Growing Bolder Podcast Episode Three With Frank Rothwell

On this week’s episode of Growing Bolder, we meet larger-than-life Frank Rothwell. Our wonderful host, Linda Robson, sat down with Frank to find out about some of the amazing feats that he has managed to achieve in his seventies, including taking on the ‘world’s toughest row’ – the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, and braving the elements on The Island with Bear Grylls.

Aside from a few sunny days spent rowing in Peasholm Park in Scarborough, Frank had never really rowed before. But as someone who was more than comfortable at sea, having spent some years sailing, it was something that Frank felt certain he could tackle. So, at age 69, he began rowing in the sea. It wasn’t long after that he decided he wanted to take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

As a man in his seventies, how did Frank prepare himself for this “mega challenge”? Well, having previously climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and sailed around South America, he had a good idea of what lay ahead. He began training 18 months beforehand. The key was to make sure his body was strong and flexible, so that he could keep up with the constant “side to side, up and down, round and round” rocking of the ultra-light boat. Despite the challenge that lay before him, Frank’s confidence in his ability to complete the row never faltered; “never once when I was doing it or training, did I doubt that I could do it.” After 56 solo days at sea, Frank became the oldest person to complete the challenge unassisted. Not only that, but in doing so Frank managed to raise over £1 million for the Alzheimer’s Society.  

Of course, this wasn’t the first time that Frank had taken on the elements. After spotting an advertisement in a newspaper, sending off an email application, and taking a 1-minute ‘selfie’ video where he “took the mickey” out of the producers, Frank found himself as the first person to be offered a spot on Channel 4’s The Island with Bear Grylls – beating out 79,000 other applicants! On The Island, the participants have their survival skills tested. They are left completely alone, filming themselves, and with only the clothes they were wearing and some basic tools and training. Something that might have been a daunting experience for some, was a “priceless” opportunity to Frank.  

So, does Frank have any advice for people who want to try something new later in life? “We all have things we’d like to do…we all have our own little bucket list…but because it’s so expensive to do, we don’t achieve them…change that bucket list to a challenge list,” says Frank. With a challenge list, you can start off with simple things, like going for a regular walk and trying to “go a little bit faster every time”, or “join a society and do something specific for that society or club - like raising funds,” says Frank. The main thing is to get started challenging yourself with the small things and move up to the big stuff.   

To hear the full episode, find us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. You can also click here for more information about how to listen. Don’t forget to tune in to Growing Bolder next week for Episode 4, when Linda will be joined by Lynn Ruth Miller, who took up stand-up comedy in her seventies!