'Swimming the Channel' at Home

16th May 2020
BY Freddie, Year 13 pupil

School closed, exams gone, no future certainty and a wave of lockdowns sweeping through Europe: I was feeling depressed. Wallowing around in a state of self-pity (unsurprisingly) did nothing to help. Like many others my age, I felt betrayed that everything we had been working towards, and looking forward to, had been taken away in the space of an hour.

I thought long and hard about what I could do with myself. I lost sleep (not that I really needed it), pondering constantly about how best to deal with the lockdown. Some long-term project had to be undertaken to prevent the onset of insanity; something that would take my mind off the doom and gloom exacerbated by the media.

I began whittling down my options. Ideas ranging from painting to musical composition quickly fell away and I found myself left with sport. With no idea what the final goal was, training began. I turned instantly to the two sports the whole nation had discovered simultaneously: running and cycling. However, like most of the nation, I became a ‘one weekend Wiggins.’ The bike idea fell away, and running was the only thing left.

The swimming emerged as an idea in late March. I have always enjoyed swimming and used to compete at a very low level. We are fortunate enough to own a natural pool - a 15m freezing pond looked after by nature – which has always been a source of enjoyment, albeit cold and ephemeral.

The training, after turning a corner, became rather intense. Weekdays involved a six-mile run in the morning, followed by a two-hour swim in the afternoon. At the weekends, two four-hour swims took place. Accompanying all of this was a lot of research (but still no goal in mind). I started investigating wetsuits, nutrition, swimming challenges, hypothermia and plenty more, ultimately gaining a lot of knowledge in an area I'd known little about. The challenge of the Channel was an arbitrary decision. Before I fully knew what I was getting into, I was fixated on the idea. "It’s possible, but horrific," said a friend (far better at swimming than me). "Far more people have climbed Everest," echoed my Div don, Mr Rattray, who has been a source of great wisdom throughout, via our regular Skype calls.

Nonetheless, the big day is approaching. I still feel terrified. On Sunday 31st May I will be doing the 21 miles of non-stop swimming (2,318 lengths) taking approximately 12-13 hours. The charity I have chosen to do this for is St Giles Hospice, Lichfield, who looked after my grandfather over the summer of 2019. The support I have received so far has been phenomenal, and I would like to thank everybody donating. If you would like to contribute, the link below contains more information about St Giles Hospice and what their work means to me.

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