WHEN Romey Barnes took part in her first triathlon four years ago, she giggled all the way through it.

Now, as she prepares for another big challenge, she is hoping she’ll be able to sustain the same sense of fun despite the prospect of jelly fish, rip tides and heat stroke.

Because in just a few weeks’ time the 51-year-old from Benton Drive, Chester, hopes to complete a 5.5km swim in the sea between the islands of Malta and Gozo.

Romey, who runs her own natural therapy business, is already training hard to ensure she is ready for the swim, and has recently stepped up her pool sessions at Total Fitness to 2.75 miles.

She said: “Last year I managed to get up to three miles, but I went to India before Christmas and caught dengue fever so I’ve had to start from scratch again to build up my fitness levels.”

Romey admits that she is never going to be a top athlete: in her last triathlon in Bala in Wales she completed the 40km cycle ride on a bike with a shopping basket and, despite coming in last, won a wetsuit.

She said: “The ironic thing is that the Long Distance Swimming Association won’t allow wet suits for the outdoor swim and it was this that prompted me to look for other distance swims.

“I already have a link with Malta because my dad lived there as a child and I’ve always wanted to visit.”

The swim, which takes place during the final week in August (21-28), will raise funds for the charity Aspire, which supports people with spinal injury, and Romey has to bring in £1,600 in order to take part.

She said: “I’ve had a couple of car accidents over the years and have also fallen off my bike, but I’ve been fortunate not to have serious injuries – some people aren’t so lucky.”

If you would like to sponsor Romey you can do so by logging on to www.justgiving.com/romey-barnes.