Wednesday, 6 July 2011

She did it!

Kate’s Epic Swim

5.35pm: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
the little swimmers chant 
at the side of the pool –
and K. is off: a gliding start
as if she were a young lithe fish
in her pretty costume;
swimming to save the lives of others.

And what are we thinking,
we who sit quietly by and watch?
Perhaps of when we ourselves
first learned to swim,
to splash or cleave the water;
or let the waves break over us …
pebbles beneath our toes,
… not swimming, but waving …
to our parents on the beach.

But here in the school pool
on a soggy Tuesday,
whilst Kate swims
I sit and write –
already she has swum 30 lengths,
and more … and more.

I all but dream of those distant days,
as K. swims on and on;
mesmerising the watchers.
My head throbs in the soporific heat.
But, once upon a time, 
seven years ago, 
this determined child
hated water, screamed in fear,
shrieked at the very sight of it; 
learned to overcome
what caused her anguish 
– learned to swim.

Half an hour – a mile
(has she set herself too fast a pace?)
Perfect front crawl, and tumble-turns,
intake of breath on every third stroke.

122 lengths, pit stop to take on water,
a smile and she’s away again.

128 lengths – 2 miles in 50 minutes
(increased striking rate)

150 …

176 – 1hr.10mins.31seconds – half way.

on, and on

And, as if a glutton for punishment,
she’s wearing a double-skinned swimsuit, designed to create resistance
so that she has to work that much harder to achieve a faster time:
an extra challenge to herself.

3 miles – 1hr.17mins.19 secs (I think)

swim, swim, swim,

When, this time around, will her low point come?
(Looking good, stronger, tonight)
swim, swim, swim, on and on and on,
length after length.

7.25pm – K. still swimming, swimming, swimming …

totally focussed

... on and on and on and on ...

4 miles, 256 of the 352 lengths: ?hr.?mins.?secs
too much chatter around the pool to monitor time –
all the kind people who have come 
to support this final leg
to encourage her – 
and still she’s there in the water,
in her element, this pretty fish,
this quiet, demure young girl,
hardly a ripple as she passes by.

Length after length

The loneliness of the long-distance swimmer

5 miles – 2hrs.10mins.?secs – strong and smooth

Half-a-mile (32 lengths to go) -  a mere doddle now!





In sight of the French coast


Watch out for the ferry there


Oops – is that a jellyfish?

5. 4. 3. 2 – final tumble-turn

1 – she breaks into butterfly, her victory stroke –

7.57pm: We clap and cheer her to the finish.
She’s crossed the Channel in 10hrs.24mins.45secs
Her final challenge to herself?
To complete the 22 miles in under ten-and-a-half hours.
She did it.

Kate swam each of the four 5.5mile legs faster than she anticipated; she smashed her own record by 12 mins on this, her final leg. Outstanding. (And to tell the truth, Grandma was almost in tears!)

Kate's idea is to raise £5,000.00 for competition starting blocks for the school pool, and a life-saving defibrillator for the school and village community. Thankyou to all those who have sent her messages and donations. And her idea of 'Crossing the Channel'? On the ferry one day going to France, she evidently said she could swim across! Well maybe one day she'll do it for real. 

where it all took place
Actually, there's a whole lot more to exactly why Kate wanted to do this, and the people who inspired her - it warrants a post of it's own. That story will follow once I've checked my facts, for it is applicable to all swimmers, and the more fit they are, the more susceptible they become. The clue is in my altered 'non-quote', which you might have spotted.


  1. A watery tale of determination!♥

  2. How wonderful is that young lady and your chest must have been bursting with pride,our next generation has some amazing young people we should praise the young so much more than we do.Lovely post thank you for bringing this to us.

  3. It IS very moving to see someone set such a high goal for themselves and then through discipline and endurance achieve it. Bravo.

    Just out of curiousity, why did she want to create extra resistance by wearing a double-skinned suit? Surely it was challenging enough even with every advantage.

  4. Great account - Well done, Kate.

  5. Fantastic! Well done Kate!

    A gripping and moving account by her proud Grandma too.