The way Keri-Anne Payne tells it, endurance swimming doesn’t sound much fun: “The last 1,000 metres of a 10km swim is just agony,” she says. “Your stomach feels like the worst stomach ache you’ve ever had in your life. Your arms are aching, and your fingers, because they’ve been held in the same position for so long, and your feet are numb, and I can get headaches from where my goggles dig into my head. But I like to think my pain threshold is quite high. And you can always see a doctor at the end of the race.”
Payne is Britain’s preeminent open-water swimmer. She famously missed out on gold in the 10km open-water swim at the Beijing Olympics by just 1.5sec when, having led the race with her British teammate Cassie Patten from the beginning, she was pipped at the post after two hours of hard slog by a Russian rival.
Read Emma Smith’s article in The Times to see why swimmers such as Keri-Anne still get such a buzz out of open water swimming.