Ed Williams swimming Lake Windermere
Ed Williams swimming Lake Windermere
Ed Williams and Duncan Boltt swimming Lake Windermere

On August 14th 2009 Ed swam the length of Lake Windermere raising over £2700 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice. He was accompanied by a Channel swim student and good friend, Duncan Boltt, without whom the whole ordeal would have been vastly harder work.

“Lake Windermere is 67m deep which is deeper than the Channel is, making it very cold. Technically the length is 10.5 miles but our course (due to obstacles, islands, and bad weather) made it 12 miles. We set off at 10.44am from Ambleside and the first two hours were easy, but after that short period of time I felt the familiar dull aches starting to show in my neck and shoulders.

The weather forecast that morning pointed out that you should be anywhere else than Cumbria for that day and that was certainly true because soon the rain was so hard it was hurting my arms above the water. The waves were choppier than in the channel and we were battling them for most of the swim. At one point the front of the boat was being lifted clean out of the water and visibility was so poor you couldn’t see 50ft in front of you. Bad weather and utter exhaustion is very demoralising and after 5 hours the boat crew had to lie to me about how long was left as they could sense my frustration in the water.

The water in Lake Windermere is definitely colder than in the channel and I was only wearing Speedo’s with no extra grease for insulation. After 6 hours had past I could feel the cold getting to me, first to go were my feet and hands followed by my arms and upper legs. Then I could feel the cold penetrating my organs and joints but I had to carry on even though we could still not see the end. I could tell I was going into mild hypothermia, as I constantly lecture my open water students on how to spot the signs but of course I carried on regardless. After 7 hours I wanted to get out and this is when you have to remind yourself that these swims are 99% psychological. Just another hour or two of agony would complete another life time achievement. My stroke length had drastically decreased and my arms were struggling to leave the water during recovery but finally through the mist, we could see the end. The weather had started to clear up by now and we could actually see the sides of the lake, so I put my head down, increased my speed and persevered as I just wanted it over with. An hour later I climbed out of the other side finding myself on the private beach of a five star hotel.

My fiancé rebecca who was watching me the whole time from the boat, had to help me out of the water to stop me from collapsing. She gave me a big hug, wrapped me in a dressing gown and I knew it was all worthwhile. We staggered up the steps to the hotel’s croquet lawn before I stripped off and applied four layers of warm clothing whilst being over looked by stunned looking guests from the restaurant over-looking the lawn.

I was definitely hypothermic, shivering uncontrollably, seeing double and slurring my words. Duncan was not hypothermic thanks to his wet suit, and he helped me to stretch off my muscles before they cramped up. We walked into the hotel lobby and collapsed into a sofa whilst being serenaded by their resident pianist. A fitting end to an amazing journey.

Swimming for over 8 hours non stop certainly takes it’s toll on the body. I had designed our nutrition program personally and that was a big factor to our success as if the nutrition is not right then the body will struggle to cope.

Swimming across Windermere felt harder to me than swimming across the Channel, mainly because I had not trained nearly enough. People often comment that these swims must be easy for me, but like anything, the less you prepare, the harder the actual journey is and that was certainly true in this scenario. When you reach those unimaginable pain barriers, it is so important to remember why you are doing it, think of the rewards and the achievement and carry on. I am so glad that I persevered. I swam across England’s largest natural lake in 8 hours 11 minutes and raised a lot of money for a very worthy cause (East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice) in the process.”