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Aberdeen woman who hates being cold challenges herself to do 10 sunrise swims in 10 days for cancer charities

The group at Aberdeen Beach
The group at Aberdeen Beach

The thought of the odd sunrise swim will appeal to many, particularly as the weather begins to improve.

But for Kirsty Johnstone her early morning swims are not a one-off – she is doing 10 in a row to raise money for two charities close to her heart.

The early morning starts have been made easier as she is raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Action in memory of her mum Betty O’Shea, who died in 2014, and Cancer Research UK for her sister Karen Campion, 47, who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The salon owner, from Aberdeen, did her first swim at the beach at 5am on May 5 and has been joined by friends for each one.

The group heading into the water at 5AM

Doing something different

It is a particularly challenging fundraiser for the 41-year-old as she hates being cold, but knew she had to be creative to get round the pandemic restrictions.

I always try and do something quite big every couple of years and obviously with the pandemic I couldn’t do any marathons, there’s nothing coming up,” she said. “I thought I’d do something that was a bit more of a mental challenge this time so I could get people to join in as my other ones have been quite solo.

Kirsty Johnstone is raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Action and Cancer Research UK

“I thought, well, what do I not like to do? I hate swimming in cold water and I’m not very good at swimming in general so I came up with the cold water challenge.

“10 days, 10 sunrises, just to make it harder to get up, mentally harder to get in the water. We did a minute day one, two minutes day two and so on, 10 minutes day 10.”

The group must stay in the water for an extra minute each day

Early mornings

Friends, and even friends of friends, have taken on the challenge too and Kirsty has been overwhelmed at the donations that have flooded in.

The initial target of £1,000 has already been smashed, but she is on target to hit £4,000 by the end of the week.

This has made 4.10am alarm easier, and the hairdresser admitted that by the time she gets home after her swim she is “buzzed” and manages to walk the dog,  and do some housework before work.

“It is getting harder now that we’re over the hill, we’re over half way through, now you know what’s coming,” she said.

Kirsty Johnstone (right) with her sister Karen Campion (left)

“But I’m doing this in memory of my mum, who I miss dearly, but also my sister.

“It’s just to show her that, we don’t scratch the surface of what she’s going through, but it’s just to show there are people here who support you, we’re trying to push ourselves for people like you.

“We don’t know what to do to help you so here’s something to show we’re thinking of you.”

Donations have gone far above the initial £1,000 target

“The word cancer, we’re all terrified of it. The more you talk about it the more you realise everyone is affected by it. I think people dig deep when it comes to the C-word.”

To support the fundraiser, click here.

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