Richard Payne sets sights on swimming and trekking the Yarra River for the Alfred Hospital

Richard Payne is setting out on a feat of endurance to fundraise for Alfred Health. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Callum Ludwig

One man is set to show his support for Alfred Health with a herculean effort to swim and trek the length of the Yarra River on 1 February 2025.

Richard Payne will be 70 years old when he takes on the challenge and has been training extensively for the feat of endurance.

Mr Payne said the year before Covid he decided he felt like he could do it, having walked a bit in his time and swam the English Channel back in 2010.

“It’s my 70th birthday resent to myself, six mates and a bottle of wine won’t cut it this year, but I’m also doing it for the cause of the Alfred Hospital who have looked after me brilliantly for the last ten years,” he said.

“I now have emphysema and have also been looked after by the melanoma department of the hospital and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Mr Payne will be either swimming or walking 242km along the Yarra River, starting out in Reefton and finishing on Williamstown Beach.

Mr Payne said he won’t let his illness define who he is.

“It will be a struggle because I don’t have high cardio anymore, like when I did the channel, I spent over a day doing it but I don’t have that type of cardio anyone, so I will be doing 15 minutes of activity, five minutes of rest,” he said.

“I was born deaf and have two hearing aids, had broken lungs from asthma all my life, dropped out of school at 14 and didn’t enter the university system, another big hard knock I had was when I was 18 and my first fiance was smacked up in a car accident, then my first wife died of cancer at 30, and I’ve had bowel cancer, melanoma and now emphysema,”

“But I kept telling myself that, I’m not that diseased or uneducated person, I’m not that deaf person or I’m not that asthmatic, I have all that and it does wear me out but I always find a way to bounce back again.”

Mr Payne has been training for over 15 hours a week including three months of walking back and forth in shallow waters and uneven terrain, three months of weekly yoga classes and six months of weight training, flexibility and agility with his personal trainer so far. He also has engaged a regional hunter to assist him in trekking parts of the terrain alongside the Yarra River in the Upper Yarra region.

Mr Payne said he’s split the event up into a few parts.

“The first route from Reefton into Warburton is a combination of swimming and walking because of the rapids, then I’ll be swimming about 50km of the way from Warburton to Dight’s Falls [in Abbottsford] though there are some rapids along the way, wearing one type of wetsuit, helmet and visor for that,” he said.

“From Dight’s Falls to Port Melbourne which is the dirty part of the Yarra, I’ll be wearing an entirely different wetsuit, very thick and sealed from top to toe and a full face mask with two air tubes at the top, so I don’t have to breathe any water on the freestyle and then I can swim across to Williamstown Beach.”

Mr Payne is hoping to get in touch with any local schools in the Upper Yarra who would like to interview or speak to him along the first leg of his journey through the local area as well as for any locals to share pictures or their knowledge of the Yarra River locally to help him better understand parts of the river he’s not yet familiar with.

Anyone interested in donating to Mr Payne’s cause can do so at: