February 16, 2021

Limerick Narwhal Ger Purcell has told us the story of how he became the world's oldest man to complete an Ice Mile swim under International Ice Swimming Association regulations.

Ger was aged 66 years and 12 days when on January 30, 2021 he swam one mile in the 4.93°C waters of the Shannon River, in Limerick.

It took him 43 minutes 28 seconds to complete the swim, and enter the Guinness Book of World Records. Ice swimming - defined as swims in water measured at 5C or less - is an extreme sport, but one that many experienced Irish swimmers have found themselves taking up due to long closures of swimming pools.

Ger was no different. A regular sea swimmer, he had never swum through winter before, but continued through September, and then October, and then found himself still swimming in December.

He successfully completed a 1000m swim in 5C that month, and prepared then for the big step up to a mile in January.

"That gave me confidence to have a go at the mile," he said. "My background is in rowing, and from that you think you can do anything due to the discipline required for the sport."

He added: "But coming up to it I was a bit nervous, and I found it tough, particularly the last 400m."

A course of 200m was set up on the Shannon River, Ger having to swim 200m upstream, then 200m downstream on each lap until the mile was complete.

"When I lifted my head to look I swallowed some water coming to the buoy to turn," he said. "I was looking at the river and with the sun baring down on it, I couldn't see the buoy, and I lost some momentum in the last 400m.

"It was tough - but it's not meant to be easy, and I was chuffed I got it done. For myself, but as a proud Limerick man, also because it meant my city had another Ice miler."

Ger has no plans to complete any more Ice Miles, but is looking forward to the day he can return to his holiday home in Kilkee, County Clare.

"We'd swim every day down there," he said. "There's a beautiful bay, and we swim 1500m to 2000m across in the summer."

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