Shirley is swimming for the first time in 10 years

I decided to take on the Aspire Channel Swim mainly because I announced to my colleagues that I would walk the 25 miles from home to work to fundraise and then never did, so when I said I thought I might do the Swim, everyone nagged me until I signed up!

When I started swimming in September, I hadn’t swum for about 10 years. I am self-taught so I was a breaststroke with your head up swimmer, and even that not very well, but I know I have a lot of stamina and can go a long way – even if very slowly!  I started trying to do front crawl, but realised I had no idea how to do it and then I got really behind (1 mile in 4 weeks!).   Then I needed to catch up so I thought I would do breaststroke again.  Now that I can do the actual breathing while I am swimming, I am faster, and swum 9½ miles in 10 days!  I do like being in the water, although I always feel great when I get out!

This is the first time I have taken on the Aspire Channel Swim and I am finding it a challenge.  During my first two miles I drank half the pool, nearly drowned myself and had the loudest burps of my life from gulping!   


After that, I started being able to breathe a bit better although I still had to rest at each end of the 25m pool.  Then I noticed I was the slowest person (probably ever!) and that l was being overtaken even by the slowest swimmers in the slow lanes.  The only time I’m not annoying somebody is when there is nobody else in the lane!

Halfway through the challenge, my swimming is definitely getting better.  Last week I overtook two people in the slow lane, and I was so proud of myself.  I can’t wait to graduate to the medium speed lane.

I still plan to improve my front crawl.  I’m going to take a friend to the pool so they can show me the breathing. I will then have to put up with going through the drowning and burping phase which, if it is anything like the breaststroke, will take about 4 miles to practice… but then I WILL get it.  I think I will be faster doing front crawl and they say it is an easier stroke for long distance swimming.

My first swim took me 2 hours to do 30 (25m) lengths. Now I can do 120 lengths in 2 hours - I know that is still really slow compared with some people!  I still want to be able to do that walk to work, have loads of energy, swim 45 minute miles doing front crawl and stay healthy.

I’m looking forward to completing the challenge but then I’m going to see if there is any way I can swim back again too in the 12 weeks.  I would be over the moon if I can!

Doing the Swim has reminded me how much I love swimming and I am going to try and swim the distance (in the pool) of all Aspire’s challenge swims: Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, the Solent, River Arun and then the Channel again.  I have a secret wish to swim Loch Ness, if I get good enough.  I always wanted to find Nessie!


I’ve found fundraising to be a funny thing. First of all, nothing happened.  I told people what I was doing, and they all said they would sponsor me, but no one did.  Then I thought “I can’t keep nagging” but then I started swimming seriously and it was hard.  I started posting on Facebook, but not often and not always with the link.  I got a bit of money but not much.  So, I had a think about Facebook and how it worked and realised that not everyone sees every post.  So, my new strategy was to post often and ALWAYS include the link.  I thought about the fact that every penny goes to support people with spinal cord injuries, and I stopped being embarrassed to ask people.  Suddenly I started getting a lot more sponsors.  I even asked my line manager for a donation, but he hasn’t given me one… yet!

I have met a lot of people who suddenly had a fall or trip or horrible accident and ended up with a spinal cord injury. Their lives have changed but they just keep trying to be as independent as they can. I just want to support them

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