Sue Mullarkey

Sue Mullarkey was inspired to whip out her wetsuit for a sponsored swim by her triathlete brother-in-law.

"When James asked last Christmas if he could stay with us in the Lake District so he could do the Great North Swim, it got me thinking that I should enter too," she said.

"As a mum, I have been shocked to learn that accidental death and injury is the biggest threat to children and yet just about everybody is unaware of this. Simple programmes can really help to educate parents on how to keep their kids safe and RoSPA does this. So I was keen to do my bit to help get them noticed."

Windermere hosts one of five Great Swims held up and down the country from London's Docklands to Loch Lomond. The participants range from elite open-water swimmers to novices like Sue, many of whom take on the challenge of swimming a mile to raise money for their favourite charity.

A couple of sessions a week at the local leisure centre and Sue was able to do 64 lengths. But swimming in a pool is much easier than doing it in open water. When Sue tried out her new wetsuit in chilly Derwentwater it made her so buoyant that she had to completely adjust her technique. A mile was beginning to seem like a long way.

The day of the swim was cool and breezy and, arriving at the lakeshore Sue was terrified to see how grey and choppy Windermere looked. But she wasn't going to let down all the people who were supporting her and RoSPA.

The swim's start was a melee of thrashing legs and arms, but Sue stayed near the back of the pack and managed to avoid being kicked or swum over. Choppiness was the main problem.

"It was impossible to get into a rhythm because every breath involved an unwelcome gulp of lake water," she recalls. "Progress was very slow. But after 57 exhausting minutes, I had done a final flourish of crawl past the finish and was back on dry land – wobbly-legged but elated."

"It was a great challenge and, what's more, I am already training for next year."

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