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Christmas Presents

TO CROSS THY STREAM, BROAD HELLESPONT

For Leander and Hero, love was hell in the Hellespont, but today the Dardanelles offers swimmers a magical journey at the crossroads of east and west, past and present. By Elaine K Howley
Gillis Backereel - Kunsthistorisches Museum. Image of Lord Byron, right, Richard Westall - National Portrait Gallery

It’s been said that there are no new ideas in literature, and the same can probably be said for marathon swimming. In this series, we look into the history of some lesser known events and their modern incarnations.

On 3 May 1810, British poet George Gordon, better known as Lord Byron, took an immersive approach to learning whether one of antiquity’s most enduring and tragic love stories was physically possible. He plunged into the cool turquoise waters of the Hellespont at Sestos, Turkey, then part of the Ottoman Empire, and began stroking toward Abydos on the other side.

Swimming a practised and steady breaststroke, Byron got across in a little over an hour. Arriving at the Asian side of the narrow channel that separates continental Europe from Asia, Byron had proved that the ancient Greek tale of Leander and Hero could have happened, and that he was an excellent swimmer himself.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Welcome to our training special! Whether you have signed up for your first open water event or are planning an endurance challenge we have a plan for you – turn to page 44 for our one mile, 5k and 10k training schedules. We also have an intensive 10k DIY training camp for more advanced swimmers, as well as advice on how to successfully swim 24 miles in 24 hours and train for a swimrun event. Plus, our resident Olympian Cassie Patten answers your training queries and Total Immersion head coach Terry Laughlin trains your brain as well as your body. And if you haven’t yet signed up to an event to train for, check out our full listings starting on page 80. Outdoor swimming isn’t all about chasing that PB though. We hear from self-confessed dipper Joe Minihane about how wild swimming helped cure his anxiety and Ella Foote swims with Tessa Wardley, the author of a new book on mindfulness and swimming. And Jenny Landreth delves into the history books to explore the advice given to female swimmers in the 19th century. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming.
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