A WRITER from Winchester has described the perilous moment he swam across the Solent - and what kept him motivated even when the current was against him.

Mark Ryan, 60, swam to the Isle of Wight and completed a marathon hike within less than 24 hours last week.

Mark decided to take on the ‘Hampshire double’ to raise money for the Stroke Association.

Mark swam from Hurst Point to Colwell Bay before hiking 31 miles from Salisbury to Winchester, with just one hours sleep in between.

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Keith Tasker, a stroke survivor from Winchester, was Mark’s inspiration throughout the challenge.

Hampshire Chronicle: Mark Ryan and Keith Tasker Mark Ryan and Keith Tasker

On Tuesday, July 19 Mark visited his partner's old friend for the first time since completing the challenge.

Keith played both football and rugby for Winchester and was a top bricklayer and passionate supporter of local music before a stroke in September 2021 caused a severe loss of mobility.

Keith, 65, said: "Mark's effort was truly outstanding, big love and gratitude to him for what he has done."

Initially, the plan was to start the double challenge on July 15 with a day of rest between the two challenges.

However, Mark was advised to bring the challenge forward a week to avoid being swept away by the current.

Nevertheless, Mark still described the swim as “scary and dramatic”.

He said: “I was stuck in the current in the middle going nowhere and that was frightening. I had to change direction slightly to go with that notorious current and head for further down the bay.

“That was when I thought of Keith and all the determination he needs just to reach the end of his garden.

“I thought of how most rehabilitation help for stroke survivors in Hampshire is cut off after just six weeks.

Hampshire Chronicle: Mark Ryan and Paul Smith Mark Ryan and Paul Smith

"It made me angry and determined enough to get through and reach the Isle of Wight."

So far Mark has raised nearly £1,500 but is hoping to reach £2,000 for the Stroke Association.

He said: “I want to highlight the plight of local stroke survivors who don't get the support they need despite the best efforts of many.

“I can put myself through a little bit of hell for a few days whereas people who’ve had a stroke are suffering every day.”

Mark completed the swim on July 8 starting at 6.15pm and finishing at 7pm.

He was only able to get one hour of sleep ahead of his marathon challenge the next morning.

Mark and his friend Paul Smith planned to hike 26 miles along the Clarendon Way from Salisbury to Winchester, setting off at 4.30am on July 9.

But being so tired, poor navigation meant the pair walked five more miles than planned with several detours.

Mark said: “We did go the wrong way and ended up going in circles several times at the beginning.”

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Eleven hours and 31 miles later the Winchester duo finished the challenge at Winchester Cathedral at 3.30pm.

The ‘Hampshire double’ took a total 21 hours and 15 minutes.

Mark said: “It didn’t feel comfortable at any stage but I’m feeling absolutely fine now.

“It was great fun and very painful all at the same time, but I never lost sight of why I was doing it.”

To donate go to justgiving.com/fundraising/Mark-Ryan27.

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