Scottish artist will use ‘big hands and feet’ and ‘love’ to swim length of Loch Lomond for special godson

A Scottish artist will leap from the ‘bonnie banks’ into the water this week in a bid to swim the full length of Loch Lomond.

Susie Johnston, from Perth, has been training hard for the past 18 months to get ready for the endurance challenge, which she is taking on to raise money for a charity dedicated to the progressive wasting disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy – a condition her ten-year-old godson suffers from.

Felix Robertson was just two years old when he was first diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive condition that affects mainly boys.

He is one of around 2,500 people in the UK who are affected by the disorder, which is caused by a fault in the dystrophin gene.

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It means muscles are easily damaged and their strength and function is weakened.

Eventually all the muscles in the body, including the heart and lungs, are affected.

The epic swim – around 24 miles – will be the longest distance Ms Johnston has ever covered, taking around 13 hours if everything goes to plan.

She has opened a JustGiving page to seek sponsorship for the swim, with all money going to Duchenne UK – a charity set up in 2011 to support research and treatments for the condition.

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Felix is one of three youngsters in the UK taking part in a pioneering gene therapy trial which it is hoped can help slow progression of his condition

The artist, who is studying for a PhD and working as a teacher at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, says she is nervous and excited about getting in the water tomorrow, which is also World Duchenne Awareness Day.

“I’ve been training five times a week for the past 18 months and I took part in a long-distance swimming camp back in March to prepare for the swim,” she says.

“The biggest issues will be the cold and the distance. I think it’s 70 per cent mental and 30 per cent physical.

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“I’m doing it for Felix, and I think it will be love that gets me though.”

Inspired by her 10-year-old godson Felix, Perth-based artist Susie Johnston is set to take the plunge and swim the length of Loch Lomond -- around 24 miles -- to raise cash for the charity Duchenne UK

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Ms Johnston says her “big” frame means she is particularly suited to her chosen sport, which she took up around 15 years ago after a knee injury meant other exercises were too painful.

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“I’m 6ft-tall, I have big hands and big feet,” she said.

“I’m built for long-distance swimming, I have ready-made fins.

Susie Johnston has been training five days a week for the past 18 months to prepare for the marathon swim and says her "big" frame and "ready-made fins" mean she is ideally built for the endurance challenge, which will take around 13 hours

“Now I’m going to put this big body to good use and help raise awareness of this aggressive condition and the work of Duchenne UK.”

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Ms Johnston will set off from Ardlui at 6am tomorrowWednesday, then swim along the eastern side of the loch to Balloch, where she expects to land between 7pm and 8pm.

“Conditions are looking favourable,” she said.

“It’s not going to be a blisteringly sunny day – it will be overcast, with some rain and clouds.

“But as far as I’m concerned it will just be such a joy to get into that beautiful loch.

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Felix Robertson, now aged 10, was just two years old when he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy -- a rare genetic condition affecting around 2,500 people in the UK

“Sunshine or no sunshine, I’m just going to just do it, give it my everything for Duchenne UK.”

She will be wearing an eco-friendly long-armed swimsuit, not a wetsuit, and a tow float to provide visibility to other water users on the loch.

She will also have a three-person support team, including Felix’s mum Robyn Robertson, on hand to provide food every 45 minutes to keep her energy levels up and help in an emergency.

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