In the news

24th September 2010 at 01:00

Natalie Bent

Natalie was, until this summer, an art teacher at Chapter School in Rochester, Kent, now known as Strood Academy (or St Rood Academy to its pupils). This September, the 27-year-old begins a master's in fine art, while she considers a future in the classroom or perhaps a career as a practising artist. So far, so ordinary - until, that is, you find out her real claim to fame: she holds the Guinness World Record for bog snorkelling. We caught up with her as she was being photographed for its official book.

Bog snorkelling? Is that even a sport? "Yes, the world championships are every July in Llanwrtyd, Wales. It's the smallest town in Great Britain and it wanted to put itself on the map, so invented the competition. I have competed and won for the past three years. It started when a friend of mine suggested it. We came along to watch and I thought, 'I've just got to have a go.'"

Ever play 'stuck in the mud'? "Well this year the bog was really deep. I'm only small, so I was drowning trying to keep my head above the mud. There are two competitions, the bog snorkelling and then a triathlon. I smashed my triathlon record this year by 25 minutes."

What's this photo shoot like? "I'm back in the town that hosts the event with my brother, who is the champion of the men's race. We've got to get back in the bog to take the shots - they want us coming out with mud and weeds all over us. They've got the waders up so we don't get splashed and these big lights so the pictures should be good."

You were raised to be Bent bog champions? "No, my family are sporty but I wasn't growing up - I smoked a lot. I gave that all up when I was 21, when my addiction turned to sport, running, cycling and triathlons. I've always liked doing muddy, dirty stuff, which was why I got into this."

Not a bog-standard teacher, are you? "No, my colleagues thought I was crazy. When I said I was bog snorkelling they thought I meant in the toilet. I did an assembly to the kids about it, and they liked telling everyone their teacher was a World Record holder, it gets me in their good books. They're from deprived backgrounds and they'd see me run to school and cycle back and they'd say, 'Alright miss!' I like to think it opened their minds."

What's next? "Almost every weekend I'm competing. Last week I did a time trial where I cycled for 12 hours to see the distance I travelled - I did 215 miles. I'd like to compete in the Great Britain age groups. And who knows what else? The town bog-snorkelling hosts are working on chariot racing and bath-tub canoeing."

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