Pietermaritzburg - Thousands took to the water on Saturday to kick-start the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Midmar Mile.
The packed swimming programme got underway with one of South Africa’s swimming icons Terence Parkin and the rest of his fellow Graeme Pope-Ellis Iron man/woman contestants battling it out on the water.
Parkin will make it an endurance sporting double in a couple of days when he and Midmar Mile organizer Wayne Riddin tackle next week’s Dusi in a K2 together.
Parkin’s opening race field also saw scores of inspirational characters tackle the 1610m course despite their variety of disabilities. American Craig Dietz, born with no arms or legs, was one of the remarkable group to complete the feat.
Hoping to complete his swim in 35-36 minutes Dietz was slightly disappointed with his time of a little over the 37 minute mark but raved about the event and its magnitude.
"It was great. There were so many people around and I’ve never done an event where there are so many people swimming around you so I loved it," said Dietz.
"You get bumped and kicked a couple times but I’d rather have that than be out there by myself.
"The water was also amazing and wow, that view!"
At 89-years-old Lorna Cochran, who already held the title of the oldest ever female finisher, enjoyed her journey from the start to the finish with a team of family supporting her stroke for stroke as they swam beside her the entire way.
Cochran’s finish saw her become the oldest ever finisher in the history of the 40 years of the race, eclipsing the effort of Colin Cable in 1999.
Olympic gold medallist and current holder of the 50m and 100m breaststroke world records Cameron van der Burgh was one of the many celebrities to grace the event on Saturday.
Having joined forces with the Pink Drive, an effort to raise funds for cancer research and treatment, Van der Burgh added his weight to the good cause by doing breaststroke the entire way across the course.
"Wayne (Riddin) called me and asked if I wanted to get involved with doing breaststroke at the Midmar Mile. At first I was a bit scared, it’s a bit further than my usual 50m and 100m, but it was for a great cause and it’s not too often you get to help out the community and do something great like this," said Van der Burgh.
Thousands took to the water on the opening day of the 2013 Midmar Mile kick starting the race's 40th anniversary celebrations (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)