Lee Spencer, known as The Rowing Marine, shares his journey involving overcoming hardships and achieving remarkable feats. He discusses his dream of becoming a Royal Marine, his struggles with self-doubt, and his eventual success in joining the military.

Lee recounts a life-threatening accident and subsequent emotional and physical challenges, culminating in a record-breaking solo row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Despite setbacks, he emphasizes the importance of perseverance, self-truth, and the ability to overcome personal limitations. Lee concludes by sharing his future plans and offering advice on overcoming obstacles.


Okay, So what I'm going to be talking about really is a series of four journeys. The first journey was more of a metaphorical journey, becoming the person I always dreamed of being. The second journey is a journey to work, and the next two journeys were a little bit further.

Now, the first journey before I was a pirate, I always dreamed of being a Royal Marine. Now where that came from is I grew up in, I suppose, rather difficult circumstances. My dad was a violent alcoholic and he used to beat my mom and she would cry for me to help her. And as a tot, I'd come running in and freeze with fear, as you can imagine. I was petrified of my dad. He actually beat me up as well. And that left me with a feeling that I was a coward and I dreamed of being someone brave enough to protect their mother. That was my dream.

I wasn't interested in the cadets or being a soldier or a career in the military. I really dreamed of being a brave person. And for me, growing up, the epitome of a brave person was a royal marine. And when I was 13, if you all can remember back that far, when you take your options at school, we had a careers fair and I went up to the Royal Marines, there were all the armed forces there. I went up to the Royal Marine and said, I want to be one. I want to be I want to join up when I grow up. And he asked me, he said, are you captain of the football team. I said, No, I wasn't. He said, Are you in the football team? I said, No. He said, You're not what we're looking for. And at that point, any realistic chance or ambition of me being a Royal Marine died. But the dream stayed with me. And that will be a theme as I go through the four journeys is about dreaming.

And then I left school and got into a job I hated. But that dream kept coming back and I went to the careers office, not a million miles away from me. There used to be one in Holborn. And I spoke to. I got interviewed by Chief Petty Officer Smith, a name emblazoned on my memory. And at the end of the interview, he said those same words, You're not what we're looking for. Again, any realistic chance of being a Royal Marine as a vocation died.

But that dream kept nagging away, and it got to a point where I was working and I hated my job and I hated what I was doing, and I didn't know what I wanted to be because if I couldn't be a Royal Marine, I really didn't know. So I thought, right, let's go as far as you know, and that's you don't like this job. So I left it and then started working on building sites and behind bars and that dream kept nagging away. And at 21, I went to the careers office again and was interviewed.

I passed the interview, and I got sent away to Lympstone in Devon, where the Royal Marines do their training at the Commando Training Centre. And I was put on something called a potential Royal Marines course and it was three nights four days long, the end of which I scraped to pass and I know I scraped to pass because I was called back in by the Sargent Major only about a third actually passed and my name got called out and I went in and he told me I basically scraped every single one of the physical tests. And he gave me a load of things I needed to improve on. But I joined and I got that's my troop in training.

And I started training really with the ambition of just getting to Friday, still part of the troop. I looked around and the maths were only about a third of us were going to pass and I was firmly in the bottom third. This is physically in the troop. There was guys who ran for the county, a lad who ran for Scotland, and there was me, never mind the B-team for football in my school. And then training really changed for me. There was an exercise where we it was half survival exercise and half navigation exercise. So you'd go off and do a navigation route and then come back and sit round the fire and freeze and starve. Because a poacher I'm not, I'm from Dagenham. And there was one of the navigation exercises.

We came back and I thought, I can't do physically, I can't do the next one, I know I cant, the next one came in and we went off and done it and I came back and I was amazed genuinely amazed that I got round, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do the next one. And that happened twice. And the third time I was absolutely certain that this was it. This was the end of training for me because there's no way I'll be able to get round this one. I remember coming back to the fire and sitting round and thinking, Actually, I probably don't know what I'm capable of and that changed for me from that point onwards.

I got the confidence and finally, when we got to the end of training, I was one of only 11 out of our original troop of 38 who passed out, and I thought that would be it. That's my that's my ambition achieved. I'm now a boy on the wings commando. But it wasn't because the dream was to be a brave person. And then from then on, I always had that nagging doubt in the back of my mind whenever we done something, when on exercise went on the deployment, that when it really happens because soldiering really does come down to fighting, that I wouldn't be up to it because I was a coward. It was that matter of fact.

And I was, seems a really odd thing to say, but please bear with me. I was lucky enough to be a corporal or a section commander in Charlie Company, forty commando when we went into Iraq. So a section commanders in charge of 8 other, a section is 8 strong. So you're in charge of 7 other men. And I led my section around the corner into oncoming fire. And it was a matter of fact decision. We were pinned down on a corner and I couldn't order anyone round a corner into oncoming fire, I was there. I was the leader. It was my job and I just done it.

I didn't have to grab my bottle, my courage, I didnt have to gather it all up. It was really matter of fact and I didn't realise it then, on that corner in Iraq, my life changed because afterwards when that voice and it really was a voice, it was a proper conversation I'd have, which would be, well, you know, it’s ok thinking that, but you ain't going to be able to do it because you're a coward. I could say, Well, here's my evidence that I'm not, where’s yours?

And over time that voice got quieter and quieter and quieter, but it gave me the confidence to volunteer for something. I volunteered for special duties. Have you all heard of the SAS and the SBS. Yeah, well, they’re Special Forces. Special duties was a lot like that but for slightly fatter, older people, and I was overqualified in both. And I started a course there was approximately 126 who started my special duties course and I was one of only three that eventually got the qualification.

I then went off and done 3 tours of Afghanistan, where I worked in what we called the covert profile, essentially undercover, that's me in Afghanistan. That's me undercover in Liverpool. Flares Night Club if you've ever been. Very different undercover. But that was my day job. That's what I did for a living. And the person you can see on the far left of your of the screen there was someone who defined their self by what they could do physically. I was working undercover behind enemy lines in what was the most dangerous place on God's Earth. Now, you've got to understand the level of competency you have to achieve to get to that point where you can do that. That was me. I was someone who could look in the mirror and be proud of the person I saw staring back.

I thought then there was nothing life could throw at me that I wouldn't be the equal of. I know that's arrogance and wrong, but I want to get over a sense of how I finally felt about myself. And I was proud, genuinely proud of the person I saw staring back. Someone who defined themselves by physicality. But I was more proud, actually, of the journey it took to get to be that person finally, all of those hurdles I had to cross over all those times when people told me “You're not what we're looking for”.

The night I left to go on my potential Royal Marines course, my uncle and aunt came round and my uncle told me, “You ain't going to pass, they ain't gonna want you. And even if you do, you ain't going to be able to stick it.” And he only articulated what everybody else was thinking. So I was more proud of the journey that proved all of them wrong. And it was that person, that person who finally got to be someone they always dreamed of being, i.e. someone they could be proud of, went on the next journey I'd like to tell you about. And that was a journey to work.

And it was after a Christmas leave, so it was in January. I left my house in Devon to drive up the motorway to work the next morning on a monday morning, and I got a flat tyre and I took that picture and posted it on Facebook with the caption “Could this journey get any worse?” Well, the next picture is the very next picture on my camera roll, and not only could my journey get worse, it actually did. I came across a vehicle later on, on the M3 just before the M25. Vehicle had crashed into the central reservation and it was quite badly smashed up. I immediately pulled over. At the time I'd done 3 tours of Afghanistan, one of them Iraq, and I had a lot of medical training and experience. So I counted myself as a very competent first aider. I immediately pulled over, made sure everybody was out of the vehicle, which they were, and I checked them over on the hard shoulder and they looked okay. It was two guys and a very heavily pregnant woman. But then you start thinking about internal injuries, but there's nothing you can really do.

The ambulance had been called, the police had been notified. So I thought the only thing I could do now is walk along the hard shoulder and use the torch of my phone to warn oncoming traffic. So I explained to them that's what I was going to do. And I turned to go. And as I turned, I heard an enormous bang. And then I felt myself moving and hit and then I could hear screaming and lots of noise. And I probably got about 3 or 4 minutes worth of memory that could only have been 3 or 4 seconds in reality. And I was telling myself, in a minute this movement, I can feel myself moving, it's going to stop. And you've got to check your self over, you've got to check yourself over.

And I kind of landed kneeling down and I patted myself down and looked and, you know, when you're kneeling, your legs typically go behind you, so my leg that isn't there, I couldn't really see, but I looked down and my other leg was going out at that odd angle. And if you've ever looked at something and thought there’s something not quite right with what I'm seeing, it was exactly like that. And then as this was happening, I kind of rolled backwards, which was confusing because moments before, I was on the hard shoulder, I fell down a grass bank, crawled under the metal barrier back onto the hard shoulder, and that's when I saw me, my leg had gone.

My first thought was a profanity, as you can imagine, and I'll let you guess what the exact word that was. But immediately I knew that that wasn’t important, the important thing was I had to stop the bleeding. I knew, I spose sadly from experience that I had between 7 and 12 minutes before I bled out.

Now, what had happened is that car, that's the one that crashed first of all, this one crashed into it was so much force that it’s engine and gearbox came flying out. So that's what hit me a ton of metal. Obviously, as a Royal Marine if I seen it coming I would have tensed up and it would have bounced off, but it took me by surprise. Almost immediately a breakdown vehicle pulled up next to me and it's orange flashing lights were going, so I felt more secure on the hard shoulder. And a guy gets out and he says, “ Is there anything I can do, I said, ”I need a tourniquet now on my leg”. He looked down. He said “I can't go down there I'm going to be sick.” Then I tried to explain to him the difference between him being sick and me dying, but he couldn't quite grasp it.

Now I make a joke of it, but there's a real point to this because the reason he couldn't do it and I felt it, he kept saying the ambulance would be here in a minute. The ambulance would be in a minute. And it really felt like if I had laid back and just gone, the ambulance would be here in a minute. It would've been like I was surrounding myself in cotton wool and everything would be okay. And it was actually an effort, a real effort to drag myself out of that and go, I haven't got a minute. I haven't got time. And I could see that in him. He had gone. He was. The ambulance was coming. I could not get him to help me, but he was actually the only person that was there and wasn't really helping me because at the time I'm continuing to bleed out and I could feel myself going into shock.

Now, I suppose the downside to knowing enough medical knowledge to know when it's not going right and shock really is where your body packs the blood it's got left when you lose so much blood into your abdomen to keep your vital organs going. And I could feel that happening, I was starting to get pins and needles in your fingers. And then numbness is literally your body shutting down from the outside in. And I knew that was happening. And I knew there was a point where I knew I was on the absolute knife's edge between life and death.

Subsequently found out I lost over half my body’s blood. Approaching that is where people die. I'd gone beyond that. So when I say I felt like I was absolutely on a knife edge, I really was. I'm a family man and I still had my phone in my hand. And that's I briefly thought about making that phone call. And the only way I can describe it and I promise you now, promise I'm not overdramatising that moment is I could feel the abyss there was a real tangible thing. It is there. It's really hard thing to articulate. It was there. I know if I’d have made that phone call, it would have been an admission to I know the tarmac, the universe, the sky. That this was a fight I wasn't going to win. And I know if I had to make that call, it would have been giving up. I wouldn't be here now.

It was at that point when my guardian angel turned up. Rather strange guys, it was a large Rastafarian gentleman from Hackney called Frank. Who knew, but Frank is my guardian angel, he said, “Is there anything I could do?” I said “Yeah, I need a tourniquet now.” Whipped off his belt, tried to wrap it round, but we couldn't get it tight enough. I thought briefly about sending Frank to my van to get my tyre wrench and use it as a windlass to put it underneath the belt and tighten it that way. But I knew by the time I sent him to my van, by the time he got back, I'd be unconscious. And if I was unconscious, I was dead.

Frank had his daughter with him, Zenelle adult daughter. And I had the idea so I got to Zenelle to stand on my groin and put all of her weight on me femoral artery. You’ve got an artery that goes down each leg, basically supplies each leg with all the blood it needs. And you got a pulse where it goes near the surface on your groin. And I got Zenelle to dig her heel right in my groin and that shut the artery down and stopped the bleeding. And we waited half an hour for the ambulance to come. So when I say Frank was my guardian angel, he absolutely is. If it weren't for Frank, I wouldn't be here now.

And when the ambulance came, they got a tourniquet on which stabilised me and they had to fly a blood substitute in because I'd lost so much blood, they couldn't move me and gave me a transfusion there on the side of the road and flew me to St George's Hospital in Tooting, again, not a million miles away from here. In fact when they done this, this is in 2014, they were refurbishing the heli pad in the hospital. I promise you this is true. I actually landed in the cemetery next to the hospital.

But I woke up the next day, a disabled person. I thought the person I was the night before had gone. I was no longer someone who could define themselves by physicality. I was now disabled.

Now I used to doing these talks, challenge an audience like yourselves to come up with a positive word in the English language that begins with DIS to some smart aleck shouted out DISCO a couple of talks ago. Apart from disco, there's not many, I thought what had happened to me was absolutely negative and the person I was that person I fought so long to finally be had gone. I was no longer that person. I'd have to redefine who I am, but within the parameters of disability.

I then threw myself into my rehab. I thought, “Right if I'm going to be a disabled person, then I want to be the best version of a disabled person I can be.” And these are my first steps after 3 months. My family life had changed. I started getting opportunities that I wouldn't have normally got. I got invited on Radio four with Bryan Adams, got invited out to Gibraltar to race Henry Cavill, Superman, up the rock of Gibraltar. He beat me. I reckon he flew. Got invited to meet the then prime minister at 10 Downing Street. Remember when we thought he was rubbish. Who knew they got worse?

Another thing I got invited to box, Glenn Catley, super middleweight champion of the world. Now, these were all things. In fact, when I boxed Glenn, he actually boxed me. I'm not a boxer, but I was 24 years of Royal Marines so I reckon I could throw a right hander, but if you've ever boxed a professional boxer, then it's like watching a magician do tricks in front of you. You’re like “How is this happening?” I mean, my first round, a threw a jab and his head just disappeared and then he hit me and I went “Where did that come from?” And he hit me twice on the chin in the first round. And I felt both my arms drop. I was like, “Ah no, no, please, no.” I could feel myself going backwards. Thought “Ah no I'm going to get knocked out in front of all these people.” So there was a massive audience. And as I fell backwards and sat down on the canvas and looked up, I looked up and Glenn’s like “Ah no, I've knocked out a disabled man.”

But these were opportunities that wouldn't have normally come up in my life the way it was going. I’d now gone down this direction. And one of those opportunities was an email asking for volunteers to put together the world's first all amputee crew to row in a rowing boat across the Atlantic. Having never done anything like that before, having never rowed a boat, having never been at sea that way before. In fact, the most nautical thing I'd ever done is go across the Torpoint Ferry in Plymouth drunk. I thought, Why not?

So I reply to the email, and then went through a selection process, the end of which I was named a member of Road to Recovery’s first all amputee crew to row an ocean. There was 4 of us and we only had 3 legs between us. And then in January sorry, December 2015. So less than two years after losing my leg, we set off from La Gomera, one of the smaller Canary Islands aiming for the Caribbean.

Now the first part of the row I actually found really difficult and there was a point where I had a bit of a panic attack and I got out and rowed, I thought I ain't going to be able to do this, how can I do this, I even thought about the arrogance of thinking, having never done anything like that before, the arrogance of thinking I could get in a rowing boat and row it across an ocean. But as soon as I sat down and pulled on the oars, that panic attack, the spell broke. So I realised I can do this, all I’ve got to do is get out of that door every 4 hours and do that for 2 hours, we were rowing 2 hours on, 2 hours off, 24 hours a day. And I know it's a cliché about breaking, you know, challenges up, but it is so, so true. And I used that. I use that now and always think about that. And I actually after that point, I got into it and started to enjoy it dare I say. And then this happened.

This is a look from space courtesy of NOAA of the earliest hurricane in the Atlantic in 78 years. Hurricane Alex right now, one for the history books. Now, this is also the strongest January Atlantic hurricane in 61 years. We've not managed to outrun the storm since about 12:00 today apparantly. So well played Poseidon, well played.

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78 years, honestly later on tonight I'll see you, I’ll spot you, there will be people going like that as I come near them thinking he's the most unlucky person I know. But actually it was, we put out a para-anchor. I think you saw it there. Big parachute sits in the sea and that does two things. Firstly, most importantly, it hooks you see your facing into the worst of the weather, most stable position. And secondly, which is really helpful, it stops you getting blown back the way you’ve came so we took really a day for the storm to really hit us and then two more days to clear and then we pulled the para-anchor in and then started rowing and then 46 days after we set off from La Gomera in the Canaries, we rode into Antigua in the in the Caribbean and into the this world record books. It’s the world's first all amputee crew to row any ocean. Got to meet Prince Harry and the other one. But more importantly, I done that talk to some footballers, and one of them went, You mean the president of the FA? Yeah him.

But rowing changed my life as significantly as losing my leg. About two thirds of the way across and I can remember this moment. It was a real epiphany. It wasn't a slow kind of realisation. It was a moment where I thought “I'm still the same person” and I can't explain to you how important that moment was unless you've lost that sense of self, that thing that sits in the centre of all of us and tells you who you are. Unless you lose that, I can't explain how important that is or that was to me. But also that person was the person I spent all my life trying to be, someone that I could look in the mirror and be happy with, more than that and be proud of.

But getting that person back changed not only the way I thought about myself, but it made me realise how in society we tend to define disabled people by their disability. I thought I had to redefine who I was by my disability and I was wrong to do that. In no other walk of life does anyone say, “Do you know Steve? And you say ”Steve who?” they say “Steve who is never going to be an astronaut.” You know, no one's defined in terms of something they're not good at or not going to do. And I thought that's so unfair because everybody deserves the right to have something positive, define who they are.

And I got an idea. There was a record that I saw that was set in 2002, a Norwegian called Steinhoff. He rowed solo and unsupported, completely unsupported, from Portugal to South America in 96 days, 12 hours and 45 minutes. I thought that that record was gettable and if I as a disabled person, could beat an able bodied record in something as physically demanding as rowing across an entire ocean on your own, then that would send a massive statement that no one should be defined by disability. Also bear in mind please, that fun fact 70% of the power from rowing comes from your legs. So I had, you know, not only was I disabled, but it was actually something that matters when it comes to rowing.

So I called the project the Rowing Marine, hence my name and see what I done there? Then set about getting the sponsorship and the money to put a rowing boat in the water ready to go. And there's a saying in ocean rowing is very true that it's easier to row a rowing boat to the finish line than what it is to get it to the start line. And that's so true. But I worked really hard but always in the background, doing lots of media, it was always about the message. That's what it has to be about. Not defined by disability. Proving no one should be defined by disability.

I then got the boat in the water ready to go, I was going to run from Gibraltar out through the straits of Gibraltar into the Atlantic, all the way across the Cayenne in French Guiana and everything was going well. Set the date as the 18th of January 2018, and then 3 days before I got a phone call from my sister, my mum had been taken ill and then she was in hospital and my sister rang me on the 15th to say that the doctor had come round and said there was nothing that I could do for her , except make her as comfortable as they could till the end. She’d had a really bad turn in the night. I obviously dropped everything, flew back to the UK that afternoon, but whilst I was in the air, unfortunately Mum died.

You deal we have a bereavement of that nature as it's life and you then carry on. And for me, carrying on meant doing talks like this, I said I’d done one for football teams. I actually done a talk for the England football team in their last pre World Cup training camp, so I'm the reason we got to the semi-final and actually they started doing what I told them to do and that's how they got to the final.

And I also I spent a lot of time rowing my boat out in Gibraltar. Getting it ready and a lot of training. I set a new date of December 2018, went out to Gibraltar in November. Ready. And another fun fact, the Atlantic is slightly higher than the Mediterranean, so I'd be rowing uphill through the straits of Gibraltar so I needed a specific weather system called a Levante to help me get through the straits and out into the Atlantic and it just didn't come. It normally flips every three or four days in Gibraltar, and for the whole month of December, nothing. I sat and looked out at sea.

I had to postpone the row again and then come back in January 2019. And I got a phone call from my weather router. Now your weather router is someone who sits looking at all the charts and tells you basically what way to go. And mine said, there's nothing you could see that would allow me to row through the straits and out into the Atlantic for weeks. But if I could get myself to Portugal the next day, the day after, there was a perfect weather window. So I then had a symbolic goodbye in Gibraltar, I’d raised a lot of money there and I had lots of friends so I thought I owed it to them. I rowed out of Gibraltar literally round the corner into Spain, pulled the boat out of the water in Spain, put it on the trailer, drove it all the way to Portugal. That night, put it back in the water in Portugal. And then on the 9th of January 2019, I set off from Portimão.

Here in Portugal, Portimão, getting ready. Got the boat in the water now. Final few minutes before I set off. Looking forward now actually to getting it started. Obviously, worried. It's going to be a lot of hard work. I know the first couple of days can be particularly hard. I just want to get on now. Say good bye to my family and get on and start rowing. And hopefully, get across the ocean.

And that's as far as it got in five days when everything went wrong, everything went wrong, all my navigation system crashed. I spent a fruitless 12 hours on the satellite phone with an engineer trying to fix it, and he gave me the devastating news then that I'd have to row into the Canaries on me way through to get repairs. Got confirmation from the Ocean Rowing Society. They're the custodian of all world records. That the record would still stand, but the clock would still be ticking.

I'm up against it. I’m rowing in something where typically 70% of the energy is generated from your legs. With one leg I'm trying to beat an able-bodied record. Now I'm going to be up against it, I'm going to be in the Canaries and the clock is still going to be ticking. I navigated down there with a handheld GPS, a chart and a compass at the end of my boat, actually there’s some cartographers in the audience, isnt there? I've been told. For the rest of you, a chart is a map of the sea, so it's just a big blue square bit of paper that makes no sense to anyone normal.

But I managed to get down and then two days before I got into the Canaries, I got more bad news. This guy, Ralph Tuijn, a really experienced ocean rower. Then he had about eight or nine ocean rows under his belt. Now he's probably got about 15. He set out on exactly the same record attempt. So not only was I up against it, doubly up against it having to call in to get repairs. I was now in a race. Took me two days to find and fix the repairs in the Canaries and then another three days to get a decent weather window that would allow me to get clear and safely away from land.

So I lost five days, so essentially Ralph had a five day head start on me. And that played on my mind every rowing session. I was rowing two hours on, one hour off during the day and then two on, two off through the night. And every two hour rowing session, I kept imagining a weather system coming in like Hurricane Alex and pushing me that way and pushing Ralph that way. But for the want of effort, I'd end up on this side getting pushed back and that drove me. And every rowing session, every two hours I put my heart into it.

Actually Ralph called into the Canaries on the way through and he had to get repairs as well. Basically his batteries run out, didn't have enough sunlight to recharge his batteries on the way down. Literally old batteries out, no batteries in and crack on. But he didn't come out. I like to think that he saw the pace I was setting and thought he couldn't live with it, but he didn't come out. So I carried on. But I kept that pace and that had consequences, which I'll come on to in a minute.

Now the middle of the Atlantic is a lonely place. There were times when the most the closest human to me was in the international space station, a couple of hundred miles up there. And there may well have been times where I could have been the most isolated human on the planet, which is bizarre when you think about it. And that is the first boat or first human thing I saw for four weeks on the other side of the Atlantic there.

Now that had consequences of its own because of the one thing that really, really sticks with me. There was a five day period where I got smashed with massive, big waves and the fear was absolutely horrific. Now, I've been to war four times. I've been in lots of battles, I’ve fought for my life. But fear when you’re part of a team and fear when you're on your own are so completely different to not be anything like each other. Honestly. And I mention this only if there's nothing you take away from this talk except this. Please remember this.

If you don't have to face a fear or a problem on your own and I'll put it to you, unless you in a rowing boat in the middle of the Atlantic, you're not on your own. Then why would you, so if you remember nothing else from this, please take that away.

The wave subsided, and I carried on. And then the last two weeks really I want to talk about now because it really dominates the whole row for me. The last two weeks were overshadowed, dominated by three factors. The first of those factors was a current that runs up the coast of South America. Oops I didnt realise I was standing that close. So going up the coast of South America from south to north is a current called the Southern Equatorial Current, and it runs about four and a half knots in places. Now we knew about this and planned around that so that you can see the straight line at the top there, the orange one there, that's my trace, so where it comes down, we drop to 100 miles south to use that current to come up into the finish line. Now, obviously, that 100 miles was based on how quickly I was going that way and how fast the current was going that way. So bear that in mind.

So that's the first factor was the current. The second one is underneath the boat, you have to get out and scrub every ten days to two weeks to get rid of the barnacles. So it really slows the boat down. I said about the big waves in the middle. Well, I’d had big-ish waves the whole way across, which made it impossible to get out that was two weeks out of the Canaries. From then on, that was the last time I managed to get out. And you can see the size of the barnacles underneath the boat there. And they slowed it down by about half a knot. Now, good rowing speed would be about two and a half to about three and a half knots, depending on the conditions. So a half a knot was significant.

So the first factor is that current. Second factor was the boat was slowing down. And the third and probably the most significant of those three factors was I hit the wall exactly like a marathon runner will hit the wall, but typically he’s only got three or four miles to go. I hit the wall with two weeks to go and the mental gymnastics I had to go through to get out and row, I was utterly exhausted. And you lie to yourself, you say things like, “Well, if I rest and don't do this two hour rowing session, I'm going to be so much stronger and then I'll make that time up.” But you know, it's a lie. You know it's a lie. And once that two hour rowing session is gone. It’s gone forever. I'm never getting it back.

The problem I had was north of Cayenne where I was coming in. There was another river estuary I could get in, that was about 20 miles north. Beyond that, it was just mangrove swamps for about 100 miles. So if I didn't make my finish point, if I was pushed too far north, I couldn't land. It was just mangroves. There's no beaches or anything. So it's literally ring up a boat and say, come and get me. And that's the whole thing done. So that was really crucial. I had to keep rowing and I had keep going and to get out and row was so hard mentally that shortly after becoming mentally, sorry physically exhausted, I became mentally exhausted. And then while on the back of mental exhaustion, came emotional exhaustion. And those two weeks are by a country mile, the hardest bleakest horribleist two weeks of my life, it was horrific. Really horrific.

If you keep going, everything is transient. Everything in life is transient. And if you keep going, if you don't allow those lies to seep in, if you keep doing what you know is right, keep going. Rowing session after rowing session, plodding away, breaking things up like I did in the first row. That moment, the moment you dreamed of, will come.

It's land, never been so happy to see anything like that. Lets get on and row!

And that was the island that I was looking at, that thing there, and this is where I finish. So when I crossed over from the Atlantic Ocean into the Muhuri River, I crossed into continental South America and this is me crossing the line.

Hip, hip, hip, hip, hooray! Hello Lee, hello sir how are you? Very well! Nice to see you. Nice to see you, that was a surprise. Nice beard, you look great. And congratulations. I mean, you look a little bit like Robinson Crusoe right now, but you've done it again. You've smashed another world record. Honestly, I have so much respect for you mate, so thank you for being who you are. Thank you for that sir, thank you so much for your comments. And if you haven’t had a beer yet, go to enjoy a beer. Enjoy every second of it. And I can't wait to hear what the next adventure is. Good luck, have fun, send my love to your family. And thank you for just being such a massive legend. Thank you so much sir. Always a pleasure to see you and speak to you, Thank you sir. Yeah, bye. Bye now.

Prince Harry called me mate and said I was a massive legend, I'll take that.

I set out to beat an able-bodied record of 96 days, 12 hours and 45 minutes. I done it in 60 days, 16 hours and 6 minutes, so I beat the able-bodied record by 36 days, which was amazing because I set out to prove no one should be defined by disability. And the day I rowed in it made the main news in 22 different countries as well as the main news here in the UK in the morning, lunchtime, early evening and evening news, and then a lot of print and online media.

Afterwards I set out to break a world record, I think Guinness were doing a buy one get one free on world records so I got the first physically disabled person to row solo, I also got the able-bodied record, but I got a bonus one of the longest ocean row by physically disabled persons. So I've got four Guinness World Records but anyone, anyone who grew up with Roy Castle singing, dedication, anyone who got the Guinness Book of Records as a kid for Christmas can imagine how much this means to me. I was in 2020’s Guinness Book of Records. Admittedly, I was on the back page with the world's most expensive pigeon. But hey, I’m in it! I was also in this year's Guinness Book of Records as well so I think it must have been a slow year for records last year.

So there are the four journeys that I set out to tell you about. There is lots and lots of setbacks. And that was a bit of an abridged version because of the time constraints we had there. I hope you enjoyed that and thank you so much for listening to me.

All right. Time for a couple of questions. So who's going to go first?

You can just shout them out. And then I’ll repeat it.

We’ve got one at the back.

I'm actually going to ask one, what's your next adventure?

I'm rowing again, having said I'll never, ever, ever row again in my life. I got contacted by a Ukrainian boatbuilder who I kind of know. He asks me for. You know, he knows how to build boats, but he doesn't know how to row them or put a row together. And I went away and thought about it. And I'm now in a team, with two wounded British and two wounded Ukrainian soldiers. We're going to row across the Atlantic in December next year to try and draw, there’s always got to be a point. And for me it's to draw attention to the human cost of the Ukrainians fighting. So yeah, so I'm doing that and then last year I'll try to do a triathlon. I actually had the idea in the ICU just after I lost my leg. So I was on a lot of drugs, which probably explains it. Where I swim the channel, cycle lands into John O'Groats and do the three peaks as a triathlon, back to back. No one's ever done it before. And I didn't get across the channel last year, but I'm booked in again for 2025, so I'll give that another go. Then after that, well I dont know.

Wow, and I believe you stay in with for the next.

Yeah. So I said earlier I do talk quite personally about my upbringing and how things affected me. If anyone's got any personal questions, I'll answer them now up here I will answer as honestly and as openly as I can. But if there's any I’m here all night anyway, so just come and ask me a question.

Oh there’s one there.

Whats the one piece of advice you would give to someone who can't break through that wall?

What's the one piece of advice I'd give to someone who can't break through that wall? The problem with coming up here and standing up and telling you about what I've done, you get an idea of the kind of person I am from all the times I've failed. I didn’t make the football team at school, I played a centre forward for Sunday league team for four seasons and scored two goals. Half a goal a season. At my local village you got on over fifties walk in football team. First game I scored an hat trick. I'm the only person to get better at football having lost his right leg. True story! I'm not a natural athlete I am bang average physically. So when you say what advice would I give to someone who can't break through... You can! I learnt two lessons in training that stayed with me. Right. One is that I don't know what I'm capable of. No one here has got the first idea of what they're capable of. I've got four Guinness World Records and I'm 54, and I still don't know. I still haven't reached that point. If I can do it, I'm bang average physically, there's nothing special about me, nothing at all. If I can do it, there’s people. The law of averages say that at least half of you are better physically than me.

You've got to understand that you can keep going. So it's that I can't. I can't. I can't. That's fed into us. There's a fuller answer that involves how you’re brought up from the ages of 1-3. We ain't got to go into that now, but it's you can and it's really for me, the key is keeping hold of that dream. Don’t, I think when I was growing up, for me life was really difficult and I used going off into a dreamland, letting my mind escape as a kind of relief to the awfulness of what life was for me. And I've got good at daydreaming, I got good at imagining myself doing things. And that's different for visualisation is what people talk about. It's not visualisation, this is very different. It's allowing yourself to just daydream. You don't have to believe it. So if you can keep hold of a dream and understand that when when you fail, when you need to punch through that hard place and keep going. That you can.

And the other thing is, if you want to get good at press-ups, what do you do? Anyone, press-ups yeah. If you want to get good at running, run. If you want to get good at failing and picking yourself up and go again, it's to fail. It’s to allow yourself to fail. And that comes back to the other thing I said there was two things and that was telling the truth to yourself. I learnt that in training because I really assumed that I'd be one of the first ones to leave and as people started dropping out, they'd all say the same thing. It's not for me. Now the thing is, we've Royal Marines training is it takes effort to actually get to the start line. You can't just go in the careers office in the morning, just go, I want to join up. There you go son, on you go. It ain’t like that. You have to, so it was for them at some point. So I had to put the effort in. And Royal Marines training isn't the Royal Marines, it's what you have to get over to be one. So when he said It's not for me I knew that was a lie and he must have known that that was a lie. It astonished me. And I think growing up believing I was a coward also, I had a real, real hard time as I as a child and real hard so I, there was other things that happened and went on. Suffered from low self-esteem really all my life. And that always felt that that voice, that one that called me a coward would never allow me to walk away and say well I could have done it, because it would just been so loud in my head. Well, you couldn't. You gave up. You gave up. And it always astonished me how they could lie to themselves. So it's about being truthful. Because when you fall, you can say to yourself, I failed, I failed for this reason. And that's how you learn. If you go, “Well, it wasn't my fault” then you're not going to learn that lesson are you. So it's understanding that you don't know what you're capable of firstly. It’s having the ability to tell yourself the truth. And honestly, if you do, if you do, then you learn the lesson. You learn why I failed. And then that gives you the ability to pick yourself up and go again. It also allows you to forgive yourself as well.

And I’m rambling on, sorry. And at the last two weeks there was a point where I went to go to row and I couldn't move. So I thought right, I’ll count to ten. And I counted to ten. I still couldn't go. Counted to ten again. 40 minutes of counting to ten. That's how horrific it was. And I finally got out. There’s two ways that could have gone, could have really beaten myself up for wasting 40 minutes rowing because I was truthful. I knew how hard it was so I could forgive myself. So if you are truthful, if you do tell yourself the truth and don't let those lies, permeate and get into you, and believe them, then you really, and I mean this, you really can do anything, anything, anything. I didn't make the B team on our football team. I beat the able-bodied record by 36 days. So you really can do anything.

John Hartshorn: Well thank you Lee.

Lee Spencer: Thank you.

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