A north-east teacher hopes to complete a 100K open water swimming challenge this weekend in aid of Endometriosis UK.
Rachel Webster, from Cammachmore, first started wild swimming on New Year’s Day and has gradually been clocking up her distance while raising money for the charity.
The 32-year-old was diagnosed with endometriosis four years ago, and is now keen to increase awareness of the condition, particularly among young women.
“I started swimming on January 1, before that I wasn’t a swimmer at all, so it’s been a bit of a learning curve,” she said.
“I was swimming all through the winter to acclimatise my body to the temperature and then I started calculating my distances in April. By this Sunday, I’ll have a swum a total of 100K.
“Lots of people were open swimming during lockdown because the pools were closed and I thought I’d give it a bash, and then I found that the cold water was a pain relief for my endometriosis.
“I think because there are so many elements, your mind is distracted while you are in the water. It was a good therapy for me during lockdown, so I came up with the challenge to raise awareness and inspire others to give it a go to see if it helps them.
‘I feel amazing for it’
The 32-year-old has mainly been completing her challenge in the waters at Stonehaven and Newtonhill, as well as various lochs across Scotland – even spotting some orcas on the way.
She said: “We’re lucky in Scotland that we have a big choice of open waters, but when you actually look at the map to see what is nearby, it is very limited.
“When I started, I thought I would just be able to swim and clock up the distance, but I had to learn about all the factors that impact that, such as tide times and undercurrents, to keep myself safe.
“The weather here can be so unpredictable which has a big impact on the waves and the power of the sea. I try to get out four or five times a week, but sometimes need to reschedule if the dangers are too high.
“It’s definitely been a physical challenge as well, I’m not really somebody that goes to the gym all the time, so I’ve had to up my cardio game and started running so I can swim for longer.”
Educating young people
Endometriosis affects around one in 10 women in the UK, but on average it takes seven-and-a-half to eight years to get diagnosed. An official diagnosis cannot be given through a scan, so keyhole surgery is required.
“The biggest issue at the moment is the wait time and most people don’t realise they’ve got it until they’re maybe trying for a family.
“When you add eight years onto that and a couple more for surgeries, you’re then 10 years down the line. But, being aware of the symptoms earlier would give women more options.
“My long-term goal is to see if we can change the curriculum in Scotland to educate younger people about endometriosis, so there can be earlier intervention.”
Mrs Webster has raised more than £2,000 through her Just Giving page, which will be kept open until the end of the year to maximise the total for Endometriosis UK.