42 miles in 25 hours

FORT MYERS, Florida. – Heather Roka divided the more difficult parts of her swim into 30 minute increments.

“You can do anything for another 30 minutes,” she said to herself.

When it got harder, she reduced it to 100 hits. Thirty shots. One meter. She even imagined each of her supporters swimming with her. Everything to keep a human-sounding feat impossible to achieve.

Last month, Roka, of Fort Myers, completed the Double Channel Crossing, a 21-mile swim between Dover, England, and northern France – and back. Roka swam the 42 miles nonstop in 25 hours and seven minutes, becoming the 38th person and 10th American to complete the unthinkable open water swimming challenge.

“I thought to myself that it would definitely be the hardest thing I have ever tried and would definitely push me to the limits and really risk failure,” said Roka.

Heather Roka completed a double Channel crossing from England to France and back on August 21, 2021. In 2017, she crossed one-way.  The swim is over 42 miles long.  This portrait was photographed at Vanderbilt Beach in Naples

Roka overcame the cold water, fatigue, physical pain and mental exhaustion to complete the strenuous swim.

“I mean I’m still recovering,” she said.

Swimming such a long distance requires intense focus and mental toughness, said Ginger Tompkins, Gulf Coast Swim Team Masters Coach and Roka’s training partner.

Roka refused to let doubts set in or distract her from her goal.

“His mental courage, from a human performance standpoint alone, is simply exceptional and extraordinary,” Tompkins said. “I just think she’s an inspiration.”

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