Some people go the extra mile for others at Christmas. Well, Waterford man Jim Swift last weekend ran almost 80 of them non-stop from Cork City to his native Tramore – and all to raise money for the local St Vincent de Paul.
Well known for his ultra-endurance exploits, most notably as a swimmer, Jim’s many previous feats include paddleboarding the 48 miles from Youghal to Hook Head, a 24-mile swim from Rice Bridge to the Guillamene, and an Ironman. In 2002 he also became one of the few Irishmen to swim the English Channel from Dover to Calais.
While most people were wrapped up indoors or skating around doing some last-minute shopping, Jim’s stamina-sapping triple-marathon slog (a distance of exactly 78.9 miles/127km) took a mind-blowing 17 hours, 40 minutes and 20 seconds.
Staying on the main N25 road for almost the entire duration, he started at the top of Patrick Street in Cork City at 10.03pm on Friday night and finished outside the Holy Cross Church in Tramore at 3.40pm on Saturday afternoon.
Resting and refuelling at home yesterday, ‘Swifty’ said: “Running in December is obviously far from ideal. Not only is it mostly dark and frosty, but one minute you can be sweating and the next you are freezing with numb fingers. Such ‘yo-yoing’ in temperature makes you feel like you have a fever: really cold, but drowned in sweat.”
Given a Garda escort by the Midleton Traffic Corps for about 30km along the dual-carriageway out of Cork City (“I must thank them, big time”), Jim’s main safety vehicle was driven by his father Declan — a constant presence in all the long-distance swims, runs, paddles and triathlons he’s done to date.
“I have to single Decy out for special thanks. He did an incredible job: nearly 18 hours of driving at 5mph!” Jim smiles appreciatively.
Having pushed his body to its extraordinary limits once again, Tramore’s modern-day ‘metal man’ reflected: “For the first two marathons I was running well and even managed to reach the top of the Pike on the Tramore side of Dungarvan an hour earlier than expected. The last marathon was a killer. My quadriceps went from whinging to whaling and balling. It took a real thick head to just keep putting one leg in front of the other.”
Mind over matter is one thing, but preparation for such a daunting challenge is obviously key, and, as usual, Jim put in the hard yards. “Training for this run was often back-breaking, but at least I’ve seen more of the Waterford countryside over the last nine months that I had in my previous 27 years.
“Maybe the hardest part of the training was managing my body-weight. I’m usually about 16 stone for my long-distance swims, but for this run I got to 12st 5lbs. That was tough. If I see another boiled chicken-vegetable stir-fry I’ll weep!” he laughed.
Even a few days later and, unsurprisingly, “my legs still ache”, he admits. “That’s probably the body’s way of reminding me that what I did was arduous and not something to be repeated anytime soon. The biggest problem is toe-nails falling off the two big piggies. No dancing for me over Christmas!” he joked.
Every cent Jim raises is going straight to the SVdP in Tramore so don’t be shy in showing your admiration. “Times are tough and money is tight for many people in Waterford, but I just hope people can give some help to people who really, truly need it,” says a man who has certainly done more than his bit this season of goodwill.