Midmar Mile

Midmar Mile

Ian after successfully swimming the “Bellbouy” challenge.

This week’s newsletter is a little different, using a question and answer format. As will become apparent further down, there is a reason we are doing this – and we are asking for your support ?.

When was the first Midmar Mile held?

The Midmar Mile’s inaugural event was in 1974 when local swimmers decided to stage a Mile open water race in Natal. The primary reason for this was because they were unable to compete in the Buffalo River Mile in East London due to petrol restrictions! There was a long history of similar events in South Africa, with the Redhouse River Mile (in the Swartkops river near Port Elizabeth) dating back to 1924.

Has it always been a “company” event?

No. Originally it was all about individuals, schools and clubs. Eventually the clubs were replaced by “Company Teams” – although club swimmers still enter under their club names.

How many swimmers entered the first event?

One hundred and fifty-three men entered the first event. The youngest swimmer was only 10 years old. Trevor Strydom won the event, with Owen Ryan and Martin Godfrey finishing second and third. Initially only open to male competitors, this swimming race expanded to include female swimmers in 1975.

Is the race always one mile?

No. The actual distance of the race varies according to the water levels in the Midmar dam, which are obviously dependent on the rains. When there has been poor rainfall, entrants are subject to the infamous “Midmar sprint start” – a melee of bodies sprinting across the muddy shore and through the shallows until the water is deep enough to swim!

When is the 2023 race?

This year’s race weekend is the 11th & 12th February, with the Charity Events taking place on 9th and 10th February.

Where is the race held?

At Midmar Dam, just north of Pietermaritzburg.

Who can take part?

Anyone. Each year the race draws thousands of competitors, from serious international athletes and Olympic medallists to purely recreational swimmers.

Is the event growing?

Absolutely! In 2009, when 13 755 competitors finished the race, it was officially recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest open water swimming event. These days, in the average year, well over 16 000 swimmers are expected.

Does everyone swim at once?

No. In order to handle the vast number of competitors, and keep everyone safe, the swimmers swim out in groups at approximately three-minute intervals in eight separate mile races over two days. The group division the swimmer is assigned to, is based on a qualifying time in a previous (qualifying) event, with the fastest group leaving first.

Is the Midmar Mile associated with any charities?

Yes! Now we’re starting to get to the point! Since 2016, the aQuelle Midmar Mile has been raising funds for charitable causes. Just over R1 million was distributed to 7 large and 11 smaller charities in 2016. In the years that followed, they have had up to 230 people swimming either the 8 or 16 miles over 2 days and raising a total of over R3 million. In the past 7 years, the swimmers have collectively raised over R14.5 million!

How does it work?

If an individual is up for the challenge of swimming 8 or 16 miles over two days, you simply enter. Cross Country Insurance Company decided that our CEO Ian Georgeson needed another challenge, and so the saga began. The swimmers are then allocated one of the charities and will be required to raise a minimum of R10,000 for that charity. And this is where you, our loyal supporters, come in.

You can visit Ian’s page at https://kydrin.co.za/goals/1465. His allocated charity is The Cancer Association of South Africa’s (CANSA’s). Their purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa by offering a unique, integrated service to the public.

We would really appreciate it if you could assist Ian in his challenge by popping onto his site and making a donation to this worthy cause!! Whether the donation is small or large, it all adds up to one large goal and every cent counts ?.

Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team

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