FEATURES,  Readers' Swims

My swim story

My swim story began four years ago. I was forced to give up my beloved running after my hip collapsed while running one day. After seeing various physiotherapists, doctors and consultants, it was clear that I had to find another form of exercise. I’m sworn off yoga thanks to a sprained wrist and bruised ego sustained while attempting the downward dog twenty years ago (I still bear the mental scars) and cycling is not my bag, but I was interested, although apprehensive, when a friend suggested I try swimming. I dug out my ancient costume, more 1990s beach goddess than serious athlete. After only a few lengths I was exhausted and blamed the costume for my terrible technique, but that didn’t matter – I loved it. I was hooked!

I began swimming with my work colleague Shark, a keen swimmer who has since also become a close friend, partner in crime and fellow post swim cake/coffee connoisseur. She suggested we challenge ourselves a bit and move from the pool to open water. I was actually quite happy in the pool, but she persuaded me to enter the one-mile Great North Swim the following summer. She also added that it was a fitting way to raise money for a local children’s cancer charity, something I was keen to do.

Shark and I began our first open water season with an ‘introduction to open water’ course at Swimyourswim. It was pretty daunting initially, but I was put completely at ease, and although the cold was a shock and made me swear involuntarily (a lot) I must admit I was more concerned about the aquatic life in the lake (I still enquire about this every swim). Pretty much all our subsequent training was done in the open water and I felt ready for the Great North Swim. The swim itself was amazing. I loved it and raised over £2,200! 

Jacqui Hargrave2

Jacqui at the Great North Swim

As soon as I had finished I was ready for another challenge and so we signed up to swim Chillswim Coniston End to End. I have no idea what prompted me to jump from 1 mile to 5.25, and when my family suggested midlife crisis, I couldn’t actually disagree. Training for this would be challenging enough; however, I was also presented with the gift of entry to the 10km swim at the Great North Swim – as a surprise Mother’s Day gift! They claim it’s a “thank you” for being so great, I suspect that actually they are trying to kill me!

Coniston was a fantastic experience, and we decided pretty much as soon as we had finished that a Windermere one-way would be next. But I had surgery planned in January on both my feet and knew that the recovery would be slow. I sought advice on whether I would have enough time to train afterwards and was assured I would. After a slow and frustrating start I’m now beginning to make good progress. Training for long distance is new (and tiring, but made better by cake). I’m not sure whether I’m doing it right, but I’ve listened to advice on both schedule and nutrition, and aside from a couple of odd incidents in the pool, one involving a Clif Bar and the other a malfunctioning costume, I think I’m doing ok.

Jacqui blogs at openwaterwoman.blogspot.co.uk

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.