Fallon Finlayson is a self-confessed water addict who took on her first aQuellé Midmar Mile in 2007. Looking back, she believes she was hooked right from the start. Two years later, she noticed that some people were swimming in special gold caps, and curiosity led her to discover that these were the caps worn by members of the 8 Mile Club. Back then, the club consisted of only about 50 swimmers, but there and then Fallon decided that she was going to become one of them. After going through the application process, she was thrilled to get a gold cap of her own in 2012.

“Being part of the 8 Mile Club is an amazing experience,” explained Fallon. “We are all swimmers (fast and slow) doing what we love, sharing an incredible experience and raising money for charities that we are passionate about.”

There are a variety of charities supported by the 8 Mile Club, but Fallon swims specifically for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. “I’ve been swimming for them for four years now, and I’ll never change my charity,” she said. “People seem reluctant to donate to an animal charity, which I find sad because these animals can’t help themselves at all, especially when it comes to poachers.”

Looking back over her years of swimming the aQuellé Midmar Mile, Fallon considers 2012 – her first year as part of the 8 Mile Club – to be her most memorable moment. “I was a bundle of nerves and excitement on that Saturday morning,” she shared. “The first mile went by so quickly, and I kept telling myself to keep a steady pace so that I’d be able to finish all eight. Once I had finished my fourth mile and gotten to know some of the swimmers, I was having the time of my life.” Fallon describes her eighth and final mile of that weekend as amazing. “We all took it very slowly, before waiting for each other at the end and all walking through the finish together,” she explained.

Swimming eight miles in a weekend is no small feat, and there are various psychological tips and tricks that these intrepid swimmers use to keep themselves going. According to Fallon, a lot of the struggle goes on in the mind rather than in the body. “Your mind will play tricks on you,” she said. “You need to be able to get negative thoughts out of your mind and focus on why you are doing this.”

She advises any swimmer who may be taking on their first 8 Mile Club experience to remember that it’s not a race to finish first – it’s a race to finish them all. “You’ll be sore at the end of it, but the feeling of satisfaction is worth every aching muscle.”

Lastly, we asked Fallon what her favorite things about open water swimming were. “I love water,” she responded. “It doesn’t matter if I’m swimming in a dam, the ocean or a pool – I feel my happiest in the water. The other element of it for me is the group of people who have become my swimming family – they make the experience even greater.”

For more information about the 8 Mile Club, please contact Di Doveton on didoveton@gmail.com.