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I’ll be back

Ed Williams explains why he’s determined to have another crack at the North Channel
On 2 September I was 18 miles into my North Channel swim between Ireland and Scotland when an onslaught of jellyfish forced me to stop. I suffered a very serious reaction to hundreds of stings, was vomiting profusely and was starting to lose control of breathing. And I desperately wanted to reach Scotland, which was just a few short miles away – perhaps less than an hour. Still, I (wisely) decided to call it a day and abandon the swim (for more on this see here: Something nasty beneath the surface in the North Channel)
To say I was devastated is an understatement! A whole year of intense training and preparation was, in my mind, wasted. I couldn’t even look at the sea for a good month after.
Now, two months later the stings have healed (just) and I am planning my return in July 2015. To me this was an easy decision as I am determined to conquer this channel. Not making this swim last year was very strange for me. I have never ‘failed’ at a swim before and it hit me hard. I went through all the usual questions about my abilities, my training and preparation. However, we have to accept that luck plays a part in our sport.
Eventually I accepted the reasons for failure were beyond my control. I had prepared enough and put the work in to the extent that I was on schedule to break the world record. As soon as I accepted this I was able to move forward and plan my return.
Next year I have booked to swim a month earlier, at the end of July, as opposed to the first week of September. The water will be colder (most likely 12 degrees or less) but this should mean fewer jellyfish. I guess I am swapping one evil for another so fingers crossed I can handle the cold and the weather is on my side.
I came across a wonderful quote from Robert Kennedy recently and it rings very true for me: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
I have always taken risks in life both in business and with my personal goals. It is what makes me feel alive and gives my life meaning.  Here’s to a successful swim season in 2015 for everyone reading this article and remember that failure is all in the mind. Last year I succeeded in swimming 18 miles in the Irish Sea and making a sensible decision to stop. The North Channel is not going anywhere and I will keep trying until I make it all the way across.


Ed Williams is an extreme distance swimmer and entrepreneur based in Cambridge. His company, Elite Swimming Academy Ltd, which employs more than 20 high quality coaches, has introduced thousands of people to the joys of open water swimming.
Find out more: | @EliteSwimming | 01223 633 699

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.