Crossing an ocean in a rowboat, completely alone, at any age is a tremendous undertaking. But in November of this year, Irish adventurer Shirley Thompson hopes to do just that, and set a new record the oldest woman to row solo across the Atlantic at the same time. If successful, she’ll also be the first female from her home country to accomplish that feat as well, potentially putting her in the record books not once, but twice.
As is typical with Atlantic Ocean rowers, Thompson will set off from the Canary Islands and oracle west with the intention of reaching St. Barts in the Caribbean. The entire journey will cover approximately 3000 miles (4828 km) and is expected to take about three months to complete. En route, she expects to encounter strong storms, big waves, plenty of sea life, and a host of other unexpected challenges.
Obviously Thompson isn’t the first woman to attempt to row solo across the Atlantic, in fact it has been done a number of times. But, at age 60 she would be the oldest female to ever complete that crossing, setting the bar for others that follow. She’s no stranger to taking on extreme challenges either, as an endurance runner she has competed in events that have taken her to deserts, mountains, jungles, and even Antarctica. She even launched the Jungle Marathon back in 2004, turning it into one of the most challenging footraces on the planet.
Along the way she also learned that she had a penchant for enduring pain and suffering during an athletic event. This led to her looking for more challenges to test her strength and determination, eventually settling on attempting to row across the Atlantic. Because of this, the Jungle Marathon is on hold this year so she can concentrate on this adventure instead.
Although Shirley has competed in some of the toughest races on the planet –– including the legendary Marathon des Sables and the Yukon Arctic Ultra –– she wasn’t always a dedicated endurance athlete. In fact, before she turned 42 she was a busy flight attendant on private jets, whisking off to exotic destinations across the globe and living a very different kind of life.
She even smoked 60 cigarettes a day. But eventually she discovered running, fell in in love with it, changed her lifestyle, and turned into an endurance athlete. The rest is history.
Come November, she’ll try a completely different sport when she sets out on her Atlantic row. Until then, she’ll be busy training and preparing for the challenges that lie ahead, most of which will be unlike anything she’s done before. You can find out more about Shirley and her Atlantic crossing on her official website.
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