Sunday, 2 September 2012

Happy Anniversary


Exactly two years ago today, I completed my English Channel swim - and here's my scrawl on the wall of the White Horse pub to prove it. I'm not a big one for anniversaries, but this one sticks in my mind - the culmination of an amazing couple of years of training, researching, travelling and swimming...and swimming...and swimming.

When I first decided to train for a Channel swim, I imagined it as a one-off, goal-oriented challenge - I would train, swim, and hopefully make it to France. And that would be that. From the perspective of the research, I had imagined the process of "becoming a Channel swimmer" very much in this light, at the beginning at least - a linear narrative of transformation from someone who couldn't swim the Channel into someone who (maybe) could. Recently, I've been writing the first drafts of a book proposal on the Channel swimming research, and have decided that it's going to be about the different kinds of 'becoming' that happen during the training / swimming process - bodily, sensory, social, cultural etc. But in the drafting process, I've realised more and more that the linear narrative doesn't really work. In strictly documentary terms, I became a Channel swimming on September 2, 2010, and from that perspective, I will always be a Channel swimmer. It's there on the wall of the White Horse for all to see. But over the last year in particular while I've not been swimming so much, in terms of my swimming capacity, I have become less and less of a Channel swimmer as time has gone on. I could not swim the Channel today. So I both am, and am not, a Channel swimmer right now.

From a research perspective, this helps me to think about the different processes involved in becoming a Channel swimmer - some of which are things that we make happen through training (stronger muscles, better technique, learning to take the right foods); some are things that our bodies do, sometimes in spite of our training, that can facilitate or inhibit that process (needing more sleep, illness, ageing); and some are things that 'society' does, such as awarding status to certain displays of physical endurance. More about this as I develop the book proposal.

And speaking of non-linear processes...today's the day that I have committed to my swimming venture: a second solo swim in July 2013. Perhaps a circular metaphor would be more apt; I feel like I'm going back to the beginning again after my lazy year. But of course, you never go right back to the beginning, not least because this time I have the advantage of having acquired lots of techniques of training and swimming that I didn't have before. Hopefully, I will make fewer mistakes, and have far greater resources to draw on in my training than before (although that's not to say that there's not much more I still can learn). Why do another one? It's partly curiousity; I just want to see what it's like on a different day. But it's also the desire for the structure and drive of training; without a goal, I tend to dribble along a bit too vaguely. And I love the swimming; and especially, I love the LONG swimming. And I'm lucky enough to have the resources and (hopefully) the physical capacity to do something that I love. So why not!

Happy anniversary to me (and my crew, Peter and Sam). Fingers crossed for a happy second time around.

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