugby League Benevolent fund, which helps sick and injured rugby league players.

He is hoping to take his overall fundraising total to more than £400,000.

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