Spectators and swimmers similarly soaked during day two of Lake District challenge

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11 June 2017 3:36PM

SWIMMERS and spectators alike were left soaked to the skin during the second day of the country’s largest annual open water event.

Wetsuits would have come in handy for everyone watching the 10th annual Great North Swim on Saturday as the Lake District was treated to endless, heavy lashings of rain. Day two became the final leg of the planned three-day extravaganza, after a windy weather forecast forced organisers to re-arrange Sunday’s planned swims for safety reasons.

In spite of the sight, and the chill, of some seriously choppy waters, swimmers were in high spirits throughout the day. Keri-anne Payne, a two-time open water world champion and Olympic silver medallist, was there to start off each wave and show them all her support.

The day’s events kicked off at 8.30am, starting with the incredible SwimRun Endurance athletes. Competitors in the new SwimRun events took place in a mix of multi-terrain runs and short swims totalling one of three different distances - just over 10km, 21.3km, and 36.5km.

Hannah Cooper and Nancy Daykin, both 19, travelled from Newcastle University to tackle the 21.3km event.

Stood shivering in thermal blankets, they said: “It was very cold and a bit wavy, but we’d definitely do it again. It was really good.”

Other events throughout the day included the Great North Swim 250, which attracted hardy children of young ages. Again, the range of places the youngsters had travelled from to take part demonstrated the ever-increasing fame and popularity of the 10-year-old Lake District event.

Jack Meeley, who came from near Birmingham, joked that his mum and granddad “made him do it”, as he warmed his hands on a pot of instant noodles. But asked if he would do it again, the 12-year-old nodded emphatically and said he would tackle the half-mile route next year.

As the youngsters made their way out of the water, wave after wave of participants doing the event’s traditional one-mile and half-mile courses began splashing their way into the shores of Windermere. Just as it had been for many of the children, it was a number of participants’ first times, demonstrating the reputation the swim has for being a safe and secure place to try out a new challenge.

Chris Corkhill, 60, and Josie Corkhill, 31, came from Leeds to give it a go.

Chris Corkhill said: “We love the Lake District whatever the weather, it’s always got something to offer.

“It was cold and it was a bit wavy. After the first half mile, when you had to turn back, the going did get tough. But then the tough got going!”

For others, the event took place far closer to their doorsteps. Sue Coulson, another first-timer, made her way to the water’s edge from her Windermere home.

Having been due to swim with a friend on Sunday, she ended up going it alone, as her wave was moved to Saturday and her training buddy was still on holiday. The 43-year-old went on to conquer her mile in 55 minutes and 52 seconds, and was thrilled to finish within her one-hour target.

She said: “This was a big one for me. I usually do things like the Keswick to Barrow, or the three peaks, but I broke my ankle last year and I knew it wouldn’t be strong enough, so I had to come up with a new challenge. And I knew one thing that would really challenge me, personally, is the Great North Swim.

“It was a massive fear of mine, the open water, just being in the middle of a lake and not being able to touch the bottom, or not having any sides. I can swim in a pool happily, but it’s just that jumping into the middle of a lake that got me.”

Of finally conquering her fear during Saturday’s event, Ms Coulson added: “I’m not going to lie, it was tough. Even though I’m relatively fit, it was hard work because the water was just so, so choppy.

“So it was a really good day - but it was certainly a challenge!”

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