A BRAVE mum of three took on the ‘gruelling’ challenge of swimming the English Channel for her 50th birthday and said she would do it again.

Keen swimmer, Kate Hartwright from Didcot has wanted to swim the Channel since she was nine years old, but as she got older being a single mum got in the way.

This year to celebrate her 50th birthday she decided to train and take the plunge to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Ms Hartwright said: “I have always been a swimmer and when I was nine I swam my first mile and since then everybody said ‘why don’t you swim the Channel you could be the youngest person’.

“The reason that I didn’t at that age was because I was terrified of fish and what was in the ocean, so I put it off. Then I was a single mum for years, so now I have met someone in the last two years I have been able to do training.”

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Lockdown placed a massive hurdle in the way of Ms Hartwright’s training. Unable to swim in pools or lakes at first, she had to overcome lockdown restrictions by tethering herself to her children’s climbing frame and swimming in a paddling pool.

Once lockdown began she trained in the sea at Dover, sometimes swimming for up to up to 10 hours at a time under the watchful eye of her experienced trainer Kevin Murphy, who is known to be the ‘King of the Channel' for swimming it 34 times.

On September 4, the swimming mum took to the water without a wetsuit and swam the Channel in 19.23 hours and was exhausted when she arrived in France.

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Ms Hartwright said: “It wasn’t my fitness that got me through that it was my grit and determination. It was gruelling.”

The mum of three hit a wall after she had been swimming for 13 hours. She could see the coast approaching and thought she was going to finish the swim in a record time, but then the tide changed and took her in the wrong direction. After swimming on the spot for two hours she had to dig deep for the determination not to get out of the sea.

She said: “It actually did break me; I haven’t been able to speak or move since I got out the sea.”

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However, now she is already thinking of new sea swims she could challenge herself with. Ms Hartwright said another Channel swimmer told her: “Kate, it is a bit like having a baby, you forget what it is like and want to do it again.”

Ms Hartwright said: “I’m just a normal mum, I’m not a triathlete, I don’t jump around at the gym. I’m a normal at home mum. That is why I just want to inspire other people, if I can do it anyone can do it.”

The Channel swim was not just completed to fulfil Ms Hartwright’s dreams, but also to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The cause is close to her heart as her aunty Dale suffers with MS and the charity has helped towards buying her aunty an electric scooter. Ms Hartwright set up a Justgiving page and donations can be made via: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kate-hartwright-channel-swim