BY SARAH KIM BONNER
In the face of challenge, Rafael Megias is the type of person who jumps in…for a 125km swim in the ocean.
Megias, 25, has been an athlete his whole life, learning to swim at the age of four and always staying active in the sport as a hobby. In 2018, he realised his childhood dream to swim the Gibraltar Straight and from there he continued to swim long distances in open water between 8-10km, but his greatest challenge was yet to come.
When his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Megias began to dream up a new challenge to raise awareness and support for the Cris Cancer Foundation. Inspired by Ross Edgley's swim around Great Britain and a friend who cycled across Spain, Megias decided to swim the 125 kilometres around the island of Ibiza.
“I decided to do it on behalf of my mother, because she always supported me in my adventures. I wanted this challenge to be a tribute to all the love and support she had given me and I also wanted her to come with me to a challenge as big as this. Unfortunately, she passed away a few months before we left.”
Megias trained for two years to prepare. Living in Madrid made training for the open water especially difficult. “The preparation for the event,” Megias says, “was hard, more than anything because I do not live near the coast. Other than the few times that I went to a dam or to an open water race, all training was in the pool. I swam every day between 7 and 8 km, and in the days leading up to the event, there were even days when I swam 16k to 18k in the pool,” Megias says. Despite the difficult training, Megias says, “it was all worth it once I threw myself into the waters of Ibiza.”
Megias tackled the 125km swim across five days. Along with the fish, sting rays, two dolphins, and plenty of jellyfish, Megias swam around 20-30 kilometres per day. His partner, Belén Madueño Gomez, also swam with Megias every day for specific sections to help keep him motivated. Eating a small breakfast on the boat, Megias would take on nutrition throughout the swim that included energy bars and gels, and then have a two big bowls of pasta in the evening to ensure he had enough carbohydrates for the next day.
For the entire challenge, Megias and his support team did not step on land. Instead, Megias, his father, sister, and his partner stayed at sea. Sleeping on the boat was an adjustment for everyone, Megias says, as the movement of the boat made everyone dizzy and sleep difficult.
The ocean proved to be the biggest part of the challenge. The team expected much calmer water and, along with difficulty sleeping, on the fourth day, the waves and the current were so strong the team had to adjust their plans.
“As soon as I jumped into the water a strong wind began to blow and an hour later the waves and the current were against me too. It was eight hours of fighting without rest and the sea totally against me. After 20km when it was near dusk we had no choice but to stop and leave the remaining 10km for the next day, along with the 15km that we had planned.”
The next day I was a little worried about whether or not I was going to reach the end of the challenge that day and I threw myself into the water thinking about the 25km that I had ahead. Everything started very calm but after 3km the wind and the current started up again and the waves got much worse—it was the day with the worst waves of the whole challenge—even the boat that accompanied me rocked side to side non-stop. Despite all this, we managed to reach the end that day and complete the challenge in five days as planned.”
Finishing the challenge, Megias was grateful to his team who all supported and believed in him, just as his mother, Carmen, always did. Raising over €2000, Megias hopes the tribute to his mother will help others in the fight against pancreatic cancer.