Brave local swimmers halfway through English Channel Virtual Challenge fundraiser

Brave local swimmers halfway through English Channel Virtual Challenge fundraiser

Local women Fiona Hunter and Leah Pullen have been braving the cold waters of Cleethorpes to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support through their English Channel Virtual Challenge.

Since the end of January, the pair have been taking part in the English Channel Virtual Challenge, which takes you 21 miles across the English Channel between England and France – but it can be completed by swimming in any body of water.

So far, they have swam 10.8 miles, with 10.2 left to go.

Fiona and Leah are runners, and learned how to front crawl last year with the goal of taking part in triathlons – but because of the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in swimming pools closing, they began open water swimming.

Fiona said: “Back in January we were discussing how cancer had affected people in our lives. Leah has a close friend currently undergoing cancer treatment and I have someone I know who is also undergoing treatment. These people inspired us to take on this challenge.

“I had been reading up on some of the “virtual challenges” that are available to keep swimmers, runners and cyclists motivated during the pandemic, since normal events cannot go ahead. I was also conscious that because of lack of events, charities are struggling for donations because people are not taking part in sponsored walks, swims and marathons that raise so much money for good causes.

“Macmillan do incredible work supporting people living with cancer and that is greatly needed at the moment as people are having to cope with cancer on top of Covid. We thought doing an open water swimming challenge during the cold months would be a fantastic way to raise money for the charity and keep us motivated during lockdown. We are really proud to be supporting Macmillan.”

The fundraising target for the challenge was initially £500, but the two have raised close to £4,500 – 889 percent over their original target.

Speaking of when they started the English Channel Virtual Challenge, Fiona said: “It was seven o’clock in the morning, we had an absolute stunning sunrise at Cleethorpes but it was so cold – we swam only 394 yards and stayed in the water just 14 minutes.

“The weeks that followed, we had snow! We were literally donning our swim caps and gloves as snow fell onto the promenade and onlookers just gave us lots of looks as if to say, “Are you really going in the sea to swim?” So that was quite tough. But the more swims you do the more resistance you build to the cold water and you can increase your time in the water, but you must always listen to your body and know when it is time to get out.

“We’ve had lots of support and donations from our family, friends and business associates but what’s been most endearing is the support from complete strangers. We’ve had people stop us on the promenade at Cleethorpes to congratulate us, wish us good luck or tell us their own battles with cancer and others how they have fought cancer and are in remission. People have been incredibly kind and supportive.

“We emerged from the water the other day to a round of applause from a family that wanted to wish us well and congratulate us on our challenge. So the response from the public has just been incredible.”

Fiona said they are aiming to complete the English Channel Virtual Challenge by mid-April.

To support their cause and donate to Fiona and Leah’s fundraiser, head to this link.

Contact Gi Grimsby
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