Judy, 78, channels grief into swimming at The Triangle in Burgess Hill

At aged 78, Judy Tilbury from Hassocks said she was told she has the blood pressure of a ‘fit teenager’.

To date, she has swum 329 miles at The Triangle leisure centre in Burgess Hill.

Judy Tilbury after finishing her swim at The Triangle in Burgess Hill

Judy Tilbury after finishing her swim at The Triangle in Burgess Hill

Last Wednesday, she swam the last 20 lengths of her fifth challenge – ‘Cuba to Florida’ – a total of 7,080 lengths.

Speaking to the Middy afterwards, the 78-year-old, of Farnham Avenue, said: “I feel elated. I just feel so well after swimming. It is great – I am looking forward to my next challenge.”

The challenge took Judy two years, but four of those she was in Canada visiting her son. She swam at the leisure centre on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Despite a near-drowning experience when she was nine, Judy said she has always loved the water.

Judy Tilbury

Judy Tilbury

She decided to learn to swim when she was 70, after she had been on holiday with her family. “I was sad because I couldn’t join in with the children,” said Judy.

“I started off in the paddling pool and went twice a week, by the sixth lesson I could do the strokes.”

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Judy went through the tragedy of losing her son Mathew when he was just 24. He died when he tried to break up a fight in Brighton in 1996 and was struck on the head by a baseball bat.

It led Judy to have a heart attack in 2001 due to stress. “I used to burst into tears and collapse,” she said.

“My grieving counsellor used to say to me ‘you are breaking your heart’.”

Judy’s life was hit with more tragedy in 2010 when she lost her husband Roy to a brain tumour. He was 73 and they were married for almost 50 years.

She thanks swimming for keeping her ‘sane’, as well as sewing, which she has done for more than 50 years, first as a seamstress and then as a soft-furnishings and curtain maker.

She said: “If it hadn’t been for The Triangle and my sewing clients, I wouldn’t be here. My daughter says I live by the three S’s – swimming, sewing and sanity!”

Judy hit the headlines in 2013 when she swam the equivalent distance of the English Channel at The Triangle.

She raised more than £1,200 for Headway East Sussex, which helps people with acquired brain injuries.

To congratulate Judy on her latest success, you can make a donation to the charity here: https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/headwayeastsussex.