A woman who has completed a year-long challenge to sea swim every day has revealed how she also saved someone from drowning.
When Kirsty Hogben suffered a serious injury midway through last year’s London Marathon she needed a new challenge – so she decided to swim in the sea every day for a year. It proved to be a decision that brought many unexpected experiences her way.
It’s a personal challenge that has seen her clock up close to 365km – averaging a kilometre a day. She’s been battered by Storm Dennis, swam when she was ill and on July 1 achieved her aim that has enabled her to stay competitive while her ankle recovers from a ligament tear.
“Even if it’s only been for five or 10 minutes I have swam and I have loved it. It’s such an invigorating feeling,” she said.
The South Kent Harriers athlete suffered a devastating injury during the 2019 marathon, tripping on a bottle around the halfway mark, just before Tower Bridge. She was aiming to complete the distance in sub four hours and was on course. Despite the agony she still managed to finish in a time of 4hr 5mins – painfully close to her target.
The injury stopped her running and she needed something else to focus on. Originally she had an idea of swimming every day for 100 days, starting from July 1, 2019, but extended that for a year. She hasn’t stopped yet.
The 25-year-old marketing consultant from Sandgate swims off Mermaid Beach in Folkestone and said: “I discovered the Folkestone sea swimming scene and it’s amazing how popular it is! There are so many people of different ages.
“Storm Dennis was quite frightening and I had to battle 50mph winds on the bike just to get to the beach. But I timed it right and just did a short breaststroke. I almost abandoned the bike on the way home!”
It was that same month on her bike journey home that led to her saving someone’s life.
“I was stood up on my bike and noticed someone fully clothed in the sea – motionless,” she recalled.
The woman, a local artist, had gone down the steps to pick seaweed but had been washed away by a wave. Despite the woman’s best efforts the waves were too strong for her to drag herself back. By the time Kirsty and another man found her, she had given up.
While the coastguard were alerted, the man jumped in.
Kirsty said: “I knew not to go in and the coastguard were on their way. He jumped in and got battered. I went in a bit of the way and we managed to drag her out.
“The ambulance crew said had we been five minutes later she would be dead.”
The person she helped rescue happened to be the neighbour of one of her swimming buddies, Penny.
“It was so cool to have helped save her,” Kirsty said.
“I had actually met her with Poppy two weeks before and she said we were both mad to go into the sea!
“I’ve seen her since and she’s fine but it did leave me a bit scared about swimming the next day – I get scared a lot! But I went in anyway and what I have learned over the year is that you have to respect the sea.
“I always check the tide times, the wind and the conditions and don’t put myself at risk.
“I’ve gone in when I’ve had a cold but I don’t seem to get them as bad and maybe that’s the healing properties that comes with sea swimming. Many people talk about how it can help your immunity.
“Sea swimming does make you feel alive. It’s transformative. Just the act of going into the sea is like a micro adventure and you can then challenge yourself to see how far you can go.”
Kirsty used to play football but joined the South Kent Harriers after returning from university.
“Before joining the club I couldn’t even do 5k,” she admitted. “I would just run too quick and burn out. But I love anything athletic and outdoors.”
Her injury is healing but it still might be a couple of years before she is able to run a marathon distance again as there is a still a weakness in the ligament.
“This has just been about doing something for myself,” she said. “It’s less competitive and has enabled me to build up some resistance in the ankle.
“You don’t get a medal at the end of it but I feel stronger, fitter and I am now addicted to it!”
Now all she needs is an excuse to give herself a day off.
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