The Aspire Channel Swim inspired me not to give up
Three years ago I couldn't even swim. It’s something I’ve wanted to learn all my life but due to my disabilities every day can be a struggle. I have a condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, a weakening of the muscles in the hands and feet and it’s a progressive condition. I’ve also had scoliosis of the spine so have had to have a metal rod inserted in my back. My husband and best friend encouraged me to learn how to swim to possibly help my condition, they also thought it could be a good bit of fun. So, in October 2016 I had my first swimming lesson.
Lessons were going well when my teacher said to me "one day I'll have you doing a swimming challenge", I just laughed. Then, in July, my teacher told me about the Aspire Channel Swim that takes place in September every year - my first words were "I'm not swimming in that dirty water!" He laughed and explained that I would do it in the leisure centre pool where I’d learnt to swim. After wondering if I could really swim 22 miles in 12 weeks I thought, if I’ve got 12 weeks, I'd give it a go.
I signed up with Aspire and sent a link to my fundraising page out to everyone I knew, so they could sponsor me. Every morning, at 6am when the pool opened, I went to Downham Health and Leisure Centre to do lane swimming. I’ve never been a great swimmer on my front, backstroke is the style for me. I did about 30 lengths a session for the first few days but then thought, I’ve got to do more to finish this in time.
Every time I got out of the pool I updated my lengths with Aspire on my phone. The messages of support and earning badges on my Aspire page made me feel really excited every single time. I used to message my friends to say I’ve earned a new badge, or my lengths have added up to a mile! The sponsor money started adding up which gave me more confidence to complete the Swim.
"That night I decided I would get a tattoo done to show I'd achieved something I never thought I could."
I was making friends at the pool, who on some days swam lengths with me, I even did some lengths with my swimming teacher as he was doing the challenge too. I built up my distance each week and before I knew it I was doing 64 lengths of the pool (one mile) in a session. Sometimes I went in the evening too.
When I completed the challenge and updated my progress on the Aspire website it was such a great feeling, I'd done just over 22 miles in seven weeks! I just sat at the edge of the pool crying with joy. I'd earned all these badges because of the amount of money I had raised for people with spinal cord injuries. Aspire’s cause meant so much to me, having personally had major surgery on my back. That night I decided I would get a tattoo done to show I'd achieved something I never thought I could. My husband helped me design it. Aspire nicknamed me “Jackie6 the Silver Ray”, so I had to get something that included this.
I'm always getting emails from Aspire keeping me in touch with what they are doing and who knows, maybe I'll do another 22 miles of backstroke again this year. I would encourage anyone to do this challenge, it's fun, rewarding, certainly keeps you fit, and Aspire gives you all the support you could possibly ask for.
The Aspire Channel Swim is one thing I will never forget. It was a pleasure to do it, and something I'm proud to have achieved.
Jackie6 The Silver Ray.