Hoghton grandma breaks record to swim across Windermere for St Catherine's Hospice

Maggie Armitt with her friend Jo Lowrey
Maggie Armitt with her friend Jo Lowrey
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A record-breaking grandma is celebrating after being crowned the fastest woman in her age group in a swim challenge across the longest lake in England.

Swimming sensation Maggie Armitt completed the 11-mile Windermere One Way challenge in memory of her good friend St Catherine’s Hopice fund-raiser John Nickson, raising £1,000 for the charity.

Maggie Armitt

Maggie Armitt

Maggie, from Hoghton, became a keen open water swimmer in 2013, after taking up the hobby to help her recover from breaking her ankle and damaging her knee in a motorbike accident.

Now, she holds the record for the fastest ‘Women Vet 60’ in the challenge, since the event started in 2014.

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Maggie, a grandma-of-three who is a retired PE teacher said: “After the accident I plucked up the courage to start training with the Tri Preston group, and began to improve my stamina and technique.

“I was fine with pool swimming and friends suggested I try at an open water event so I entered the Great North Swim in 2013 and swam the mile.

Maggie Armitt celebrates the end of the challenge

Maggie Armitt celebrates the end of the challenge

“From then on I was hooked and I decided if I was getting up early to get wet and cold I might as well swim for longer, so I did the Chillswim Coniston which is 5.25 miles in 2015, followed by Buttermere Open Water Swim which is 10k, and The Big Welsh Swim.

“I decided I was obviously a tug boat rather than a speed boat when it came to swimming, and wondered if a ‘mad nanny’ of 60 could swim the longest lake in England. I entered fairly quickly after my 60th birthday last November.

“The training was hard with early-morning starts and more outdoor swims in Eccleston Delph and Capernwray in the Lake District.

“Since May, I was swimming five or six days a week and even twice a day.

“I had a few wobbles and had a crisis of confidence, but I had a lot of encouragement from friends and my husband Paul, my chief supporter.

“You need a safety paddler to accompany you on the day, and my good friend Jo Lowrey offered to do this for me.

“At about eight miles I did begin to feel cold and I had strained my left bicep but I kept going.

“Once the end was in sight my only concern was how to get out of the water without falling over.

“I was amazed to discover I’d done it in six hours and four minutes - I was so chuffed, I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Speaking about St Catherine’s, where John worked between 1990 and 2010 and was known affectionately as ‘Mr Hospice’ thanks to his enthusiastic fund-raising efforts, Maggie said: “We visited regularly in the last weeks of John’s life and I will always remember how everyone filled his room with laughter.”