Last year, Kirsty Johnstone expected to never want to see the sea again after doing 10 days of sunrise swims in aid of Pancreatic Cancer Action.
To her surprise, one year on, she and around 20 others she now calls close friends are still doing them every Saturday morning.
Mrs Johnstone has been dedicated to raising money for cancer charities since her mum, Betty O’Shea, died from the disease in 2014. Now that her sister, Karen Campion, is living with incurable breast and bone cancer, she wants to ramp her efforts up even further.
In what could be their hardest challenge yet, for 10 days, members of the group will rotate between climbing Bennachie at 5am, doing a 10-mile cycle and completing a 10-minute open water swim – rounding off the challenge with all three in one morning.
Mrs Johnstone, a beauty therapist from Aberdeen, explained why she wanted to make the challenge so difficult.
“I wanted to make it so you don’t want to do it, that’s the point, making it so hard you dread it,” she said.
“You want to feel challenged and this will challenge everyone to do something different.”
‘I would do anything’
Her own personal connection to cancer is what drives Mrs Johnstone to keep pushing to raise money.
This year, most of the money raised will again go to Pancreatic Cancer Action, with 10% also being donated to a charity of her sister’s choice.
The 42-year-old said: “I would do anything, not even just raising money. If someone came and asked me, I would do anything to help people that are going through a diagnosis or their family or people who have lost someone.”
Last year’s early morning swimming challenge raised more than £6,000 and while the group hopes they can aim for that again, their focus remains on raising awareness and any money they can.
‘You don’t know what’s around the corner’
Despite coming from different walks of life, Mrs Johnstone said the morning swimmers have become a “solidified group” with one common goal.
“We’ve all got one thing in common, we all want to help people because we’re all fortunate enough just now to be healthy,” she said. “You don’t know what’s around the corner.”
The “active bunch” have also seen the benefits of morning exercise on their mental health, with Mrs Johnstone believing that comes from “just being grateful to be able to get up and go do things and be active.”
You can donate to Kirsty Johnstone’s fundraiser here.