A York grandmother is planning a 14-hour swim for charity – fuelled by jelly babies and jam sandwiches, reports MAXINE GORDON

WHAT do you eat when you are on a 14-hour charity swim in Lake Windermere?

York grandmother Judith Kirk has put a lot of thought into that question.

"Jelly babies, and I will even eat jam sandwiches and Jaffa Cakes – and pieces of cheese," says Judith, 56, who is in training for a 21-mile charity endurance swim in the famous Lakeland water on September 20.

The plan – weather permitting – is for Judith to swim the length of the lake and back again.

To put that into perspective that is the equivalent of swimming 1,344 lengths of a 25-metre pool.

Judith completed one stretch of Windermere back in 2017, swimming 10.5 miles in aid of Oscar’s Paediatric Brain Tumour Charity, in memory of Oscar Hughes, the Dunnington youngster who died five years ago of a brain tumour. This year's swim is for the same charity, of which Judith is now a trustee.

Keeping fuelled for the 14-hour challenge is key to its success – she cannot run out of energy.

"I can have soup – and cups of coffee, the caffeine is really good!

"I will take energy gels and drinks: I will need carbohydrate and protein, which is important for muscle build-up. I will be burning thousands of calories in this."

Judith estimates she will stop every mile and a half for sustenance: treading water by the side of her support boat to take on food and drink supplied by her supporters, husband Stewart and friend and personal trainer Caroline Turner.

What Judith eats in the lead up to the swim is just as important as on the day itself, she says.

"The day before, I will eat a lot of carbohydrates – not chips, I'll probably have three lots of porridge and some wholegrains like brown rice. I'll have protein too rather than vegetables, so a steak.

"In the morning of a race, I tend to have porridge with honey and banana with a pint of water or squash."

Judith is looking forward to the swim and admits after the 2017 event she wanted to keep on going. And she is feeling confident of making the distance following months of committed training in the gym and pool at David Lloyd, York, where she is being coached by Caroline.

The training consumes 20 hours a week – including 6am swims in the pool. This is on top of Judith's full-time job as an assistant director of children’s services at North Yorkshire County Council, a post which requires her to travel across the county. So she is a busy woman, and insists if you want to do exercise and get fit you can find a way to work it into your life, however busy your schedule.

She said: "The training, to be honest, is endless, repetitive, tiring and extremely time consuming. I’m swimming very often twice a day, six days a week, with gym sessions twice a week.

"Since January I’ve swum about 700km or 435 miles or 28,000 lengths of the swimming pool. But the rewards are huge and after all Windermere is a very long lake.

"I couldn't be doing it without a very special friend and coach, Caroline, who has kept me going through thick and thin, and dark, cold mornings, swimming at 6am and continuous encouragement through drills which at times never seem to end."

Judith only took up swimming in 2011 – following a health scare.

Up until then, she confesses she was an overweight "couch potato."

She changed her ways after being told by the doctor she had type-2 diabetes.

"She said to me I had a choice: I needed to start exercising and lose weight or in a few months' time I'd have to start taking medication."

By chance, Judith saw some open-water swimming on TV and decided that was the sport she would take up. There was one hitch: she was a terrible swimmer. "At the time, I couldn't do the front crawl, only breaststroke," she says.

Undeterred, she signed up for her first open-water swim at Salford Quays. "It was horrendous. It took me one-and-half hours to do a mile. I got out quite demoralised with my wetsuit all over the place. I thought I had to do something about it."

And so she began swimming lessons, mastering how to do the front crawl. Dedication and determination meant she became competent enough to take on some more outdoor swimming challenges, including a relay in the English Channel for a diabetes charity.

"After the Channel swim I became completely hooked. I love swimming outdoors. I love the countryside, the silence, the movement of the water.

"My job is very demanding and this is something completely different. It's like chalk and cheese. You clear your head when you think of nothing but swimming."

Her hobby has led to some fantastic experiences, including swimming between Malta and Goza where she had to try to dodge lots of jellyfish, and a crossing from Asia to Europe. Another favourite was a swim along a lake bordering Montenegro and Albania which she describes as "beautiful".

Health wise, Judith has reversed her diabetes, dropped from a dress size 24 to 16 and never felt fitter.

"I am the fittest I have ever felt. I feel very, very well. I don't have to take any medication for diabetes and I have lots of energy."

Of course, she says, people don't have to swim 21 miles to get fit – or beat diabetes. "Start small," she suggests. "Take little steps. Try to get to something like a mile – that's 64 lengths of a 25-metre pool, and very gradually build it up. Try it twice a week and keep it at a level you can manage."

Judith hopes to raise £2,000 from her swim. If you would like to support her, you can donate via her JustGiving page: justgiving.com/fundraising/JudithKirk