Sue Bennett is a 47-year-old transplant recipient who took part in the swim at IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire as part of a relay.
“I usually compete on the track for Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s transplant team,” said Bennett. “However, during these difficult times, our race events like everyone else have been cancelled. Shielding has meant I have been unable to train as I would usually.”
After five months of being advised against leaving the house, Bennett was growing more desperate to find somewhere free of people where she could exercise. It was at that moment that she discovered open water swimming.
“I find open water swimming gives me an overwhelming sense of freedom. I love the vast space around me. I feel all the stress wash away and I’m alone in the water… apart from the carp! I feel relaxed and it gives me a great sense of achievement,” said Bennett.
“As a transplant recipient you can often feel held back by health restraints. My personal illness is incurable, so I know good health is temporary. I had been ill for a long time and unable to participate in day-to-day activities so to be able to swim or indeed train in any element of triathlon freely gives me a huge lift.
“I’d absolutely recommend open water swimming not just for physical health but also for the benefits to good mental health. The benefits of exercise are far too underestimated.”
Bennett has been swim training three or four times a week, saying: “When pools shut I used the lake, when the lake shut and I was housebound due to shielding I sat in front of a mirror and worked on my stroke. I’ve also had my swim stroke analysed to try to improve my technique.”
After staying socially distanced between autumn and spring, Bennett saw a request for a swimmer to join a relay team at IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire.
“I've have completed a GO TRI event and a sprint previously and now I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes. I want to cram in as much as I can whilst I’m well and to celebrate the gift of life I’ve been lucky to have achieved,” said Bennett.
“Any team sport brings with it the added bonus of meeting other likeminded people all who are keen to support and celebrate all abilities, cheering for the first runner back or the last, team spirit means everyone is encouraged and all achievements celebrated.”
Setting her goal for the event, Bennett said: “My only goal is to complete the swim and bring a medal back for my donor’s mum, a tradition I started when I began the transplant games. An important part of competing for me is receiving a medal.
“Each medal I gain I hand over to the mum of my young donor to thank her for what she has done for me. The achievement of completing one element and making my donor’s family proud is a big enough goal for me.”
As for her future in swim, bike, run, Bennett explained: “Triathlon has, for the first time, been introduced as a standalone event at the next World Transplant Games due to be held in Perth 2023. This is incredibly exciting as previously each element was spread over three days. It’s great to see how much transplant recipients can achieve with the right training and health care.