A MAN raced around in sub-zero temperatures wearing swimming gear while taking part in a traditional Sauna Marathon.

David Edwards, 31, along with two friends took part in the 10th annual European Sauna Marathon in the town of Otepää, in Estonia.

Mr Edwards grew up on Canvey before moving to study in London for his degree and then a PhD in Glasgow, which he is due to complete this year.

As part of his course in Russian, Central and Eastern European studies, he has been living in Estonia for the past three years, and this year finally took the plunge to take part in the culturally significant event.

It sees 188 teams of four people from 16 countries around the world racing to 19 different saunas around the city, serving as an ice-cold orienteering challenge with a map being sent to each team’s phone.

Teams can collect bonus points for completing tasks such as jumping into ice holes.

Mr Edwards said: “I’ve lived in Estonia for three years and work for a software company in Estonia’s capital city Tallinn, and sauna is a big part of Estonian culture, so this year I teamed up with two brave American friends to take on the course.

“The competition has been growing in popularity and has a very good reputation as a fun though slightly unusual event, and this year I decided to take the plunge.

“Although standing in the snow in your swim shorts and jumping into frozen lakes seems like a good way to catch hypothermia, according to Estonians it actually has the opposite effect, helping to keep you healthy.

“After a few minutes in my flip-flops I couldn’t really feel the cold any more, although actually I couldn’t feel my toes either, but every dunk into the ice was like a shot of adrenaline, and warming up in the sauna afterwards helped keep the chill at bay.”

The saunas have different themes and many teams came in fancy dress, including cavemen and sombreros.

Mr Edwards and his two friends, Harold Olsen and Brian Timrock, managed to find 16 saunas, but were forced to retire due to the extreme weather in the evening, which saw them tackle -4°C snow blizzards.

He added: “We had an amazing time, especially all the interesting people we met and bizarre things we experienced, plus it was a really cool way to discover a very beautiful corner of Europe that maybe people don’t know so much about.

“We saw really beautiful South Estonian forests and came away with tons of crazy stories, from sauna trucks and Soviet saunas.

“If you’re looking for an adventurous and authentic way to spend a long weekend far out of the ordinary, I would definitely recommend it. After your first dip, you won’t regret it.”