Olympic bronze medallist Cassandra Patten is to take part in Swim England’s Open Water Festival Team2k race.
The event takes place on Sunday 29 July at Sheffield’s Rother Valley Country Park.
Teams of four will tackle the 2,000m course with every member having to swim at least one 200m lap.
It is being held as part of the two-day Open Water Festival which also includes the national Masters and Age Group championships.
Patten believes the Team2k is the perfect event for beginners thinking of trying open water swimming.
The 31-year-old said: “Any open water event in the sunshine in the UK is amazing. The times I have been to the Open Water Festival it has been really friendly and the atmosphere has been incredible.
“There’s been swimmers of all ages and people doing it for the first time. Have a go and try it – you never know, you might end up doing it again.”
Patten, who won her Olympic bronze medal in the 10k open water event at the 2008 Beijing Games, says the benefits of open water swimming often leave people wanting to compete more.
“I was quite nervous when I took the first plunge [into open water swimming] but as soon as I did, I was hooked,” said Patten.
“It changed my life. It’s taken me all over the world to some incredible places and the Olympic Games. I wanted to win every race I entered but the Olympic medal wasn’t something I was expecting.
“But the fact I came away with a medal was fantastic.
“Swimming outside is different to anything I have ever experienced in the pool. You don’t come out smelling of chlorine and you have the freedom of being close to nature.
“It’s challenging but also really good fun.”
Patten looking forward to taking part
Patten believes the attitude towards outdoor swimming has changed over the years and that is leading to even more people taking the sport up.
“When I was young, open water swimming was seen as dangerous or dirty,” she said. “Now we have one of the most successful open water teams in the world and it’s great.
“I was down at a lake recently and there were families swimming together. It was fantastic to see young people open water swimming.
“The first time can be a bit unnerving. You have to get used to swimmers being in close proximity to you. The weeds might feel a bit slimy but they are not going to hurt you and it’s very unlikely fish will come near you.
“It can be quite beautiful to watch them when you swim over them. For me, all of that, is part of the joy of open water swimming.”
And Patten hopes more open water swimmers will sign up for Team2k at the picturesque Rother Valley Country Park.
A serious shoulder injury ended her competitive open water swimming career but Patten is looking forward to taking part in the event.
“The Team2k is open to everyone and the park is very accessible,” she added. “Usually people see the start and the last 250m of an open water swim but there are lots of vantage points. The great thing about the park is you can walk along the side and cheer and support while seeing the entire event.
“I have been retired for about seven years so it will be a bit of a shock to the system getting back into it but I’m looking forward to it and hope to see many people taking part.”
Swimmers entering the Team2k have to be aged 12 and upwards and can be of all abilities. Everyone who competes in the race will receive a commemorative medal.
Entries to the Team2k close on 19 July and more information can be found online at www.swimming.org/openwaterfestival
Fun for all the family
The Swim England National Open Water Festival is completely free for spectators, so family and friends can come along to support swimmers and enjoy the fun, festival atmosphere on the shore.
You never know, you might even be inspired to take part next year!
There will be plenty of exciting things to enjoy including a range of stalls, plenty to eat and drink and activities for kids, including face painting.