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Great North SwimRun 2024 by Jane Taylor

The 8 th June dawned sunny and b…….., oh no, it was another cold, wet and windy

day with water temperatures variously described as 15 o by the event organisers and

11 o on the Windermere website but universally agreed to be less than balmy. We

were very glad to have got to the event site in time to do acclimatisation. Sallie

(Joseph) and I were both a little concerned about getting too cold.

The first swim was straight across Windermere to an orange buoy you could just

about discern on the far bank. The start was the usual chaos with the added hazard

of some pairs swimming tethered. We found that if we kept to the right of the field

we could swim without being bashed or ensnared. The swim was into the wind and

a far cry from the still, sunny, idyllic beginning of the previous year. On managing the

rather treacherous exit from the lake we were pleased to have completed the longest

swim of the day but were both frozen. Luckily we had over 5k running to the next

swim. Ha, I take a moment to see that I have really written “luckily” and “5k running”

in the same sentence. We passed the first feed station, picking up our foldable

water cups and an oat bar for Sallie and squishies for me.

At this point the weather picked up and we were able to appreciate the wonderful

location all around us. One of the tips to stay warm (in a last minute email from the

organisers), was to keep your swim cap on. After a couple more kilometres I could

stand mine no longer and took it off. This was a pity as they were the pingiest caps

ever and put up robust resistance to being worn. I had a battle on my hands before

every swim.

The second swim was lovely. It was across a small bay through still water and about

5 o warmer than the last swim. Of course, it was also the shortest swim of the day.

More oat bar for Sallie and energy chew for me from the second feed station and we

were into the longest run of the day. First we ran back along the lake to feed station

1 and 3 (more oat bars) where the short wave competitors joined us. Short wave

runners seemed to be a different species to the Middle and Endurance, pounding

along with heads down and none of the relaxed camaraderie of the people we had

encountered so far.

The route was wonderful, wooded and undulating; woodland trails or paths; across

fields; round a little tarn; and Windermere and the fells always there and beautiful.

The day had improved so much that we actually got hot and were pleased to make

the next swim. Although the water was icy again, we managed this swim much

better than last year without adding an extra 400m trying to find the exit. A shorter

run across some rough ground and more wood and we reached Brathay Castle

where we were thrilled to find bananas at the feed station. We ditched the soggy

and largely uneaten oat bars and fell on the bananas with delight.

Another short run and then the fun of jumping off a pier and swimming round to

Ambleside. This swim also went better than the previous year despite my goggles

steaming up. Then it was the final run along the lake and back into the water where

we joined the second half of the Great North Swim loop. This swim was a shocker.

It was like being at sea - rough, wavy and pushing us about plus the extra swimmers

– it was very hard to keep on course and within 10m of your partner. But there was

the finish and we climbed out together having had a wonderful day. Amazingly, we

were 12 minutes faster than last year!

Note in the interests of honesty: those parts I described as running were actually

Sallie being incredibly patient while I emulated a running action and we walked up

most of the hills.

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