Belfast Telegraph

Stroke of genius ... how porridge powered swimmer Colleen across the North Channel

By Nevin Farrell and Amanda Ferguson

The first woman from Northern Ireland to swim the notorious jellyfish-infested North Channel between Donaghadee and Portpatrick in Scotland yesterday spoke of her pride and revealed the secret of her success - hot porridge.

Colleen Mallon (28), from Camlough in south Armagh, took on and defeated five foot waves and the stinging tentacles of jellyfish, to also make it a historic double for her family.

That's because her brother Padraig (38) – an award-winning endurance triathlete and the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year – swam the same stretch last year, and they are the first family duo to have completed the 21-mile stretch of water.

Colleen – who works as a quantity surveyor in Australia – is home for a year and yesterday, after she got a massage and took to a Jacuzzi to try to recover from the aches and pains and stings of Thursday's swim, she told the Belfast Telegraph: "I'm very proud."

She added: "It was a great achievement given the weather which came along after three-and-a-half hours. There were Force 5 winds and 5ft high waves and there was a lot to do but I was determined not to be beaten.

"Mother Nature give me all she could throw at me and it was a challenge but I was determined to do this and when I landed at Knock Bay near Portpatrick I put my hands up in the air and gave a yell.

"I then lifted two wee shells from the beach and gave one to my mother Bridgeen, who was on the support boat, and the other to my partner Alex.

"I am really delighted to do this.

"Only around 20 people have swum the North Channel and I was the eighth female to do this and was the third fastest, and perhaps could have done better if the weather hadn't turned bad, but it was a new Irish record," said Colleen.

She added: "Different swimmers have different things to keep them going and mine is hot porridge."

She completed the swim in 9 hours, 56 mins, 27 secs and because of currents Colleen had to swim an 'S-shaped' route, which made the actual journey around 24 miles long.

Padraig was also on the support boat, while in the water helping to spur Colleen on was support swimmer, Lurgan's Keith Garry.

Padraig explained that once his sister hit the waves she was not allowed to touch the support boat so they had to give her special carbohydrate-laden hot drinks along with jam rolls and hot porridge through a bottle on a string.

Padraig added: "I am very proud of my sister. It took me 12 hours to swim the North Channel and she was quicker than me."

Colleen clocked up 1,200km in training ahead of the challenge.

The former pupil of St Paul's High School in Bessbrook was just 21 minutes off the record achieved last year by US woman Michelle Macy.

Colleen prepared by taking part in intense swim camps in Cork and Melbourne, Australia, as well as taking on the Irish National Championship swim in Lough Erne (17km) and Lough Sheelin (10km).

Dominic Bradley MLA said: "Everyone in the local area here around Newry, Bessbrook and Camlough are very proud of Colleen's achievements.

"She has worked hard at her swimming since she was a teenager and this latest feat is grounds for many previous achievements and places her firmly part of a family which has achieved a tremendous amount in sport."

As for returning to Australia, Colleen said although it would be cheaper to swim, she will fly.

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