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Half-marathon swim in support of friend’s brain tumour battle

Warwick Ashburner, from Preston, swam 13.2 miles in Coniston Water – to raise funds and awareness of brain tumours

Warwick Ashburner, from Preston, stands ready to do a marathon swim of 26 miles in Coniston Water – to raise funds and awareness of brain tumours

The challenge

Forget running 13.2 miles, the length of a half marathon – how about swimming it? That’s the epic distance Warwick from Preston swam on 14 July in support of his friend, Annie, who was diagnosed with a glioblastoma earlier this year and sadly passed away in July, the week before the challenge took place.

Having originally set the ambitious target of swimming a marathon distance (26 miles), Warwick’s swim in Coniston Water on 14 July was beset by brutal wind and endless rain, forcing the team to call it quits at 13.2 miles.

By taking on the gruelling swim, which he dubbed a “Moist Marathon”, Warwick hoped to raise funds and vital awareness, after a close friend, Annie, was diagnosed with a brain tumour earlier this year. Annie learned in May that she had a Glioblastoma brain tumour.

Warwick said:

“When Annie was diagnosed, I had a general awareness of brain tumours, but not in any great detail. I hadn’t realised how quickly you can go from having no symptoms to being told you’ve got months left to live. That shocked me. 

“I felt that as I couldn’t really do anything to help directly, the least I could do was raise some awareness and funds for a meaningful charity. After following the exploits of the adventurer Ross Edgely, last year I set myself the goal of pushing my physical limits at least once every year. I felt I could achieve both of these targets with this mammoth swim.

“I hadn’t really swum since I was in primary school, until a friend and owner of a local gym encouraged me to try a sprint triathlon, which I loved. I stepped up the challenge in 2022 to an extreme iron-distance triathlon in Snowdonia. The idea for this swim was simply to go bigger than last year!

“Despite the scale of this challenge, I loved every minute of it. The incredible atmosphere created by everyone supporting and assisting made it worth the endless rain and choppy waters, as well as the temporary hypothermia I suffered part way through!

“On a personal level, I was obviously frustrated we only got to half distance before the weather called an end to the swim, but the main thing is we raised over £4,500 for this incredible charity and in memory of an incredible woman.

“Sadly Annie passed away the week before the event, but that made this swim, and the future events we have planned, all the more meaningful.

“We’re already planning next year’s fundraiser for the Brain Tumour Charity, which we have dubbed the “Annie-versary”

Getting in shape for the swim

Aware that his marathon swim would push him to his absolute limits, Warwick trained extremely hard, including gym sessions and long open water swims. Before the challenge, Warwick said:

“For the past 18 months I’ve been swimming at least 4 times a week in either the pool or open water. The furthest I’ve swum in one session so far is 15km during training. For my first sprint triathlon 2 years ago I did some swimming, but even 200m tired me out!

“I’ve been swimming around 20-30km per week in the pool for the past 6 months and have recently started getting in longer open water swims at the weekend. I’m also lucky enough to have a great home gym setup, so I can get plenty of strength and conditioning in. It’s all going really well and I’m feeling confident that my fitness and endurance are up to the challenge!

“Having done a few test swims in the same area where I’ll be doing the actual swim, my biggest concern for the swim is getting in and out of the lake without breaking an ankle on the slippery and uneven rocks that line the shore!

“The bit I’m most looking forward to is the laps when people get in and swim with me. Several friends have said they will jump in for a few laps which will be a massive boost to my mood and energy levels.”

Annie Mann, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour earlier this year and sadly passed away in July, with husband Dave and (l-r) children Libby. Emily and Tom

See more from Warwick at his Instagram page: