Morag Hughes’ Marathon Swim Story
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shannon Keegan captured the essence and the backstory of the long and prolific marathon swimming career of Morag Hughes, a Scottish swimmer in her Marathon Swim Stories (listen to the 29-minute podcast here).
Throughout the lockdowns, Hughes has been coping very well in these uncertain times. “I have been so lucky to be able to keep swimming outdoors all through our lockdowns. I eventually got around to swimming the full 10-mile length of Loch Lochy from Gairlochy to Lagan. It was a beautiful day.”
She also spoke about her favorite swim, a 28.1 km crossing of Loch Shiel in 2004. The 17.5-mile swim took her 11 hours 50 minutes. “The swim was planned as a stepping stone between Windermere (10 miles) and Loch Lomond (21 miles), but getting a date proved difficult. It actually took place after I swam Loch Lomond. This made it more relaxing as I knew I could do the distance. I felt relaxed and excited from start to finish and really enjoyed it, especially when I reached the part of the loch that I was more familiar with. I also swam over the wreck of the Clanranald, the passenger steamer that used to go up and down the loch before the road was built to Acharacle.”
The then 48-year-old did most of her training in Loch Shiel. She repeatedly did mile circuits at the Glenfinnan end of the loch. “But I also did some training in Loch Linnhe. I would be swimming at least 5 miles per week. There is only a forestry track down one side of the loch and high hills on the other. It is the most peaceful swim I have ever done. We met three boats the whole length of the loch.”
She also has a mysterious experience. “About a quarter way into the swim, there is a burial island with a 5th century bell on it. As I was passing the island, I could hear the bell ringing. My boatman who does cruises on the loch was spooked by this as there was no boat tied up at the island and he has tried to find a solution ever since to no avail.”
The conditions were a mixed calm at the start. “Then the wind got up and the loch became choppy. At the halfway point and for a couple of miles after some waves were breaking over my head.”
She completed her swim at a pier. “Then my support crew told me there were people waiting for me at the monument, the monument that commemorates the raising of the standard by Bonnie Prince Charlie, so I swam 800 meters over to it. They were amazed as they thought I would get into the boat to go over. I was met by quite a few locals who had a lovely fire going and had erected a gazebo. The manager of the local hotel was there with steak and chips and a pint of Guinness for me.
It was a lovely welcome after a beautiful swim.”
- Hughes has crossed Loch Linnhe several times.
- Hughes has swum across Coniston.
- Hughes participated in the Champion of Champions.
- Hughes competed in the British Long Distance Swimming Association Torbay and Albert Dock swims.
- In September 2002, Hughes completed a 10 km swim in Loch Earn from Lochearnhead to St. Fillans in 4 hours 57 minutes 26 seconds, organized by Ye Amphibious Ancients Bathing Association.
- In July 2003, Hughes completed a 12 km swim in River Tay from Balmerino to Broughty Ferry in 2 hours 0 minutes 31 seconds, organized by Ye Amphibious Ancients Bathing Association.
- In August 2003, Hughes completed an 11 km solo charity swim in Loch Nevis from Mallaig to Inverie in 3 hours 51 minutes 55 seconds.
- In September 2003, Hughes completed a 17 km crossing of Windermere from Fellfoot to Waterhead in 7 hours 3 minutes 20 seconds, organized by the British Long Distance Swimming Association.
- In 2004, Hughes swam 8.9 km across Loch Lochy in 3 hours 58 minutes 12 seconds.
- On 31 July 2004, Hughes completed a 33 km crossing of Loch Lomond from Ardluie to Balloch in 15 hours 54 minutes 42 seconds, organized by the British Long Distance Swimming Association.
- In August 2004, Hughes completed a 28.1 km solo charity swim across Loch Shiel from Acharacle to Glenfinnan in 11 hours 55 minutes 28 seconds at the age of 48. She occasionally trained in Loch Linnhe in preparation. She was the first person in history to complete this crossing.
- In September 2005, Hughes completed a 10 km swim in Loch Earn from Lochearnhead to St.Fillans in 3 hours 51 minutes 42 seconds, organized by Ye Amphibious Ancients Bathing Association.
- In July 2007, Hughes completed a 12 km swim in River Tay from Balmerino to Broughty Ferry in 2 hours 11 minutes 7 seconds, organized by Ye Amphibious Ancients Bathing Association.
- In September 2007, Hughes completed a 10 km swim in Loch Eil from Drumsallie to Annat in 3 hours 58 minutes 20 seconds as a solo training swim
- In August 2009, Hughes completed a 16 km crossing of Loch Rannoch from Rannoch Lodge to Kinloch Rannoch in 6 hours 37 minutes 1 seconds, organized by the Scottish Amateur Swimming Association.
- In June 2010, Hughes qualified for a 33.5 km crossing of the English Channel by completing a 12 km swim in Sound of Sleat from the Rhu boathouse to the Isle of Eigg in 6 hours 44 minutes.
- On 6 July 2010, Hughes completed a 33.5 km crossing of the English Channel from Shakespeare Beach to Cap Gris Nez in 18 hours 31 minutes, ratified by the Channel Swimming Association at the age of 54 to join the Half Century Club.
- In July 2011, Hughes completed a 17 km crossing of Lough Erne from Carry Bridge to Enniskillen in Scotland in 7 hours 21 minutes organized by the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association.
- In September 2011, Hughes completed a 10 km double crossing of St. Mary’s Loch starting and finishing at Tibbie Sheila to Tibbie Sheils in 4 hours 54 minutes 33 seconds, organized by the British Long Distance Swimming Association.
- In August 2013, Hughes completed a 21 km solo charity swim of Loch Maree from Tollie to Taagan in 9 hours 7 minutes. She was the first person in history to complete this crossing.
- In August 2013, Hughes completed a tandem swim across Loch Moy.
- In August 2014, Hughes completed a 18 km solo charity swim of Loch Morar from Oban Pier to Ruabana in 12 hours 31 minutes. She was the first person in history to complete this crossing.
- In August 2020, Hughes completed a 16 km tandem swim of Loch Lochy from Gairlochy to Lagan in Scotland in 8 hours 48 minutes.
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