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I’m swimming 2.6k for London Marathon 2.6 Challenge... in my back garden

Swim England News

Events manager Sophie Allen is diving head first into London Marathon’s 2.6 Challenge – by swimming 2.6k in her back garden!

Sophie is aiming to raise hundreds of pounds for the London Air Ambulance, where she works, by completing a tethered swim in a temporary pool.

London Marathon created the 2.6 Challenge to ensure hundreds of charities don’t miss out on the vital funds that are usually raised during the iconic race.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the famous London Marathon, like all other sporting events, has been cancelled.

The annual event raised more than £66.4 million for UK charities last year – meaning those good causes have to find a different way to raise money.

Many people who would have been attending the marathon are now generating creative ideas to raise cash on Sunday 26 April – when the marathon was due to be held.

How did the challenge come about?

After a stress fracture injury led to Sophie finding out she had issues with bone density and scoliosis, swimming has been her only form of exercise over the past 12 months.

Due to the current coronavirus lockdown and pools being shut, she had to find a way of keeping up her exercise.

She said: “I’m a pretty horrible person to live with when I can’t do any exercise and I’ve been very jealous of my other half being able to go out for a run.

“I was looking at what people were getting up to on various swimming groups and I saw that some people were doing tethered swimming.

“The other half was fed up of living with me being quite so grumpy and agreed that I could take over most of the garden and we bought the pool.

“It came at roughly the same time as London Marathon launched the 2.6 Challenge. I thought that it’s an awfully selfish reason for getting the swimming pool just because I want to do some exercise and I’m a bit grumpy.

“So I thought 2.6km, I can swim that in open water pretty easily ordinarily so we’ll see if I can do it under these circumstances.

That’s when the challenge was born really. I would ordinarily be at the marathon supporting the London Ambulance runners.”

Sophie Allen takes on London Marathon two point six challenge

With the support of her young son Jacob who will be cheering her on and her husband Tim who will be chief adjudicator, Sophie can’t wait to take on the challenge.

“I’m looking forward to it – the weather looks awesome, definitely looks better for swimming than it does for running,” she said.

“I think the 2.6 Challenge is giving people something to focus on at the moment.

“We all want something to do and we also need something positive.

“Watching the news is a necessary evil because you need to know what’s going on but there’s not a huge amount of good news stories.

How did you get into swimming?

“I used to swim as a child and I’ve always swam on and off as a bit of cross training from running and walking.

“I did a couple of ultras two years ago and unfortunately ended up with a stress fracture at the end of it that led to finding out I have issues with bone density and also scoliosis.

“As I said, I get grumpy when I can’t exercise, so I thought I’d give open water swimming a try.

“This would have been my first full year of open water until the pandemic happened.

“Around May last year was my first dip and I was training for a pretty full year of events this year.

“Swimming is the only thing I can do which doesn’t aggravate my back. When I’m in the water I can’t feel my back – it’s great.

“It’s definitely got a physical and mental benefit for me. I want to be exercising, I want to be doing something but also there’s a massive pain relief element to it as well.

Sophie Allen in open water

Advice for those wanting to take on the challenge

“The advice I’d give to others wanting to do the 2.6km swim challenge is, if you have a pool deep enough to do it then the tether was relatively easy to put together if you’ve got the right stuff.

“If you can’t do this exactly, then maybe look at what you can do. Could you do it on land using resistance bands for your arms?

“Just think out the box, see what you can do and give it a try.

“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work but you’ve tried something and spent some time and energy that you might otherwise not be using at the moment.

“It can be absolutely anything to do with the numbers two and six.

“The marathon is 26.2 miles, so that’s why they’ve gone for 2.6, but anything to do with those numbers and the world is your oyster as they say.

“You can do anything that you want – just shout about it on social media and make everyone feel wonderful for a day.”