Six months ago I agreed to do the Great East Swim.
As a speaker and coach I spend a lot of time focusing on limitations - or more accurately how to break through the self-imposed and physical barriers that can prevent us from achieving our goals. Challenging ourselves, pushing our boundaries and redefining what we think we are capable of is an important part of our professional and personal development. And if I’m going to talk about it, I think it’s good practice that I actually do this myself.
So when the opportunity to do a 5k open water swim came up I said yes. This was a big challenge for me, as well as a chance to represent The Mintridge Foundation who are an amazing charity that works across the UK. Harnessing the power of sporting role models, Mintridge increases sports participation and helps young people develop essential life skills like confidence and resilience. As an ambassador for the charity I’ve seen the impact of their programmes first hand and how these sessions really transform people’s lives.
Somewhat tentatively I put my name forward.
Mental endurance I can do, but my physical endurance is a bit of an unknown. The sports I’ve excelled at in the past have been very mentally demanding, but not very tough on my body and if I’m honest swimming has never been my first choice when it comes to sports.
My mission was to cross the finish line. I normally have way higher aspirations than that, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m a complete slowpoke when I swim at the best of times, so I was a little concerned that the organisers would see me floundering around like a demented turtle and think I needed pulling from the race.
But I did it. That space outside my comfort zone is one of my favourite places to be – the more I push myself the better and stronger I become. It was hard work, I was super slow and I really enjoyed it. I was still smiling at the end and it’s something I’d love to do again.
I was very impressed at how well the Great Swim team catered for people with disabilities. Sports events aren’t always the most inclusive, especially when they’re open to mixed abilities. Removing barriers to sports participation doesn’t always require a total overhaul of the way the event is run, but often just needs small adaptations to create an accessible, safe and non-judgmental environment. And this makes a huge, huge difference. Many activities I’ve been involved in come with a long list of warnings, rules and advice – along with the resiliently offensive question “do you think you’ll be able to finish it?” – that our able-bodied counterparts aren’t subject to. The organising team and volunteers were brilliant, making me feel like just another participant whilst ensuring that my crutches made it over to the finish line without making a big deal out of it.
As well as the wonderful support team, a big thank you also goes to 2XU for sponsoring me with a wetsuit. Awesome kit, awesome staff and now I have no excuse not to continue with open water swimming.
And thank you to everybody who sponsored and supported me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. If the money raised changes just one young person’s perceptions about themselves or empowers them to pursue a meaningful career in sport or otherwise on the back of it then it’s a job well done.