Veterans

Surviving Lockdown: How The 'Rowing Marine' Pushes Through Tough Times

The record-breaking veteran says: "Know that you're going through a tunnel but, like all tunnels, there is an end to it."

Former Royal Marine Lee Spencer - who broke the record for the fastest solo row across the Atlantic - has been speaking to Forces News about how to cope through tough times.

Dubbed the 'Rowing Marine', the single-leg amputee knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity and has words of comfort for anyone who is finding lockdown a struggle.

"There are times when you go through periods, extended periods sometimes, when things are really difficult for a number of different reasons," he said.

"The only way to get through it is to batten down the hatches and ride the storm out.

"This period that you're going through will be over. Know that you're going through a tunnel but, like all tunnels, there is an end to it." 

Mr Spencer served in the Royal Marines for 26 years, but after coming through three operational tours of Afghanistan unscathed, he had his right leg amputated below the knee after an incident in January 2014.

He was injured when he stopped to help a stranded motorist on the M3 and was hit by debris.

"I thought, 'if I'm going to be a disabled person then I'm going to be the best disabled person I can possibly be'."

Mr Spencer crossing the finish line of his 2019 Atlantic row in French Guiana (Picture: Lee Spencer).

Mr Spencer began to take up rowing challenges and it was while out on the water that he had an epiphany.

"I was rowing and it just suddenly occurred to me that I am still the same person," he said.

"Regaining that sense of self of who I am is probably the most significant thing to happen since losing my leg."

In 2019, Mr Spencer smashed the previous able-bodied record for rowing solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean from mainland Europe to mainland South America by an astonishing 36 days.

He rowed from Portugal to French Guiana in South America in 60 days, 16 hours and six minutes.

His efforts also saw him become the first physically disabled person to row solo and supported across the Atlantic, east to west.

Along the way, the veteran battled 50ft waves, sleep deprivation, two complete navigation system breakdowns and gastro-enteritis, losing three stone by the time he finished.

"The last two weeks were, by a country mile, the hardest, most difficult two weeks of my life. But you get through it."