Friday, 28 December 2012

Swimmers Without Frontiers

Swimmers Without Frontiers

I feel inspired. I just received the annual report from the BLDSA for 2012 and very honoured to have come third in terms of points for the 2012 season after struggling with 30 lengths front crawl in 2009. I kind of feel like I also earned most of those points the hard way as I didn't win any of the races (those that come first not only get the mileage, but also get 10 points, 2nd gets 9 and so on...). This blog ain't about the past. That was just me feeling smug for a second.

When I first took it upon myself to start this website I was pretty much 100% fit (save for dodgy knee) and embarking on a project/goal to swim Loch Lomond. This digital journal was therefore chronicling the steps I was taking and was hoping to impart knowledge & inspire others to get stuck in wherever possible. Loch Lomond happened and all went fine and dandy...

I am now disabled. I suppose if I were to swim & qualify for the Paralympics they'd stick me in with the S7s which is like an amputee. I have even applied for my very own blue badge to occupy one of the empty disabled spaces by the pool and supermarket!  Due to having a benign tumour removed from my left abdomen, the surgeons had to sacrifice the left femoral nerve that governs my left quad which I no longer have the use of. I have no real leg kick to speak of in my left leg. The disability is no real bother at all but just takes me longer to get anywhere and you generally feel more vulnerable. BUT not in the water.

I am now 8 weeks post operation and absolutely thrilled to be back in the pool and slamming out a mile in under 32 mins (I was around 30 mins pre-op). Words cannot describe and do not express the liberating feeling that swimming gives me and each length is definitely more special than before this disability. I don't beat up myself as much and appreciate taking more time getting to know others and what they are training for. I also look over at the slow and medium lanes and consider most of that front crawl to be an utter disaster which is a shame and doesn't need to be with much training.

These last 8 weeks has presented me with ample opportunity to reassess what I want to do on the earth given I can't get around as easily and what I can do with swimming which is obviously central to my existence. One night in the Royal Marsden in Chelsea (high on morphine) I came up with the idea of Swimmers Without Frontiers.

What is Swimmers Without Frontiers? I have returned to the pool after massive abdominal surgery and a disability but there's only one person who can swim faster than me in the fast lane at the local baths on the Saturday & Sunday lane swims. How many people with disabilities can swim well and believe that they could swim well? I guess not many. There's only one disabled athlete I see in the baths and he's awesome & passionate & has no use of his legs but he is there everyday no matter what. He's the kind of guy I'll reach out to for technique help. Basics...

One of my heroes, Rosalinda Hardimann is the only person that I know of who has swum the channel as a disabled swimmer (Polio & wheelchair all of her life) and has surely been the beacon of hope to many an able bodied channel swimmer that they can make it to France.

Indeed,  one of my mates who cannot even drive due to severe Epilepsy, finished 3rd in this year's Ullswater 7-miler in very cold 12 degrees is a terrific swimmer and has overcome a whole bunch of fear and worry including some of her natural instincts and believe that she can swim heroic distances (she swam round Jersey this year and is doing the Channel in 2013).
You know what, when I think about it there are loads of us who would count as 'Less-Able' and slightly disabled. Open Water swimming seems to attract us!

What I want to do is to find a way of inspiring the 'less-able' to realise that they can float and in most cases improve speed & belief. I am disabled but, oh boy, you put me in the water - I feel super-human compared with most pool swimmers.

What I think Swimmers Without Frontiers will be is a resource base (probably a blog or website) where the 'Less-able' can write down their inspirational stories of their endurance swims to provide motivation for others. They'll also be a whole bunch of stuff on technique there and once I've got my coaching badges I'll be able to instruct from more of a position of authority. This could be global and showcase anyone's inspirational swimming endurance story. Dick and Rick Hoyt (Link on the side of blog) are an inspiration to me. There are tonnes of others.

In 2013, I have my name down for 2swim4life ( and the big aim will be becoming one of the first (if not THE first) disabled athlete to swim a double Windermere (BLDSA swim  - I also am putting my name down for the Channel in 2015 to put my name alongside Rossalinda Hardiman. That would be an honour.

This will need some tweaking but you get the idea.....Let me know any thoughts!

Swimmers Without Frontiers - Inspiration Thru Endurance