We caught up with Hamish Blair about his incredible fundraising undertaking and what has inspired him to take on a gruelling 5 day, 24km swim in the icy autumn waters of an unheated outdoor London swimming pool.
Why did you choose to raise awareness for Pancreatic Cancer UK?
In 2005 my father James passed away from Pancreatic Cancer after a courageous and hard-fought battle. He had been a fit and healthy man who loved life and was cruelly taken from us far too early at the age of 56. Pancreatic Cancer is one of the most difficult forms of cancer to detect and, as in my Dad’s case, this delay in detection makes the survival statistics even more terrible. Just 4% of those diagnosed live for 5 years or more, and this percentage has not improved since the 1970’s.
My goal is to raise awareness of Pancreatic Cancer in general - in my experience it has the least public profile despite (or maybe because of) its status of having the worst survival rates.
Pancreatic Cancer UK is the charity that I have been supporting since 2005. They are one of several charities dedicated to this form of cancer and all of them do amazing work. I chose PCUK as they provide support and information for those affected, fund research into diagnosis and treatment, and campaign for change in care, treatment, research and awareness.
What is the challenge you have decided to take on?
Many ideas of what I could do have been considered from the humorous to the farcical. I have settled on a traditional and intimidating physical challenge of swimming. I need to challenge myself as well as having something to make people sit up and take notice. Therefore I aim to swim 24 kilometres in an unheated London pool - the Brockwell Park Lido in Brixton. By 12th November when I start the challenge the water temperature will be below 10°, meaning I will need to carefully monitor my body temperature as I progress.
Why 24 KMs?
Pancreatic Cancer UK is focusing on the number 24 as this is the number of people who pass away from the disease every day in the UK. Therefore I aim to swim 24 kilometres in an unheated London pool - the Brockwell Park Lido in Brixton. For the statisticians amongst you 24 kilometres is almost the same distance as the English Channel crossing, and represents 480 laps of an Olympic 50-metre long pool.
When and where is the challenge being undertaken?
Due to a number of factors, including that the pool is very cold, I will be undertaking this challenge over 5 days starting on 12th November. At 10° (or less) I can safely swim for 1 hour before risking hypothermia. Combine this with the opening hours for the Brockwell Lido (8am - 1pm) I will be swimming for one hour, warming up my body temperature which can take up to 2 hours, then swimming another hour. At my current swimming rate I aim to complete 5-6km per day, finishing the final lap on 16th November which is World Pancreatic Cancer Day.
Where can people find out more about Pancreatic Cancer?
There are many amazing charities and sources of information. To find out more about Pancreatic Cancer you can go to one of the following places: NHS Pancreatic Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer UK and Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.
Where can people donate and follow your challenge?
You can donate via my Official Swim For Life Donation Page. 100% of the money donated will go straight to Pancreatic Cancer UK. Follow me on Twitter to have some live footage during the challenge (although 480 laps isn’t the most captivating of viewing!).
Do you plan on any future challenges to raise awareness?
The response from family, friends and the public has been overwhelming and I am looking to make as big a success of this as possible. I have had the ambition of doing a challenge to raise awareness since my father passed away. This being my first attempt I want to see how it goes before committing to anymore!
How would you encourage other people who are wanting to fundraise for a worthy cause?
Get out there and do it! If there is something you feel passionately about and want to support then use that drive.
- I think that doing something which takes you out of your comfort zone is important as this shows your friends and family that you’re doing something different, and will lead to great support and encouragement.
- Get in touch with your worthy cause too - they will LOVE to hear from you and often have great tips, ideas and support.
- And lastly, don’t be afraid of failure. There is no failure - if you raise £10 then that is £10 more that your cause had before. And if you don’t complete your challenge - at least you tried!
How have Osprey helped you out with your challenge?
Osprey have been very generous with their support, kindly helping me out with a 5mm Triathlon Wetsuit, 3mm Wetsuit Hood to keep my head warm and 3mm Fin Socks to hold back the frostbite. I will look a sight but be much, much warmer!
If you’ve been inspired by Hamish’s upcoming 24km swimming challenge, don’t forget to donate. All money goes straight to helping fund Pancreatic Cancer UK.