Sarah-Jane Garside, a physiotherapy student from Reading, will be taking on the challenge of a lifetime this summer when she and Team Caracara will be swimming The English Channel, from Dover to France as a relay. Sarah-Jane will be putting her body to the test to raise money for Aspire. Sarah-Jane saw firsthand the importance of the service Aspire provides a year ago, when Dani, a close friend of hers, incurred a spinal cord injury.

Sarah-Jane on a rugby pitch in her kit

Dani and Sarah-Jane play together on the same rugby team and it was in a match that Dani sustained a spinal injury and was paralysed from the waist down. Commenting on this difficult time Sarah-Jane said, “Aspire have been so incredible to Dani, supplying her with all the help she needs. I just wanted to give back to her and to the charity that has done so much for her.”

Reaching France will undoubtedly mean more to Sarah-Jane than just the satisfaction of completing an immense endurance challenge, it will mean helping Aspire carry on providing the service that is so important to Dani and to others like her. Nevertheless, the physical demands involved in swimming the channel should not be overlooked. The 25-year-old is by no means a stranger to intense exercise, she regularly plays rugby and has been active for most of her life, but Sarah-Jane has still had to put a lot of time and grit into conditioning herself ahead of the swim. “I’ve always been quite sporty but endurance events aren’t usually my thing. Before I started training for my swim I’d never swum in open water before but after my first swim I was hooked! I loved it!”

Sarah-Jane with her team on Dover beach

Sarah-Jane and her team are due to set off from Dover at any time from late July until early August and have been in training for months now but she is still “loving every swim.” She added, “I enjoy being able to see my progress and feel the difference every week.” So with her training now reaching its peak and her team beginning to prepare themselves for the moment the tide is right and they get ‘the call’ all that’s left to do is imagine what it will be like reaching France.

Sarah-Jane in her wetsuit smiling

 “It will mean that I’ve been able to raise awareness and funds for spinal cord injuries, but not only that, it will mean I’ve been able to complete a childhood dream of swimming the channel, and it will mean that I’ve found a new passion in open water swimming that will last a lifetime!”

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