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A Roy Bridge woman marked her 60th birthday on Sunday by completing a 60 lochs in 10 days swimming challenge at Loch Ness.
Wild swimming enthusiast Marie Clare Russell spent around five minutes in 60 open water venues in the Highlands from Little Loch Broom, Wester Ross, in the north to Loch Leven, Kinross, in the south to raise funds for Loch Ness RNLI.
The former Fort William vet dived head first into her challenge on April 30 in Loch Vaa in the Cairngorms and resurfaced in Loch Ness on Sunday May 9.
More recently, Marie Clare was managing director of FAI Aquaculture and in the 1980s worked as a vet at Marine Harvest. Her involvement in the fish industry had nothing to do with her passion for the open water.
‘That came a lot more recently,’ she told the Lochaber Times.
‘I enjoy walking and began swimming in the local rivers. It just grew from there.’
When planning her birthday challenge, however, Marie Clare hadn’t quite factored in the unseasonal chill we have recently been experiencing in the Highlands.
‘Originally I was going to do 10 minutes in each loch, but when I planned it I had been thinking about the glorious weather we had in April last year.
‘I had snow, hailstorms and sleet,’ she said. ‘Some days were just horrendous and if I hadn’t been doing it for charity I honestly think I would have given up.’
Supported all the way by John, official driver and photographer for the challenge, Marie Clare drove on and last Sunday was joined for her last four swims by their three grown up children Clare, Jamie and Lucy.
‘Ironically this was the best day weather wise of the whole ten days,’ said Marie Clare.
‘I think I have acclimatised to the cold water though as I seemed to find it better than some who hadn’t been in with me before.
‘At Loch Ness, the last loch, I went in by myself first, then they came in. It was a bit surreal to know that I was in the last of the 60 lochs but great fun and a relief to have made it.
‘There were balloons and bubbles – the kind you blow – and I swam out a wee bit on my own for a moment of peace before going back to a bottle of actual bubbly which I had been gifted by BinTwo, my favourite wee wine wine bar in Padstow where we go on holiday.’
At the time of writing, Marie Clare had raised £1,930; she started off with a target of £200.
‘As well as challenging myself, I wanted to fundraise for a relevant local cause,’ she added.
‘The RNLI station is situated on the northern shore of Loch Ness in Urquhart Bay in Drumnadrochit and the team of volunteers there keep all of us using the amazing loch safe.
‘I really appreciate everyone’s support, best wishes and donations. It has been very humbling how kind and generous people are, even people I barely know or don’t know at all.’
Donations are still welcome and can be made by going to JustGiving and searching for the Marie Clare’s 60 Lochs Swim page.
Marie Clare’s Lochs
Loch Vaa, Lochindorb, Loch Garten, Loch Morlich, Loch Pityoulish, Loch Alvie, Loch Insh, Loch Eil, Loch Sheil, Loch Eilt, Lochailort, Loch Nan Uamh, Loch Nan Ceall, Loch Morar, Loch Alsh, Loch Slapin, Loch Ainort (Cairidh), Loch Sligachan, Loch Brittle, Loch Eynort, Loch Harport, Loch Beag, Loch Bracadale, Loch Pooltiel, Loch Dunvegan, Loch Bay, Loch Achonachie, Loch Meig, Loch Chroisg, Loch Doughaill, Loch Sgamhain, Loch Gowan, Loch A Chuihinn, Loch Achilty, Loch Garry, Loch Long, Loch Carron, Loch Shieldaig, Loch Maree, Loch Bad On Sgalaig, Loch Gairloch, Loch Tollaidh, Loch Ewe, Little Loch Broom, Loch Droma, Loch Laggan, Loch Lochy, Loch Arkaig, Black Loch, Loch Leven, Loch Linnhe, Loch Killin, Loch Seo Glais, Loch Duntelchaig, Loch A Choire, Loch Ruthven, Loch Moy, Loch Farr, Loch a Chlachain, Loch Ness.