Two policemen savoured a well-earned dram on Monday after a six-day epic challenge which included swimming the entire 107 miles of the River Spey.
Edinburgh-based police constable Dougie Bulmer, originally from Newtonmore in Speyside, completed the swim of Scotland’s second longest river – equivalent to swimming the Channel five times!
He was accompanied in the challenge by colleagues from Lothian and Borders Police, Craig Robertson from Edinburgh and David Murray from Aberdour, who cycled and ran the length of the river.
During their adventure the trio, sponsored by Scotch Beef, ran, cycled and swam past some of the world’s finest Scotch whisky distilleries but their rigorous training regime meant they had “not a drop to drink”. The team at The Macallan distillery, however, sent a bottle of something special to Spey Bay to ensure they could celebrate in style at the end of the challenge.
The gents also raised a glass to meeting their £5,000 sponsorship target for the charity, Help for Heroes, which helps troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Exceptionally low temperatures in and out of the water were among the major challenges for Dougie and, while there was some very welcome sunshine, he also swam through rain, hail, sleet and snow during the six days.
To tackle the constant risk of hypothermia, Dougie wore two wetsuits - a swimming wetsuit with a further wetsuit on top - as well as a hood, goggles, boots and thick gloves.
During his best day, Dougie managed to get almost 22 miles of the Spey under his belt but the extreme cold meant he could only swim for up to two hours at a time before stopping to ensure his body temperature was raised with some sustenance and warmth.
A further problem for Dougie which was much greater than anticipated was motion sickness.
“With Dougie spending so long in the water his weightlessness, coupled with the strong current, meant motion sickness was a real problem. This got worse when he got out of the water adding a further complication to getting him warmed up between swimming sessions,” Craig said.
Despite being dogged by painful blisters as a result of running in the boggy conditions at the source of the Spey, Craig completed his run of the length of the Spey in a very commendable 26 and a half hours, including forty miles on day two running on a dozen or so fresh blisters!
During the day the three ate army style rations including beef curry, hot orange juice and corned beef hash. They camped out most nights when Scotch Beef steaks and pork and lamb chops were on the menu along with pasta, rice and potatoes to attempt to replace the daily 7000-10,000 calories each required.
Speaking at Spey Bay near Fochabers as Dougie completed the last few miles of his swim, Craig said they were all delighted with the support and encouragement local people have given them during their challenge.
“It was impossible for us to calculate in advance exactly where we would be on any one day but, where possible, we tried our best to get ahead and forewarn fishermen and others on the river before Dougie swam by.
“Local people and ghillies on the river have been very understanding and our thanks go to everyone who donated and provided morale support to us during the past few days,” said Craig.
The three also expressed sincere thanks to Dougie’s father, Digby, who provided safety backup and morale support canoeing alongside his son with other vital members of the trio’s back-up team being Craig’s dad, Tony, and friend and logistics expert, Cammy McGregor.
Anyone interested in making a donation to Help for Heroes can do so at www.bmycharity.com/riverspey