Islington People: Swim coach escapes from Alcatraz

Matt Lambert talks about his efforts rasing money for Medecins Sans Frontieres

It is notorious as the place no one escapes from – and three men have been lost at sea trying.

But in May this year swimming coach Matt Lambert made it off Alcatraz Island in one piece.

The Islington born-and-bred 40-year-old conquered the 1.5 mile swim from “The Rock” to San Francisco.

It was the first feat in a double challenge to raise cash for the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres – or Doctors Without Borders – that will finish with a gruelling Iron Man triathalon next month.

He said: “It was such great fun! To be swimming away from Alcatraz, with the Golden Gate Bridge to my right and the San Francison skyline straight ahead – it was absolutely amazing. I get so excited just thinking about it.”

The 40-year-old grew up in Thornhill Square, Islington, and went to Thornhill Primary School, in Thornhill Road, and Highbury Grove School, in Highbury New Park, Highbury.

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He is a former electrician who switched to coaching 15 years ago. “Being an electrician was just a job,” he said, “but now I love my work. It’s really satisfying helping people to swim well.”

Matt now lives on the Golden Lane Estate, off Goswell Road, Barbican, and teaches at Cally Pool, in Caledonian Road, Islington, and the pool at Holloway School, in Hilldrop Road, Holloway.

The father-of-one has already surpassed his wildest fundraising dreams, with his total standing at around �950 – and he does not tackle the Iron Man for weeks.

But it could have all been very different - a few months ago Matt could barely walk, let alone contemplate cycling 112 miles, running a full marathon and swimming 2.4 miles in one day as he will on July 31.

He said: “I’ve got 2 bulging discs in my back, and I was told by doctors in March not to do any more endurance sports. I couldn’t run or cycle, or even walk properly for a while.

“It’s a lot better now, but I have to be very careful about silly stuff – if I’m bending over a sink to wash my face it could go. I’m so pleased to be on the verge of doing the Iron Man after that.”

- Matt Lambert takes on Iron Man UK in Bolton on July 31. To support him visit