Mansfield: Swimmers beat pain barrier boost church charities

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Keen Mansfield swimmers Mark Herd and Michelle Walker pushed their endurance to the very limit in the name of charity by completing a mammoth 10k swim in Buttermere Lake.

The duo were made to wait to complete their epic Cumbrian challenge when the original staging of the event in mid-September was postponed by bad weather.

But there was no stopping them when they eventually took to the water two weeks later, clocking a time of four hours, even though the swim is rated as one of the toughest of its kind in the UK.

“The last half mile was a killer, but I’m glad it’s done and I finished it,” said Mark, 48, a youth worker for St John with St Mary’s Church. “I couldn’t feel my arms very well for a few days afterwards, though!

“It’s a challenge that combined my love of sport with my Christian faith by raising money to help children and young people in some of the poorest countries of world.

“After the original event was cancelled, we were still desperate to do it because we had put in all that training and got all the sponsorship, so we went up and did it on our own.

“Thankfully the weather was really good the second time around and the scenery was amazing.

“I could only swim four lengths when I started swimming about two-and-a-half years ago, starting because of problems with my back. I decided I needed goals to keep it going.

“The last two kilometres was really tough - I could see the finish line, but I just couldn’t get there!”

Michelle, who works at Adkin Sinclair Chartered Accountants, decided she wanted to enter a endurance swim to mark turning 30 - and by a quirk of fate ended up swimming it on the actual day.

The distance covered was the equivalent to 400 lengths in a standard 25-metre pool, although she believes they may have swum further.

Michelle said: “In my family it’s a tradition when we reach a big ‘0’ in terms of birthdays to do something challenging - but I didn’t think this one would be so hard.

“Having been a Mansfield Swimming Club member when I was young, I thought it would be relatively straightforward, but it wasn’t that way at all!

“It was almost like it was fated that I ended up swimming it on my birthday when, but for the weather, we would have already done it by then,

“I think we ended up swimming a lot further than the 10k because there were no buoys to mark out the course, so we swam right around the edge, watched by my dad, who was acting as a safety official.

“It was great to have Mark spurring me on all the way through the training, giving me the motivation to train hard for it.”

Mark and Michelle are raising money for three charities - Meninadanca, which rescues young girls from child prostitution in Brazil, the Streetlight Trust, which works with street children in the Philippines and Compassion UK, which supports child sponsorship all over the world.

The money will be distributed directly by St John’s with St Mary’s Church. They have raised £800 between them so far, with a £1,000 target in mind.

Mansfield Triathlon Club member Mark first took up open water swimming in 2011 and trains regularly at the Rebecca Adlington Centre in Mansfield Woodhouse.

He has undertaken previous swims for good causes, including the Windermere Mile in 2011 and a 2.4 mile swim in Ullswater in 2012.

Michelle is also a member of the same club and church - where the pair first met - and did most of her preparation at Water Meadows and Tyram Lakes.

To sponsor Mark visit: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/markherd1 and to sponsor Michelle visit: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/michellewalker1