Inspired by the Great North Swim Highlights on Channel4


So how did it all start? I entered my first Great Swim as a knee jerk reaction to watching the Great North Swim highlights on TV – and thought it looked brilliant fun! My first ever open water event was The Great London Swim in 2012. I was a very different swimmer back then, with very different aims and objectives. This event proved to be the start of a total love affair, both with Open Water and with The Great Swim Series. The ‘elite swimmers’ were phenomenal – but I loved hearing the stories of the people who had overcome so much to simply be at the start line!
Ok so having had a baby in 2007 and having only swum on holiday for the previous 10 years (sound familiar?) I realised I would need to do a bit of training! Looking at my week, the only time I could free up was 07:00 – 07:35 on a Thursday morning at the local pool. My plan was to be that annoying customer that is waiting outside when the doors open, change as fast as possible, swim until 07:35 – not have time for a shower, throw on some clothes, drive the 30 minutes to work, get there with seconds to spare and start my day!

I am a full time teacher, so yes I get long holidays, but I also had a young daughter, a husband who, at the time was an international distance runner, running over 100 miles a week on top of his job, a house that needed cleaning, family and friends to visit... and a very unfit, aging body!

I remember squeezing myself into my swimsuit before my first swim and diving in. It didn’t come back straight away and I remember thinking to myself that it felt ‘like something I used to be quite good at’, but week after week I started to look forward to my 33 minutes (what was left after paying and changing) of ‘me time!’ I managed between 1500m and 1800m most weeks, depending on ‘head up breaststroke in the fast lane’ traffic. The Great London Swim was early in 2012 (May) so I had only been swimming for about 10 weeks in total when the big day arrived.
By this stage I certainly wasn’t ‘fit’ I simply wanted to enjoy myself and do something that I had never done before. What I learned very quickly from the Great Swim Series is that it genuinely doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, or what stroke you do – everyone just wants to achieve their own personal goal. On that day in 2012, my goal was simply to finish the race, having had fun. Amazingly - my time was 25.56 and I was the 25th fastest female of the day! I was hooked!

So what now? What are my aims for this year’s Great Swim series?  Everyone has their own personal goal and this year I want to swim the Great East Swim in 20 minutes - even if its 20:59! There – I’ve said it. It’s in print!   Eeek! So over the next couple of months, I want to share with you how my training is going -  whilst juggling a full time job, a family, and even quite a major injury... So please read next blog to find out. Happy Swimmingl! Jo x  


Jo Mitchinson is a full time teacher, mother and wife. She is also an open water swimmer, National Masters Open Water Champion, @AquaSphereUK and @ScienceFitUK brand ambassador, Transition Tri and Stevenage Swimming Club member. Follow her @swimmitch


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