Adventurer Sarah Outen said a “heartfelt” thank you to all those who supported her after finishing her incredible round-the-world journey.
Oakham-born Sarah, 30, ended a four-and-a-half year adventure when she kayaked under Tower Bridge in London on Tuesday.
The former Stamford High School pupil broke down in tears as she passed under the landmark to cheers from hundreds of spectators, bringing to an end her London2London: Via The World challenge.
She set off on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe using manpower alone from the same point in 2011 and has pedalled, paddled and rowed more than 25,000 miles since then.
Pupils from her former school were joined by others from across the Mercury area to welcome Sarah home on Tuesday. She also had the pleasure of an escort from Rutland Canoe Club, where she first learned to kayak.
Speaking on Wednesday Sarah said: “It was really humbling and sums up the journey. It wasn’t just me out there. So many people helped make it happen. I recognised friendly faces and a lot of people I didn’t know between the camera lenses. It was really magical and very reassuring. And that’s just a fraction of the people that have helped make it happen.
“It was very special to see the pupils. Just seeing the kids excited and fired up and looking forward to hearing more about the journey.
“And the support and mentoring of the canoe club as a teenager was very important in my original inspiration for learning in my development as an adventurer.
“This time last month I was just stepping off my rowing boat having been alone for five months, so it was quite a contrast.”
Sarah’s journey started in April 2011 when she kayaked from London to France. From there she jumped on her bike and cycled a punishing 11,000 miles across Europe, Russia and Asia before kayaking to Japan. In 2012 she made her first attempt to row solo across the Pacific but this was cut short when she was hit by a tropical storm and had to be rescued. But she went back a year later and rowed solo from Japan to Alaska. Midway across the Pacific she also asked her girlfriend Lucy to marry her - and happily Lucy said yes.
She then kayaked one of the toughest routes in the world with kayaking partner, Justine Curgenven - the 1,500 miles through the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of Alaska - and the pair are believed to be the first people to do this. Sarah then cycled across North America through one of the toughest winters on record to Cape Cod.
She was then forced to cut short her Atlantic row in October when Hurricane Joaquin swept in. She was picked up by a nearby ship but unfortunately her boat, Happy Socks, was lost. Days later she announced that she would not restart the row.
But none of these deterred her from finishing the epic journey. Instead Sarah got back on her bike, Hercules, and cycled 228 miles from Falmouth to Oxford. She then kayaked from Oxford to London.
Sarah has been raising money over the course of her challenge for CoppaFeel!, The Jubilee Sailing Trust, MND Association and WaterAid. Her aim has also been to inspire children to get the most out of life. She has spoken to pupils around the world. Her second book, Dare to Do, is due out in Summer 2016 and will tell the story of her adventure.