I’ve been thinking about Real Channel Swimmers this week.
As I’ve completed miles 8 – 12 https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clare-hall-craggs-2017-channel-swim-10728 (this is a sponsored swim and I’d love it if you’d sponsor me for a mile or two) for Aspire and my arms have started to feel the first twinges of cold. I’ve had such a display of colours – greys, blues and bright whites – to watch above and to my side as I’ve swum outside. Those shifting displays have kept me going (and outside rather than cooped up in an indoor pool).
But what spurs on the Real Channel Swimmer, out almost alone in the sea, with just a tiny pilot boat beside to guide them, when the white cliffs have disappeared, the sky has turned black and they can’t see France? For 6 or 7 miles in the middle you can, apparently, see nothing of either country.
I thought about the four ladies I know of who’ve done it – solo – and their determination of putting one arm in the water after the other has spurned me on and turned off the voice in my head that has suggested jumping out and heading to my nearest indoor pool.
You can catch one of these swimmers, the brilliant and always smiling Parliament Hill Lido regular Sally Goble on Saturday Live – and you can find out more about another, Jessica Hepburn who ate 21 meals with 21 women and swam 21 miles across the channel to find out if motherhood makes you happy.
I love the exchanges you get to have in, on or around the water.
‘Have you come far?’, shouted the kayaker over the water at me one very balmy day in August when we piled all into The Thames at Pangbourne for a swim.
‘No, not really.’ I replied.
‘Have you come all the way from Henley?’ (NB several miles of swimming and a few locks and probably a couple of weirs away)
‘Er, no, just the car park up there!’
Yesterday I bumped into a familiar face at the lido, and we launched into a chat about the temperature. How far I’d swum, how far she was planning to go, how good it was now the numbers in the water were thinning out but where had all the balmy swims at 16’C gone? The lido becomes more sociable the fewer swimmers there are. The families with their picnics and floats, the head up keeping special hair-dos out of the water breaststrokers, the teenage packs out to impress each other, all gradually depart leaving the hardier swimmers of all shapes and sizes who might be trying to ‘over winter’ or just swim as long as they can as the temperatures drop.
I’m wondering how many of them are Real Channel Swimmers. And if one day I might just be brave enough to join their gang.