Running into the sea on New Year’s Day: good idea/bad idea?

Fri, 08/01/2010 - 16:45
Submitted by Joanna Tinsley

“Now all that’s left is to run through the fire exits”, organiser Jim Moseley tells us through a megaphone, as I look round to see hundreds of well-layered spectators huddling around us on three sides. “There are no fire exits and we have you surrounded. The only way out is the sea.” Everyone laughs. I start to wonder if this is a good idea. 

It had seemed like a good idea last night. After a few glasses of cava, I’d got it in my head that a New Year’s Day swim was the perfect way to kick start January. “Think of it like a baptism for a new decade,” I’d told my friends, most of who were now sleeping in the New Year under a warm duvet. 
Flash forward to 1pm on New Year’s Day and here I am, standing on Lyme Regis beach in a homemade cow costume and my feet have just gone numb. Next to me stand a selection of superheroes, a skeleton, ninja and, God bless Borat for introducing this item to the world, a gentleman in a mankini.
1,500 people have turned up to see this, the second annual Lyme Regis Lunge, a charity swim organised by the local Rotary Club. 50 of us are now shivering on the shore, ready to take the plunge. The ratio should give you some idea of the temperature. “It’s 4 degrees folks,” Jim informs us, “but don’t worry, it’s double that in the sea.” More laughter.
Just before the countdown begins, my friend James, who decided to drive up from Bristol at 9.30am this morning, wins a prize for best costume after the mayor’s daughter takes a liking to his robot outfit. “This is the most surreal moment of my life,” he mumbles over his shoulder as he the local newspaper takes his photo next to the mayor.
Then finally - distractions over, excuses futile and escape impossible – the countdown begins and we run, screaming, into the sea. For the first few seconds my cow fur protects me from the cold, but then I dunk my head under and it feels like my heart has stopped. I lose the ability to speak, or move, but my hangover instantly disappears. 
Lumbering up the beach, someone hands me a cup of hot soup as the crowds begin to disperse. I’m covered in goose bumps, and about 50% of my body feels numb, but I can’t stop smiling. Good idea, I decide. Same again next year. 
More about BBC Worldwide.