Two swimmers are aiming to finish the aQuellé Midmar Mile for an incredible 50th time when the event takes place at the famous KwaZulu-Natal dam next month.
Both Gail Bristow and Martin Godfrey (Pictured here top) have completed the world’s largest open water event 49 times and are on track to reach their half-centuries this year.
“Right now, it’s what’s driving me to train as much and as hard as I can,” said Godfrey. “I think that my emotions may run away with me when I exit the water at the finish. My wife will be there and I know that my late dad, who was there when I swam the first one, would be glowing with pride.”
Godfrey finished third in the first ever aQuellé Midmar Mile held in 1974 and recalls what that first race was like.
“The gun went off at 9am and we raced across to the other side. There was a raft at the halfway mark which was used by those needing a break and the polo players swam with water polo balls.
“I was the only swimmer wearing a cap. My dad said I should wear a white one so he could see me in the water. At the finish, we were given a handwritten certificate and there was a small prizegiving and by 11am, it was all over.”
Meanwhile, the Cape Town-based Bristow admits that just getting to the start line each year has been something of a challenge.
“I love swimming, so that part is easy, but the logistics of getting there from Cape Town each year and managing to juggle all that life throws at us in between is always the challenge. Not always so easy.
“1984 was Cyclone Domoina which caused severe flooding and roads washed away, so that was a challenge just to get to the dam,” she explained. “In 2017 and 2019 I had knee replacement surgery, so ‘limped’ my way through those two swims unsure that it would be possible.
“When I think back, it really is remarkable that for 50 years, on the second Sunday in February, I have been on the start line at Midmar regardless.
“It is a scary thought to think of 50 years of Midmar. It is a huge milestone and I never imagined it possible. I feel very grateful to be able to keep swimming for all these years.”
Godfrey may be one of the participants on the start line each year but he’s also part of the organisation of the event. For the past 23 years, his is the voice swimmers hear just before embarking on their crossings, with Godfrey serving as the announcer at the start.
Explaining what brings him back year on year, he reckoned: I come back because a) I want to be the one who ultimately swims it the most times and b) because I have a 53-year friendship with race director Wayne Riddin and I share his vision and passion for the event.”
As for what’s brought Bristow back each year, the retired school teacher explained: “Midmar has become a fixture on my calendar each year and I look forward to seeing good friends as I grew up in KZN and did most of my competitive swimming there. I also challenge myself to keep as close to my previous year’s time as possible.”
“It is a fantastic event and with a bit of preparation, it’s something most people can achieve. Do it, you will love it and come back for more!”
Those still keen to take on the aQuellé Midmar Mile, which takes place from 8-11 February, have until 31 January to get their pre-entries in online. Entries to certain events will be possible at Midmar Dam on race day but at a higher fee. Pre-entry is highly recommended to avoid any delays at the dam. For more information, head to www.midmarmile.co.za
Photo credit: Action Photo SA