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24 miles in 24 hours: the open water version

On mid-summer’s eve, six solo swimmers, nine pairs and five teams will set off on a 24 hour, one mile each hour on the hour challenge in a lake just south of the City of Lincoln. At the inaugural event in 2014, four out of six swimmers (including Event Director and 100% Swimming founder Paul Fowler) completed the format solo.

The 24 miles in 24 hours was first popularised by Lesley Zimmerman with the bi-annual 2swim4life charity fundraiser, which now takes place at Guildford Lido. Paul’s aim was to take the same format into the open water, initially as a one off trial. However, demand proved strong so, starting this year, Paul has decided to create an annual event – and there’s already a waiting list.

Make no mistake: this is an incredibly tough swimming challenge due to the constant cycles of cooling and re-warming, the short time available for eating and resting and the lack of sleep. Paul says it’s more akin to a two-person Channel relay rather than a solo effort due to the mental and physical demands of the start stop format, and a two-person relay is amongst the toughest of Channel swims according to the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation.


One person who has swum the Channel and completed the 24-hour challenge is Caroline Sims. She was also recently part of a record breaking two-way North Channel relay. She says, “It’s not harder than the Channel, just different. With the 24-hour format, it’s not the swimming, it’s getting back in the cold water 24 times that’s mentally and physically tough, plus you have to keep a pace that’s well within the hour to ensure enough time to rest, warm up and eat.” It took Caroline three attempts at the 24-hour format before she was successful, having been beaten by cold and fatigue on her first two.

This year’s swim has even tempted one participant to fly in from Germany. US Air Force Section Chief Adam Gomez, is already a multiple Ironman, yet he fears the solo 24-hour swim may well be his toughest challenge yet.

“Am I worried?” he asks. “Hell, yeah, it’s a massive challenge but I don’t give up easy. This time last year I was under a truck after a head on collision on my bike. But this is me now – I’m back on the map.”

The event starts at 7pm on Tuesday 21 June at Activities Away in Lincoln, concluding the following evening. Wetsuits are optional.

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.