The 2015 version of the bi-annual 2Swim4Life challenge took place from 2 to 3 May at Guildford Lido. Despite being a pool-based event, 2Swim4Life has become a flagship event on the open water calendar as well as something of a social gathering for swimmers from around the UK as well as visitors from abroad.
The concept is beautifully simple: swim a mile on the hour, every hour for 24 hours. It can be done either as a solo challenge or as a team event. The execution is considerably more difficult.
Starting at nine in the morning on Saturday, the first wave of swimmers entered the 23 degree water and swam a mile – 32 lengths of this 50m pool. The fastest swimmers completed the distance in around 22 minutes. Others took up to 45 minutes. The faster they swam, the more time they had to scuttle back to their tents, warm up, dress, eat and rest before starting again.
The air, at around 9 degrees, was cool but the sun came out around mid-morning warming things up slightly. The night however brought rain showers. Although not really a problem while swimming (many swimmers report swimming in the rain to be a special experience) it made it harder to keep dry and warm up between sessions. This didn’t stop swimmers smiling or posting social media updates through the night.
According to swimmers, the early hours of the morning are the hardest.
“It’s relentless,” says one. “You can’t bear the thought of getting back into the water again. It seems like it will never end.”
It’s not a race or a competition. Everyone who completes is a winner and even those who pull out after 10 or 12 hours have plenty to celebrate.
This year’s event was run in support of The Place 2 Be, a charity for school-based mental health support.
“Since we started, we’ve raised more than £70,000 for charities,” says event creator Lesley Zimmerman. “This year we hope to push that up to £100,000.”
Zimmerman also thanked the management of Guildford Lido for their support as well as event sponsors Claremont Marquees, Winner Group Plant Hire, All Spa Wellis, Swim Shop, Pentangle IT Ltd and LiveSound Guildford.