Thanks For Your ‘Great North’ Support!

We’re back from the Lake District after another successful Great North Swim weekend.  The caravan’s been emptied, the roofbox has been removed from the car and nearly all of the washing has been done.  There’s just one more job to do – to say a massive ‘Thank you’ to all of you who gave your support.

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‘Game face’ on as Charlie gets back out of the water, following the acclimatisation phase, just before the start.

This year was the fifth year we’ve attended the ‘Great North Swim’, held around the north-east shores of Windermere.  With the exception of the 2017 event, we had some of the worst weather we’ve experienced there.  Lower temperatures, higher winds and heavier rain all made for a more challenging weekend – and that’s before anyone got in the lake!  With higher waves for the swimmers to contend with, the organisers took the decision to reduce the length of each event, to allow them to be set out over a more sheltered part of the course.

As Charlie’s only fourteen, even though he began the weekend a veteran of two previous GNS events and countless training swims over the distance, he was still only able to enter the half-mile distance.  The organisers insist on a lower age limit of 16 for the mile swim so the same issue will occur next year.

Unlike the last two years, where he was ably escorted around the course by Warren and Aaron, this year they’d decided to swim at their own pace.  That made things slightly trickier for spectators and photographers because in a field of mostly front-crawlers, Aaron’s breaststroke always made it easier to spot the three of them.  As they were cheered into the water and began to swim away from the watching crowds, it was clear that they were swimming apart and both Charlie and Warren would be harder to spot.

The high winds had led to the course being reduced to 500 metres, approximately two-thirds of the scheduled distance.  With Charlie hoping for a sub-twenty-minute half-mile, maths suggested that we could expect him home in thirteen minutes.  Interpolating further, that would suggest, he’d reach the turn on the course at around six and a half minutes.

I trained my binoculars on the turn at around the six minute mark and looked for any of the three of them.  Separated, as they were, there would at least be three times the chance that I’d see one of them, I thought.  And yet after a whole minute had gone by, none of the swimmers I saw looked familiar.

Wondering what the problem was, I began to track my sights backwards along the ‘back straight’ and drew a similar blank.  The only other thing to do was pan along the ‘home straight’ to the finish line.  Surely they couldn’t be that far into the course with only seven minutes gone.  And then I saw the unmistakeable bobbing action of a breaststroker.

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Aaron’s give-away breaststroke action makes him easier to spot – but where was Charlie?  Spoiler alert: see the splash right at the bottom of the picture…?

It was definitely Aaron.  Surely, Charlie would only be a short distance from him – but again, logic seemed to be a stranger to the unfolding events.  I scanned the waters behind Aaron, to the left and then to the right.  We were coming up to eight minutes on the timer and neither Charlie nor Warren were anywhere to be seen.

And then I looked in the waters ahead of Aaron.  There had been a few training swims where he and Warren had said they’d struggled to keep up with Charlie but I’d expected that they were mostly saying it as motivation.  Surely, today, with all the adrenaline pumping, that wouldn’t still be the case – would it?

It was.  Far further ahead of Aaron than I’d dared imagine, I finally spotted his laconic crawling style.  Not only was he so far ahead, he was actually nearing the finish.  I trained the camera on him and began to click away, making up for lost time.

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Charlie approaches the ramp that leads from the water to the finish line

In no time at all, he reached the ramp that leads to the finish line, got to his feet and virtually sprinted to the line.  His official time was ten minutes eighteen seconds but his time in the water was nine minutes forty.  A combination of the shorter distance, the watching crowds and perhaps a little competitive spirit enabled more of a sprint but even so, it was an impressive time.

Minutes later, Aaron and then Warren crossed the line and all three of them gathered in the finishers’ zone for the obligatory photographs.  Once again, they’d all completed the course!

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The three amigos – in the order that they finished

As a result of their efforts, I’m delighted to confirm that Charlie and Warren have managed to beat their £500 sponsorship target for Amelia’s specialist support.  As I type, the appeal has reached £665, a third more than they’d hoped to raise.  Of course, don’t let that stop you adding to that figure, if you wish to.  Every pound raised is as important as every other.  Once again, thanks to all of you who made that happen!

To see how the sponsorship money helps – and to add to it – have a look at Warren & Charlie’s JustGiving page.

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