I enjoy the Aspire Channel Swim because I love the discipline of swimming and having a target to aim at. The Facebook group is very friendly – people are so encouraging and supportive of each other.

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My amazing Mum broke her back in the early 2000s. She was extremely lucky not to damage her spinal cord, but, even so, I helped to nurse her through a very long and painful recovery process over a couple of years, to the point that she could walk, cook, work etc again. Her determination and sheer grit was awesome. This gave me a tiny insight into what people with spinal cord injuries go through; the emotional energy and sheer bravery that it takes to keep on going, to adapt to a completely different life, to learn new ways to do things. People are absolutely amazing. I also realise that relatively small things - new equipment, adapted work surfaces etc – can make an enormous difference to people. Raising money for Aspire, however small an amount it seems, really makes a difference.  And in the absence of public funding, that difference can be life-changing, and in some cases even life-saving. 

I first found out about the swim via Aspire’s website, when Mum had recovered a bit and I was looking for a way to help people with spinal cord injuries. I’ve always wanted to swim the Channel for real, but it’s a long way beyond my ability, so the idea of a virtual challenge (which was quite novel back in 2007) seemed like the next best thing.

The swim has actually helped me a lot too. I have had quite a few health battles myself over the past few years, and some large operations in 2010 and 2023. Throughout my cancer treatment and chemotherapy I was advised not to swim, but while I was recovering, swimming was enormously important to me in helping me find headspace to work through what had happened and to have a tangible way of measuring my progress in the journey back to myself. Again, the Aspire Channel Swim, in the fullness of time, helped me massively with this; the thought of being able to do the swim, eventually, kept me going through some dark times, and (when I could) the feeling of being strong enough to do it again was wonderful.

So after a few “dramatic” Aspire Channel Swims, it kind of feels good to come back to it each year. It gives me time to take stock, to remember my Mum and people like her, and also to be grateful that I’m still able to meet the challenge (hopefully). 

I’ve signed up again this year – for my 9th swim - because I enjoy the challenge, and it gives me something to aim for. It also makes me get out of bed on winter Sunday mornings and ensures I leave work a couple of other evenings to get to the pool! The autumn term is really busy for me and the Aspire Channel Swim really keeps me going.

I mostly swim for wellbeing and fitness and having time to myself really helps with this. The ritual of going to the pool really helps, it feels like “me” time. I like the fact that I have a few hours a week to let my mind wander. My job is sometimes quite stressful, and it helps to get away. No one can find me in the pool – I don’t have to worry about emails or work. The rhythm of swimming is essentially meditative, and I welcome the peace!

22 miles is a long way and sometimes it’s hard to find the time in a busy schedule but chipping away at it little by little really helps. It’s really good to see gradual progress towards such a goal, and the sense of achievement at the end is fantastic. I treat my family to croissants for breakfast after my last swim. 

I swim at Tadcaster Community Pool in North Yorkshire. It’s a really lovely pool that is run by a group of volunteers from the Community. They are so friendly and encouraging, and share milestones, big and small, with swimmers, it’s a precious space.

To those taking on the swim for the first time I say jump in, keep going, and savour the time you spend swimming. If you can afford them, waterproof headphones are game-changers!

To fundraise I generally I ask family and friends and I also sponsor myself to encourage them to sponsor me. After all these years, people know to expect it! 

Apart from my Mum’s narrow escape from a spinal cord injury, I have taught a couple of students who lived with paralysis. I really understand how little things can make a really big difference in helping people live, work and study independently. The work Aspire does is vital – it’s life-changing, life-enhancing and life-saving. 

Thanks to Aspire for the vital work you do and also for organising the Aspire Channel Swim. It makes a huge difference to people’s lives – including mine!

Sponsor Katrina

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