Colin Hill has been voted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honour Contributor for his achievements as an organiser of open water swimming events. Colin is the founder of Chillswim, a Lake District-based events company that organises swims including the Big Chill Swim winter gala and Coniston End to End. He also launched the Great Swim series and was the marathon swimming technical operations manager for the 2012 London Olympics. He is open water swimming consultant for FINA and also worked with London Marathon to set up the mass participation Swim Serpentine event. His own swimming achievements include the English Channel and an ice mile. We caught up with Colin to chat about the award and his career as event organiser.
How does it feel to be inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame?
I’m thrilled to be inducted into the IMSHoF. I’ve always appreciated the tradition and historical aspects of open water, so to be thought of in the presence of such amazing swimmers and organisers is incredible.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement in organising swimming events?
I keep thinking that it can’t get any better and then something else comes along. But standing on the pontoon at the London 2012 Olympics was quite something. I worked on the event full time for almost two years (with a test event in 2011).
Then the amount of people that tell me that they got into open water swimming through the Great North Swim or started cold water swimming because of the Big Chill Swim is also massively rewarding.
Which event do you feel most proud of?
It’s like asking which is my favourite child. If anyone has ever worked with me on an event which I organise they know that I’m really passionate that it is done well and to a high standard. I’ve organised high profile televised running and triathlon events in the past and I wanted to bring the same level of organisation to open water swimming. So it’s hard to be proud of just one, but I’d say the Olympics.
What’s the best bit of your job?
My job involves wearing different hats. I’m open water swimming consultant for FINA and I travel overseas quite a lot, from giving a talk to race organisers at the Rio Olympics to helping set up a mass participation swim in Abu Dhabi for the FINA world open water events series. I also consult for London Marathon and helped bring the Swim Serpentine event to Hyde Park, which was great fun. It has been wonderful helping out Keri-anne Payne and David Carry on their new venture Triscape. Then I also organise my own events with Chillswim. A lot of people have had great experiences at our events. I’ve also guided around 100 people down the length of Windermere (one and two-ways) which is always a pleasure.
So it must be the variety whilst still being involved in open water and bringing my passion for open water to work with other people, organisations and companies.
What is the worst bit?
Stress and worry before a big event. With Chillswim it’s trying to get the budget to fit in with my vision. Also, other companies going into direct competition when the sport isn’t really big enough for that yet. Better we all find our own path and grow the sport organically.
What is the oddest thing a participant has ever asked you?
I once had a complaint by a very angry person who accused us of ageism for putting them in a ‘silver’ wave, thinking we had designated all the ‘older’ swimmers to a silver wave, when of course the waves were mixed.
What would your dream swim to organise be?
I’d love to get a title sponsor for Chillswim so I can put on some of the events I’ve had up my sleeve for sometime.
What is your favourite swimming spot?
My house overlooks Ullswater in the English Lake District. I’ve loved this lake from when I was a child and worked as an outdoor instructor here in my gap year. It’s often colder than the other lakes and can get quite wild, but a lovely body of water.
What are your favourite events that you don’t organise?
I did a 12-mile swim along the coast in LA. Sadly the event has stopped, but that was just a cool swim. The Midmar mile in South Africa is a classic and I’ve been over there a few times to take part. The IWSA World Winter Swimming Championships is always something I can’t miss – from Tooting Bec, Latvia, Finland and Siberia I’ve loved them all and the participants are always super friendly.