2007 – Julie Bradshaw breaks record on Windermere

On a cold, rainy weekend of August 18th and 19th, marathon swimmer, Dr. Julie Bradshaw MBE created yet another world record this time on Lake Windermere, Cumbria. Windermere is England’s largest lake at 10.55 miles long. Not content with one or two way, Julie led her intrepid ladies team up and down the lake SIX times, a total distance of around 66 miles. This time the team swimming with Julie were Pip Spibey, Lucy Roper, Lucy Petrie, Eva Andreotti and Susan Gill.

Last August, Julie and her team had been forced to abandon the same attempt due to a freak lightning storm, but this time, despite consistently heavy rain, the weather was much more favourable for the swim, which they completed in 32 hours and 32 minutes. In doing so, they not only created an inaugural record for the six way, but also for a three, four and five way relay. The record for swimming the lake four ways is held by Julie, who in 1981 swam it in 23 hours and 17 mintes, beating the previous record set by the only other person to have done it, Mike Read, King of the Channel. Until the19th August 2007, however, no solo or relay had been achieved further than a four way. Julie tells the story:

“ No one really understands what a swim of this nature is all about, until they have actually witnessed it and been along for the ‘ride’. One such person, Dave Hillman, Julie’s masseur from Active Recovery in Loughborough, kindly offered his help in assisting us on this venture and was amazed by what goes into achieving a successful marathon swim. Dave’s words really made me sit back and think, yes, such alot does go into making successes like this. What was also great to hear was his comment on the team spirit and the fact that all of us, no matter how tired, had throughout encouraged each other and all got on. This was so true.

Imagine being on a 32 foot boat (her name was ‘Brandi’) – six swimmers, two observers and three other drivers, along with baggage and food supplies for the team, all of us together in this space for the entire time! You’d think there was bound to be a wrong word at some time during the swim, but no, each of us were always so positive, so focused and organised. Some of the swimmers would try and take a nap. I usually stay up the duration of the swim, though on this occasion, I did ‘nod’ off in the chair by the downstairs wheel, but only for a short time. If the camera had been available, a shot of me in this upright position would surely have been taken!

It’s not just about swimming, its about the organisation behind it, both before the event and during. Thankfully, the boat was kindly organised by John Charlton in Bowness boat hire, and loaned by his friend, who I only know as ‘Brian’. A big thanks has to go to him. Then, the Lake Warden and BLDSA have to be informed. After that, there’s observers and drivers without whom, the swim could not go ahead.

Throughout the day, and night, and into the next day, both my friends Karen and Graham were at the helm; if not steering ‘Brandi’, then driving the rib beside the swimmer. There are parts of the lake which are too shallow, especially at the islands and at Lakeside. This was the point at one end of the lake which we turned at; the other end, Waterhead, Ambleside, was where we began at on Saturday 18th August at around 7am.

It had taken me months of organising and I’m just so glad to be telling you this eventful happy story. For me, the swim part, when I’m actually in there ploughing through the waters of the lake, that’s the easiest part! Or maybe, I should say, the most relaxing; it’s a time, I can stretch out my arms and pull through the water, and be part of this amazing group of people.

A relay comprises six swimmers, each of whom swim for an hour and rotate in order until completion. Even if someone is ill halfway, there can be no substitutions or change or order; just before the end of the hour, the next swimmer must alight from the boat, and takeover from the back of the swimmer in the water on the signal of the official observer. This is not always easy, especially in Windermere which is home to many sailing races. One such one was going on the weekend – dodge the sailing boat, put in the next swimmer, get the ‘finished’ one out in winds that would blow the boat – you can imagine! It is, indeed, a great team effort and takes alot of focus.

I was first swimmer entering the water at Waterhead, Ambleside at 7am; by the end of the swim, I had completed six one-hour stints. It may not seem that an hour is that long, but doing it, getting out and warming up, then five hours later getting in again, is certainly not easy. It is even harder in the middle of the night, when the air temperature drops and there is only a vast expanse of darkness, with the occasional light of a house or hotel in the scenery.

It takes focus, determination and a positive mental attitude to be successful in this game. The water temperature is only ever around 60 degrees F (swimming pools are 84) or a little warmer after a good summer, but good, hot summers are not that common in England, especially in The Lake District! It’s such a beautiful place, but when it rains up here, it RAINS!! And when it’s awful, it CAN be awful!!

Fortunately, the wind really only blew up very badly on the last leg. Coming out of Lakeside for the last time, each swimmer was faced with a tremendous headwind, but that’s the proof of character, as each and everyone put their heads down, and in great spirits, battled against the elements and won – that part of the battle taking the longest in six and a half hours. Each of our 10.5 miles legs had been taking an average of five hours; the last one because of the strong winds took slightly longer. But as one comment went, ‘it went so quick because there were extra challenges there.’ Lucy was talking about the waves…much more exciting than in the pool!

Whilst a 32 hours 32 minutes combination of swimming and boat travelling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the time flies by for everyone involved. It is a matter of perception and how one rises to the situation. For me, achieving my 17th world record was a case of knowing I COULD do it. AND I had a fantastic bunch of support crew and swimmers who were part in making this ‘dream’ and latest challenge come to fruition. What made it even more special for me was that we finished on the 19th August – special because 28 years ago to that exact date was when I first swam the English Channel as a 15 year old in 10 hours 9 mins (19th August 1979).”

Dr. Julie Bradshaw delivers motivational talks in her spare time. If you would like to hear more tales of Julie’s ventures including and how she has achieved her success, individuals or companies can contact her on 07941 467291.

Once again, Julie was raising money for Children’s Hospices. If you would still like to donate, please contact her on the mobile number above.

Julie Bradshaw

Published by: Julie Bradshaw