Final push in RNLI fundraiser’s epic press-up challenge that started in lockdown

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A super-fit fundraiser has been pushing himself to the limit after doing more than half a million press ups for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

RNLI/Tom Dale

James Cope with Chiswick RNLI crew after completing his 1,000 press-up challenge

Dad of two James Cope started his charity challenge with his first press-up on 23 March 2020 as the UK went into lockdown with a plan to add one to his total each day until he reached 1,000 per day.

Now, more than two-and-a-half years later – and four stone lighter – he has hit that total having raised more than £8,000 for the charity that saves lives at sea.

On Friday 16 December, he finished his challenge, completing 1,000 press-ups at Chiswick Lifeboat Station on the River Thames, in west London, joined by some of the lifeboat volunteers he is fundraising for.

Over the previous 1,000 day he has done more than 500,500 press-ups and has not missed a day since he started, despite catching Covid-19 three times and battling injuries including wrist injuries and a torn bicep.

James said: ‘I’ve been pushing through that pain barrier because I knew the end was in sight. When I set out, I didn’t expect to get anywhere near 100, let alone 1,000.

‘I started this challenge just shy of 18 stone and I’m now down to 14. It’s been a bit of a transformation, but still, I’m not ripped apart from my shoulders – I’d like to lose the beer belly, so that’s what we’re going to work on after the challenge is over.’

James completed his daily press-ups in one sitting in sets of 25 press-ups once a minute, with the full 1,000 taking him a little over 40 minutes.

RNLI Fundraising Director Jayne George said: ‘The ingenuity of our supporters never ceases to amaze me, and this is a truly astonishing feat. Fundraisers like James are the lifeblood of the RNLI – the money they raise powers our rescues on beaches and from lifeboat stations.

‘The commitment that James has shown through this challenge is so inspiring and I’d like to thank him for his commitment to our vision to save every one.’

The 42-year-old chartered accountant and keen sailor wanted to give something back to the charity after being rescued by RNLI volunteers in Salcombe while on a family holiday in Devon 14 years ago.

He and his father were out sailing in mid-October and were caught out by changing conditions. Finding themselves unable to make the return journey to Salcombe harbour and seemingly alone on the water, they tried to signal to a Coastguard hut for help but received no response.

James said: ‘We managed to beach the boat four miles from Salcombe, and when we got out onto the shore and turned around, we saw that the lifeboat had come to get us. We were very relieved and suitably embarrassed. The crew were fantastic.

‘As a family we’ve been going to Salcombe for the last 40 years and we’ve seen the volunteers head out in all conditions to save lives and we know how valuable they are to the community, so I wanted to give something back.

‘I know what I’m raising is just a drop in the ocean, but I just wanted to do what I can.’

James’ fundraising challenge can be supported via his JustGiving page.

RNLI/Tom Dale

James Cope and Chiswick RNLI crew during his press-up challenge

RNLI/Tom Dale

James Cope and Chiswick RNLI crew during his press-up challenge

James Cope

Before and after: James in December 2019, left, and December 2022, right

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.