A Catterick Army veteran has completed an epic open water swim across England’s longest lake as part of a team from Help for Heroes.
Former Platoon Sergeant Christopher McNamara, 39, swam the 11-mile Windermere One Way more than an hour and ten minutes faster than he did it last year, despite having recently being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease.
He took seven hours and 20 minutes to cover the length of one of the Lake District’s most iconic beauty spots made famous by Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth.
Christopher said: “It wasn’t until the morning of the event itself that I made up my mind about whether I would be able to swim or not but, after the effort the Help for Heroes staff put in and the money I had raised, it was a case of as soon as my head was in the water I knew I had to focus on the task in hand and get the job done.
“There was no way I wasn’t going to make it, but I was not expecting to beat my time from the previous year due to illness so once I reached the finish and saw my time, I was both shocked and relieved.
“I’m determined to swim the Windermere One Way for a third time next year when I hope I’ll be well.”
Christopher served for more than 21 years with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment 2nd Battalion in conflicts across the world including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was medically discharged last year on physical grounds after multiple surgeries failed to fix a damaged left knee.
By completing Windermere One Way, Christopher has raised more than £500 for Help for Heroes which relies on donations from the public for 98 per cent of its income to support wounded, injured and sick veteran, Serving personnel and their families.
He turned to the charity’s recovery centre in the North, Phoenix House in Catterick Garrison in 2014, when he was first injured.
It hasn’t only helped improve his mental and physical health through its Team True Spirit challenges but was also crucial in securing him a new job when he transitioned into civilian life in November 2018 working for the Environment Agency as Yorkshire’s Water, Land and Biodiversity Asset Management team leader.
He said: “The staff at Phoenix House, both military and civilian are life-savers, they are non-judgemental, and their attitude is always not ‘who’s going to let me?’ but rather ‘who’s going to stop me?’ Their support throughout my journey helped me through a dark period in my life and helped me prepare myself for the future. I will never be able to thank them enough.”
Mark Airey, physical development coach at Help for Heroes’ Phoenix House recovery centre, added: “Windermere One Way symbolises everything a challenge should be – it was mentally and physically demanding and left us with a huge sense of achievement and pride.
“We inspired, enabled and supported and that’s what Help for Heroes is all about.”