A couple of years ago I swam in the Thames. On purpose. For fun. It was part of the Great Swim series – a series of mile long swims in various famous outdoor locations such as Loch Ness, Windermere and the Thames. I did it as a way of trying to get some of my body back after having the firstborn, to raise money for charity and to get me out of the house. Apart from my children it’s probably the thing in my life I’m most proud of.
I started training in January 2011. At that stage I couldn’t swim a 25m length of the swimming pool “freestyle” without gasping for air and stopping halfway through. Which was a problem as I was going to have to swim 65 lengths non stop if I was going to be able to complete the mile in open water. So, with the help of YouTube tutorials and the advice of friends who had done the swim, I started to increase the number of lengths one by one. I swam after work and on Saturday nights and while R was at nursery. Slowly, steadily, I swam further and further. And, to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. Me! The person who used to stop for a fag (sorry mum) halfway round the cross country course at school. Me! The person who struggles to stay upright on a bike. Me! The person who managed to completely ruin her knee skiing slowly down a nursery slope. Me. The person who had never really enjoyed exercise, no matter how hard I tried. Moreover, I was getting good at it. When I’m in water all the things that hinder me on dry land actually help me. Big boobs = excellent flotation. Long legs = more power to kick. Propensity to day dream = getting in the zone instead of ending up on the floor. Soon I was able to overtake people. Quite a lot. Soon I found myself taking a great deal of pleasure in doing so, laughing into the water like a silent, deranged hyena.
By June I was ready for the open water (to people’s horror) and started swimming in a lake in Dartford (not just randomly though, it’s a proper outdoor swimming lake tested and certified to be free of nasty things). Every Monday I was in that lake, come rain or shine (rain mostly). I bought myself a wetsuit. Things were getting real.
By August I was ready and, amazingly, I couldn’t wait to get in the dirty, brown water of our capital’s river. On the day I was so nervous and excited the first thing I did when I got in the water was take a massive gulp. To my horror and amazement, I discovered the Thames is salty. I suppose I should’ve been prepared – it is a tidal river after all. After I’d got my breath back I settled into the swim and was soon on the home stretch. Cheered over the line by my friends and family, I was astounded to discover that I’d managed to swim the mile in 38 minutes. Much better than I ever expected, especially thinking back to the days when I couldn’t swim a length.
In the days and weeks and months and years that followed I promised myself that I’d take part in the event again and beat my time. I even joined a lovely local swimming club for a while. But, life got in the way. We got a dog, and dogs need to be walked and fed and entertained. I had another child, and children need to be walked and fed and entertained. Finding time for myself is tricky (see: rest of blog). So I haven’t fulfilled my promise to myself. Yet.
Today I decided to make that promise again. My parents had the baby for a few hours to practise child care for when I go back to work and to give me some time out. I went, and told myself to try for 30 lengths in 30 minutes. I did 40 and I loved it. I’m going again next week and I’m going to try to go at least once a week until I go back to work in January, at which point I can sign up for the August 2015 event. Great timing as I’m maid of honour for my best friend next August and I need to get in shape so I can wear my lovely dress with pride, not to mention the fact that I’ve seen her dress and need to up my game a bit. Seriously, it’s stunning. This time though I’ve got you, dear reader, to witness my promise and make me accountable for it.
So prepare yourself for some swimming related blogs over the coming months as I begin my slow journey towards beating my 38 minutes. Wish me luck.