Documentary looking back on the eight day swim that comedian David Walliams undertook for Sport Relief 2012. Providing the inside story and exclusive behind the scenes access.
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The River Thames. Britain's most iconic river.
But it was never meant to be a 140-mile-long swimming pool.
Until comedian David Walliams decided to swim it for Sport Relief.
'I chose the Thames cos I thought it would be an amazing challenge.'
I thought it would capture people's imaginations.
Cos most people in the UK know the Thames, have seen it.
And I know people like to see people off the TV suffer!
And suffer he did.
This is the inside story of what David went through.
Your body's not meant to do this much swimming...day after day.
Putting his body through agony...
Testing his determination in eight days of incredible highs
and terrible lows.
-How you feeling?
-Like I'm going to vomit.
That is one very tired, sick man.
David's challenge is as epic as it is daunting.
He is aiming to swim a gruelling 140 miles down the Thames
from rural Gloucestershire to Central London.
David's eight-day challenge starts in rural Lechlade,
in the heart of the Cotswolds, near to the source of the Thames.
"I'm a Lech-lady!" Very good! Thank you very much!
-Wow! Another cake! That's beautiful!
To be honest, I'd be demoralised if no-one had come to see me.
Come on, who's taking the picture?
This is ultimately all about trying to raise money,
and awareness. If no-one cared that I was going to get in and swim,
the whole thing, for me, would be pointless.
David's supermodel wife Lara
and mum Kathleen are in Lechlade to see David start his big swim.
As the crow flies,
it's only 57 miles to Central London,
but the way the Thames meanders means, to get there,
David must swim 140 miles.
To finish, David will have to overcome many hurdles.
The Thames is full of debris,
but the immediate danger
is the unseasonably cold temperature of the water.
We know what water temperature is, it's 15 degrees centigrade.
That's two degrees lower than the Channel. It's incredibly cold.
He's going to have to survive that for 140 miles.
The cold was always going to be a problem.
David's choice to swim without a wetsuit
has turned out to be the wrong decision.
For the first hour or so, was just how cold it was,
-and it was awful because it really puts you off.
-It eats you.
I couldn't think of anything else other than how cold it was.
I could see you were blue on your back.
That's cos I'm part Smurf!
# Just keep on, keep on swimming
# Just keep on, keep and swimming
# Just keep on, keep on swimming
# And don't look back any more. #
-I'm a rock star.
-Aren't you cold?
I am quite cold, but sometimes I'll tell you a secret -
I wee in my wetsuit.
CHEERING Don't tell anyone!
But sometimes I wee in it, and that warms me up.
Best not to do it in your clothes now,
cos it doesn't have the same effect!
-I'm going to get back in.
-Thanks a lot.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
The public are turning up in their droves to support David
and give money to Sport Relief by texting a donation or giving cash.
Three months before the swim, David went to Kisumu in Kenya,
to see where some of the money will go.
Of the 160,000 people who live in this town,
20,000 are children sleeping rough.
One little orphaned boy called Philip
made a particularly big impression on David.
-You've brought me here - this is where you sleep?
-This one is ours.
-So you all sleep together to keep warm?
This is in the middle of two really, really busy, noisy roads.
Is it safe here to sleep?
Yeah, here is safe to sleep because there is security there.
There's security there for the mall, so that's why you chose this place?
Yeah, because of some comes to disturb us, someone goes to tell him.
I couldn't imagine in a million years,
anyone thinking that this is OK that these kids sleep like this.
'When you're told that there are 20,000 kids on the streets in Kisumu,
'it's hard to process that.
'But when you meet them as individuals, it's much more affecting.
'And that's one of the things that spurs you on.'
David is two hours behind schedule.
The freezing conditions have slowed him down,
and the safety team are worried about the risks of him swimming in the dark.
Trainer Greg goes in to pick up the pace.
Greg's supporting and encouraging him.
He's in a lot of pain right now.
And he's trying to keep the pace,
to keep him going at a pace which will get us through before darkness.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
It's so unbelievably gruelling.
Not just swimming that distance, but also being that cold.
I really don't like failing, and on the first day,
being 2.5 miles behind was a real drag, and suddenly I was thinking,
"We're not going to do this in eight days, it will be nine or ten days."
Back in the Thames, day two is proving
to be exhausting for David.
ALL: David, David, David!
When I heard that he was swimming, he inspired me
and I feel happy that he's doing stuff for children who don't have much.
He's got a lot of guts to swim all that way.
-He's got strength.
-He does deserve a break though.
He's running out of time to get to the final stop at Abingdon.
-Well done, David, keep going!
I'd been swimming for probably ten hours, I was really cold,
and I suppose it's when you've been giving everything you've got,
but it's just not been enough.
Day three, and on top of exhaustion and muscle pain,
David has been struck down by sickness.
I just don't think I can eat any more. I just feel so sick.
Get some fluid down then for me.
And take that vitamin, too, get that down you.
And it is so hot in here,
it might be worth going outside for a little wander.
The medical team think David has swallowed bacteria
washed into the river after yesterday's torrential rain.
When you're feeling really sick, what you should be doing
is just lying in bed, with your mum bringing you Lucozade and Rich Tea biscuits.
At no point does your mum say what you should really do is go swimming in a river.
-How are you feeling?
-Just like I'm going to vomit.
That is one very tired, sick man.
And we're squeezing everything we can out of him at the moment.
-Are you worried about him, Greg?
-Yeah, seriously worried,
because he's not a guy that gives up.
And he's not feeling good.
'But I just thought, if I CAN put one arm in front of another,
'then I can get nearer to the finish line.
'And as long as I could still do that,
'I was still achieving something.'
-Come on, David! Well done, David!
My stomach feels totally churned up.
David is given an anti-sickness tablet
to try and settle his stomach.
-Just leave it there.
Anything running through your mind at all?
-I can't hear you.
-I can't hear you.
So I can say whatever I like now?
The anti-vomiting tablet starts to kick in.
-David! David! David! David! David!
I thought I'd have to at least take this day out to get better,
but Greg was determined that we could push on.
But I don't think I could have done it without that pill.
I didn't feel good,
but at least I didn't feel like I was going to throw up.
David pushes on into the afternoon of day three.
Hello. Do you want to give me that baby?
-Oh, I'd love to.
-A beautiful baby.
-Well, nice to meet you.
I'll take that!
BOAT HORNS HONK
'It's been a day of two halves.'
There'll be plenty of people watching, saying, "Why didn't Greg
"stop him from getting in the water? Why did he make him get in the water?"
But it's because sometimes you've just got to push through it.
David's Thames tummy from yesterday
means he is four miles behind schedule.
Today, he has to swim flat-out
to Reading, 18 miles away.
-I knew these middle days would be the hardest.
It's nice there are still people out to support me. I'm just very stiff.
-Your body's not meant to do this much swimming in one day,
day after day.
David pushes on towards Reading, the half-way mark,
and the crowds seem to be getting bigger and bigger.
It's really taken off and captured people's imaginations.
But I'm really glad because it's been really hard work.
I must say, if I'd done all this and no-one cared,
I would have felt a bit stupid, so I'm glad.
But it's been bigger than I thought.
You know, people have wanted to come out and see me.
It feels like a real sort of British event.
People of Reading! CHEERING
This is David Walliams off the TV.
LAUGHTER AND CHEERING
Thank you so much for coming out to support me
and this fantastic cause, Sport Relief.
We were running out and we were thinking, "Are we going to see him?
And then, all of a sudden, you just hear this massive cheer
-"He's round the corner!"
-Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
It was quite remarkable.
I know he swam the Channel, which is a flipping good thing to have done.
Amazing. I must say, he keeps going all the time with Delhi belly
or whatever he's got, Thames trouble.
When you live in the home counties and not in the big city,
you're not normally part of things like this. It's great to be
more out in the sticks and be part of a challenge...
A little village like Shiplake, this is exciting.
We'll be talking about this for a long time.
I have to say, my kids thought that we were coming out
to support Robbie Williams, so...(SNORTS)
Slight disappointment on their part then.
-Oh, what's that?
David has fully recovered from his sickness, but is still in pain.
The rubbing from the wetsuit has stripped the skin
off the back of his neck.
Have you noticed, David? I'm not crying like a baby. Here, look.
Hard, mate. Ah, god!
Ooh! That really is hurting. Holy schmoly!
-Perfectly good reaction.
That really does hurt, doesn't it?
Yeah. I mean, it's worse than what we had,
the original pain. This new pain that you create.
At least the ever increasing crowds keep coming.
I got into the habit of thinking,
"Well, if there's people, I'll wave."
You know, because you'd occasionally get them at bridges and places.
And then it became like certain places,
it was just all people along the side and then I had to just...
I was thinking, "Right, who are you going to wave to?"
"You've got to swim. It can't all be waving."
So I think, "OK, someone with a sign."
They get a wave because they've put some work in
to that sign. OK, kids get a wave.
And then someone with a flag gets a wave
and I'm like, "Oh, no. That's still too many people."
I would swim for a bit and then wait and then wave.
And then Greg would tell me get a move on and stop waving!
How far is he?
I think you can hear from the cheers of the crowd on the other bank
that David Walliams is just round the bend of the Thames.
Marlow was incredible,
because I was swimming in to be live on TV,
so there were probably even more people there
because they heard about it through The One Show.
And there was synchronised swimmers, there was Angela Rippon.
And his wife, obviously the first person to greet him
and give him a big kiss.
-I know, sorry. My wife has to come first.
-Of course she has.
David, you must be so pleased to get your feet on dry land.
Oh, definitely. What an amazing turn out of people in Marlow.
'And then I was taken round in a boat to wave at people.
'Never in my life has waving in itself been enough.'
I've had to sort of do something,
'like say something funny or dress up.'
I'll have my own little Dave-mobile soon, for waving at people.
'It was incredible.'
I've never had that before
and it was really overwhelming.
The next stretch of David's challenge is from Marlow to Windsor.
London is almost in touching distance.
It's a 17 mile swim, so he will need lots of energy.
David's fans continue to flock to the banks,
but one in particular gets a bit too close for comfort.
I was swimming along and then this...
I heard this plop behind me and I thought,
"Ooh, has somebody got in the water?" And then I saw it was a dog.
I love dogs and I sort of doggy-paddled along with it.
That was sweet.
Then the dog tried to get out of the water and couldn't,
and the owner tried to pull it
by the sort of harness lead thing.
And then that broke,
so then I swam back and pushed the dog up onto the bank.
Yeah, David Walliams saved my dog.
-No, I didn't expect that!
# Well, I won't back down
# No, I won't back down
# You can stand me up at the gates of hell
# But I won't back down. #
Can I ask you some questions?
Can I ask you some questions?
David! You rude man!
Could I ask you some questions? Oi!
-Would you please give me some attention.
-I just wanted to chat to you for a minute.
-Well, I can't. I'm swimming.
-Is there going to be any more Little Britain?
-Right, well carry on.
-OK, thank you.
I'm doing OK.
I mean, it's hard, I'm finding it tiring, but I'm going to keep going.
It's just knowing all these people have come out to support me.
It got bad. We left the lock
about seven, eight minutes ago.
I think about two minutes in, it got really scary.
But I'm just going to keep going. I'm not going to give up.
I've got this idiot in front of me who keeps getting in the way.
I mean, I could do without that.
It was fantastic. I actually cried.
Because to see all these people cheering him...
Still dark, but swim we must.
Today's goal is to get to Teddington lock,
marking the end of the non-tidal Thames.
It is 24 miles away.
David has never swam that far before in one day.
In the really dark periods, you know,
when Greg says dig deep after you've already swum 20 miles,
it's good to remember why you're doing it and what good it can do.
I've done loads of fun things as well,
you know for Comic Relief, sketches and things like that, but there's...
But the effect of doing something hard just seems greater to me.
It seems to resonate more with people.
-Hello, Mum. How are you?
-How are you?
-I'm all right, how are you?
'But it's amazing, I think, you know, the amount of people.'
-If people respond to you, you do better.
-Perform better, yeah.
You said that when you first did a school play
and you started to be a bit... Act up a bit that you thought, "This is great."
It's called showing off!
I don't think I've ever been quite so proud of him as what he's achieved this week.
I know his father would've been so proud.
CHEERING, APPLAUSE AND HONKING
David has already swum the equivalent of the Channel,
21 miles, but still has three to go.
But conditions are getting worse due to the after-affects
of a hurricane that has swept in from the Atlantic.
The point is now, he is...physically exhausted.
He's done, like, 124 miles by the time he finishes today.
Come on, David!
You needed to get to Teddington Lock before it got dark.
I swam about 20 miles and then I was told that the light was fading.
It was just about to get dark and could I speed up?!
Which, when you've swum 20 miles and someone says, "Can you speed up?"
It's like, "I'll TRY!"
You've got to really drive it now, cos we haven't got much light left. You've really got to push it.
-Whoo! Whoo! Come on, David!
'I just thought in my head, "Right, how fast would you swim'
"if a shark was following you?"
I thought, "It'd be quite fast!" So I just thought of that.
It's the last day.
After more than 70 hours of relentless swimming,
David has 16 miles to go.
I CAN believe it's the last day
because I've been swimming for seven days
for 125 miles and I am ready for it to end.
So you go, "It's only 15 miles to go."
15 miles is a long way to swim!
How many people have swum 15 miles in a day? So...I can believe it.
My arms can believe it, my neck can believe it, my back...
I mean, it's just constant, constant pain now.
Nobody should ever swim in this stretch of the Thames.
It's far too hazardous. A law is being passed to ban it.
David is only able to do this because of the safety boats
that are watching him.
Getting in after Teddington Lock, I was definitely more nervous
cos if you stand on a bridge in central London
and look at the river,
there's no way you want to get in there and swim.
It's travelling really fast, it's really wide.
The water's brown and so...
I really was quite scared even though I was at the end.
I thought, "This is a much more hostile environment to swim in."
Once the tide turns it'll be too strong to swim against,
and he will have to get out and wait. It's not over yet.
I'm just thinking I hope nothing goes wrong,
I hope no-one drops a brick on me from a bridge or...
You know, I drown or the tide changes
or Godzilla comes out of the Thames or something cos then it's all over!
Stay nice and tight on that right, mate, OK? So straight in...
'So I'm just praying that everything just goes totally smoothly.'
Eight painful and exhausting days.
Swimming through seven long counties.
One dog saved.
Over 68,000 calories burned.
And a sea of people turning up to see the fastest man ever
to swim 140 miles of the River Thames.
Sometimes people write in articles, why on earth is he doing it?
I know exactly why I'm doing it
because I've seen how the money raised through Comic Relief
and Sport Relief helps people around the world and the people I met
and especially Philip, the homeless boy in Kenya.
That's my motivation. There is no other motivation for this.
I mean, it's amazing.
He has raised, without a doubt, in excess of £1 million.
He is the most remarkable man. Tremendous.
# We've got open arms
# For broken hearts
# Like yours, my boy
# Come home again. #
-David, David, David, David, David!
-# Everyone's here
-# We've got open arms
# Everyone's here. #
So proud that he's achieved this,
-I don't know where he gets all the strength from.
Somewhere deep down inside he finds it.
# Everyone's here. #
And it's not too late to get involved in Sport Relief.
If you've been inspired by David's challenge, why not take part in the Sport Relief Mile.
And don't forget to watch this evening's programme, starting at 7pm on BBC1.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Documentary looking back on the eight day swim that comedian David Walliams undertook for Sport Relief 2012.
Providing the inside story and exclusive behind the scenes access, the documentary takes in all the highs and lows of the outstanding challenge that saw David pass through seven counties, make 111,352 strokes, burn 68,000 calories, battle a serious bacterial infection and even save a dog from drowning as well as enjoy a visit from fellow comedian Rob Brydon.