Four years ago Charlie Wheadon’s life was in a downward spiral. Now he is happier than he has ever been and training for an English Channel solo swim
I have always loved swimming, and have always been fairly decent at it too. As a youngster I swam at national level competitions and was a pretty decent freestyle sprinter back in the day!
As I progressed through my teenage years, swimming became a bit more of a ‘chore’ for me. I still enjoyed it, but I was growing up and gearing up for going to university and for ‘life’ really starting. Once I started university, swimming very quickly became a thing of the past.
As my university days came to an end, my life entered a dark cloud. I went from job to job, not really knowing what I wanted to do or where I was going. A turbulent relationship triggered a downward spiral into more failed relationships, one after the next. I lost too much weight, was drinking a lot at home and my mental health started deteriorating. Eventually, I was taking anti-depressants and I started having counselling sessions. But one thing I knew through all of this was that I wanted to get better again, I didn’t want to be like this forever.
The counselling sessions helped me immensely, and soon after the sessions finished I was taken off the medication. But I still felt like something was missing in my life. And then, a chance conversation with some friends of my parents inspired me to enter a team triathlon in Birmingham. It would mean that I would have to get back in the water again, even in the open water too. I’d never swum properly in open water before. But suddenly I felt really excited again. I had a goal, something to aim for. Even back then, it felt like something big was on the horizon for me.
I started swimming again and this eventually led me to re-join my old swimming club, Perry Beeches, as a masters swimmer. I met some fantastic people there, one of whom was already an avid open water swimmer.
Paul convinced some of the other swimmers in the club to give open water swimming a go too.
Fast forward nearly four years – I’ve now competed in some amazing open water swimming events, one of which was a two-way English Channel swim in 2016, where we set a new British record for the fastest mixed team and raised £12,000 for charity. It was after this relay swim that I knew I wanted to swim the Channel solo.
It’s not just open water swimming, but swimming in general has opened up my world again. I love swimming so much more than I ever did as a youngster. It makes me happy, it has filled a void in my life and gives me something to look forward to. I have met some amazing people through this sport, they all have different stories to tell, but we have one thing in common – our love of swimming and of open water.
There are occasional times when I get back from a stressful and tiring day at work, and the last thing I feel like doing is going training. But it’s almost instinctive to switch those negative thoughts off straight away – I know that I have to go training, there’s almost not even a question. And afterwards, I’m so damn glad I went rather than staying at home and watching TV! I really hope this ‘never give up’ attitude is with me in three years’ time during my English Channel solo swim too.
Although I’m still single, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Swimming has opened up my life and given it meaning again. While I wait for my Mr Right to come along, I’m busy living life. For me, the English Channel has become a symbol of turning my life around and has given me a purpose, a dream. They say that swimming the English Channel is life-changing.
And that’s why I want to swim it.