Colin Hill has always had a passion for water sports and the outdoors, which has led him to the career he has today. PACE magazine interviewed him to find out more:
When did your passion for outdoor swimming start?
My passion for outdoor swimming really started when I lived in New Zealand in 1998. I was living in Auckland and worked on the waterfront as a kayak guide/instructor. Every week there were two big swim/run races 'dip and dash & stroke and stride'. Really fun events and the swimming club that I trained with would often train in the sea. Then when I moved back to the UK and settled in the Lake District in 1999 I started swimming regularly in Rydal Water and Windermere.
Has swimming always been your main sport or have you done other things?
Swimming was my first sport, a typical pool based swimming club competitor when I was younger, at fourteen I started competing in kayak competitions, I love racing down rivers and being in the outdoors rather than spending all day at a gala waiting for my swim. Kayaking ended up taking me around the world, as an expedition guide, but I always kept up my swimming.
Why outdoor swimming?
Well it combines my two passions, swimming and the outdoors. Swimming is so diverse, I enjoy competing (and organising) open water swimming races (plus watching elite races).
How was your recent swim in the Strait of Gibraltar?
I swam the Strait of Gibraltar in October, having swum the English Channel, Messina Strait (Italy to Sicily) Hellespont (Europe to Asia), the thought of swimming from Europe to Africa really appealed. The challenge of that 16km swim, apart from the strong tides is getting the opportunity to swim. Tarifa in Spain where you start is very windy, so conditions are generally not ideal for swimming and it is very strictly controlled when you can swim as it's a very busy shipping route. But out of three weeks of extremely windy weather, one day allowed me to cross the Strait, relatively warm water at 19 degrees, with Whales spotted close by it was a wonderful swim, which makes swimming outdoors so special.
Can you give brief background on the job you do.
I used to work for Nova International who organise the Great North Run, I went to Brendan Foster [the owner of the company] and suggested putting on a open water swimming event. At the time there were no big commercial mass participation swim events, so it was a risk. But the Great North Swim had 2,200 people take part in a one mile swim in Windermere in year one.
It's now a Swim Series sponsored by British Gas and the BG Great North Swim has over 10,000 enter it. I left Great Swim in April 2011 to become Marathon Swimming Technical Operations Manager for the London 2012 Olympic 10k swimming event. We held a test event in August of this year in the Serpentine, Hyde Park which went very well and was a good chance to have the elites swimming the Olympic course.
Tell us about the Olympic Marathon Swimming event next year
The Olympic Marathon Swimming 10k event takes place on the 9th & 10th August 2012 in the Serpentine and a large area of the lake is free to spectators, both the men's and women's event are going to be incredible, I'm so excited about it. Anyone who enjoys seeing top elite racing should come down to the park to watch the action.