I’m a year 10 student at Long Field Academy and a member of the Leicester Neptune swimming club.  Last year, some friends from the club came up with the idea to swim the English Channel as a relay team to raise money for Aspire.  As it’s one of the toughest challenges a swimmer could face, of course I signed up!  I felt that I needed a major challenge in my life and was glad to find a great cause to support.

I had no previous experience outdoor swimming as I’d never really been interested in it before, but Andrew, Aspire’s Challenge Events Manager, came to see us on a club training night and explained how the swim works and how we can make a big difference.

Team Neptune in Dover

In mid-November we passed our assessment at Aspire with flying colours and learnt about all the great work they do and the experiences of others who have completed this challenge.  I don’t know anyone with a spinal cord injury, but that day I was fortunate enough to meet Paula Craig MBE.  She’s an amazing woman who told us how Aspire has helped her following an accident that left her paralysed from the waist down.  Her story alone has given us all inspiration to train hard and complete this challenge.

My fundraising has gone really well and I have raised over £2,500 so far. As well as asking people for donations, I’ve held a bake sale, ‘name the bear’ competitions, a sponsored swim, a clothes collection for Jimmy Joes and a car wash.  I’ve also approached local companies for donations and prizes to sell or put in a raffle.  I’m very happy to be raising money for Aspire as it feels like I’m really making a difference.

Team Neptune in Dover

My training is also going very well.  As I’m not used to open water swimming, the main challenge I faced was acclimatisation to the cold water as I was so used to swimming in the pool.  I train five nights a week – four in the pool and one in open water.  It’s great be part of Team Neptune.  We all know and train with each other, but that also means we try to wind each other up at times!   Our boat leader Philip is fantastic; very enthusiastic and always looking to encourage us with funny stories and Percy Pig sweets.

Team Neptune in Dover

If anyone is thinking of taking on a Relay Channel Swim next year I would advise that they plan their training and get in plenty of cold water swimming.  Get in the local lakes whenever you can, starting with 10-15 mins and look to build up gradually each week.  The best advice I’ve been told so far is to make sure I enjoy it.   

By swimming the Channel I’m looking forward to demonstrating that with determination and focus, I can achieve almost anything, along with feeling like I’ve helped make a difference to the lives of people paralysed by spinal cord injuries

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