Trent Grimsey

"Swim to swim. Don't swim to shine" by Crispin Thorold

Nick Adams is a great of English Channel swimming - he has completed some ten successful solo crossings (including the youngest double), he is the President of the CS&PF, one of the two governing bodies of English Channel swimming, and he is incredibly generous with his experience, acting as a mentor to hundreds of swimmers.

So his criticism of the "emergence of the ego swimmer" is one that deserves careful examination. Reading these remarks about swimmers (of mixed abilities) who seek the limelight on social media in the run-up to starting my own blog, has certainly made me stop and think about my motivations for publishing my experiences in such a public way. 

In part I absolutely agree with Nick's argument.  There is clearly a disconnect between the publicity surrounding the achievements of many leading channel swimmers - think of the King of the Channel, Kevin Murphy, or the world-record holder for the longest unassisted marathon swim, Chloe McCardel - and their public profile.  In many sports they would be household names, yet in marathon swimming it seems that only those who promote themselves through smart social media campaigns or slick PR agencies become darlings of the press (to name no names).

The fastest and slowest English Channel soloists (Photo: CS&PF)

The fastest and slowest English Channel soloists (Photo: CS&PF)

However, a good part of the mystique of the English Channel stems from the fact that it is swum by people with a huge range of abilities, from almost every age (11-73 at the time of writing).  Where else would you find a community that celebrates the record holder for fastest swim, as much as the record holder for slowest swim?  

I for one am equally inspired by the story of "Kent mother-of-two", Jackie Cobell, who took 28 hours to get across, as I am by Trent Grimsey's sub-7 hours miracle swim (however great his athletic feat).

It is the stories of the ordinary Joes who for whatever reason decide one day that the time has come to swim the English Channel that engage me most. And over the past few years I have read scores of blogs, which have helped me to understand different aspects of the physical and mental training that is required to even earn the right to stand on Shakespeare Beach in Dover, shove a stone down your speedos, and start an attempt to swim to France.

Shakespeare Beach: "the loneliest place in endurance sport" (Quote:  Cliff Golding ) (Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA)

Shakespeare Beach: "the loneliest place in endurance sport" (Quote: Cliff Golding) (Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA)

When I started this journey towards an English Channel attempt I was a chain-smoking, unfit, 38-year old who could barely swim a length of freestyle.  Three years down the line I can swim a bit and I am still not smoking.  I dream one day of writing about completing a solo crossing of the English Channel, but whatever the outcome I hope that documenting some of my experiences along the way will be of use to other foolhardy souls who embark on this adventure.  

There are a couple of other reasons to "go public".

JOURNALISM ABOUT CHANNEL AND MARATHON SWIMMING

People who are interested in marathon and channel swimming can turn to the definitive Marathon Swimmers Federation site or to blogs or social media channels for technical information and opinions, yet there are few if any places where they can find high-quality features and interviews about the sport.  Donal Buckley's Lone Swimmer is a standout exception but I believe there's still room for good quality journalism about the heroic feats that marathon swimmers embark upon (mostly away from the public eye). 

So I plan to use this blog to tell the stories of some of the swimmers and their swims, as well new developments and the history of this sport.

Raising money for a wonderful cause  

Finally my English Channel attempt will be in aid of breast cancer research.  You can read more about this elsewhere on this site, but suffice to say that if you are reading this website I hope that you will be able to spare some pennies for this great cause.  In the internet-era free content is the norm, but should you enjoy a piece you read here please consider making a donation to charity - however small.  I will include details of how to contribute in due course.

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