A MUM of four who only learnt to swim last year is now completing a swimathon challenge in memory of her mum to raise money for Cancer research UK.

Despite lockdown getting in the way, Helen Mbaziira, 45 and her two daughters from Didcot decided to complete a Swimathon challenge this month to raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie.

The original 2020 Swimathon date was postponed in March and has since turned into a virtual event, with swimmers across the UK taking part during October.

Swimathon is the UK’s biggest annual recreational swimming event, more than 750,000 people have taken part since its formation in 1986 and have raised over £54 million for several charities.

The 45-year-old started to learn to swim in 2019 and had been trying to learn for more than a decade.

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Ms Mbaziira said: “I had been trying to learn to swim for more than a decade but kept putting it off so having the Swimathon challenge in memory of my loving mother as my goal pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

Cancer Research is a cause close to Ms Mbaziira's heart as her mother died from a rare and aggressive form of urethral cancer in November 2016 and she is now doing the swimathon in her memory.

Ms Mbaziira said: “Before the lockdown in March, I was in a very good shape swimming two to three days a week and running in between to increase my lung fitness. I had received funding for prepaid one-on-one pool sessions with a coach which really helped me improve my technique. I had started training for my 400m challenge and had got to doing 12 lengths comfortably. Now I am really struggling to get to eight and the challenge is going to be extremely hard."

The mum of four was unable to swim during lockdown but used the time to maintain her fitness through walking and running. She was absolutely thrilled to get back in the water when Didcot Wave Leisure & Gym reopened.

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She said: “I have really enjoyed being back in the pool. I have been impressed by the return to service preparations and systems that my local pool Didcot Wave Leisure & Gym have put in place and there is abundant information from Swim England about policy and guidance.

“I have extremely enjoyed swimming on my own without an instructor. My favourite strokes at present are the backstroke and breaststroke. I have also really enjoyed supporting my daughters' swimming club by volunteering to help them execute their Covid-secure plan, that way I get the opportunity to see them swimming and putting in great effort to train hard and attempting to return to their pre-lockdown swimming levels.”

Ms Mbaziira's daughters, who train with the Didcot Black Marlins, will be undertaking the 1k team challenge this year and she will be doing 400m of this challenge which is 16 lengths of a 25-meter pool.