Epilepsy took away Glyn Marston’s childhood dream of swimming the English Channel. Can he take it back?
My swimming story begins in 1977, the year of Elvis Presley’s death and the year I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Before then, I was a happy-go-lucky 14-year-old lad, born and raised in Willenhall, West Midlands. I enjoyed long rides on my Chopper bike, football and swimming. Thanks to stories from my English teacher about his friend who was training to swim across the English Channel, I became fascinated with taking on the same challenge when I was older. Each time I went to my local swimming pool, I would imagine I was swimming to France.
However, one August morning in 1977, I woke up in the middle of a road with no idea how I got there. I couldn’t remember waking up that morning, neither could I remember collecting my morning newspapers for my paper round. I was eventually witnessed (again, on my paper round) having an epileptic seizure. My life was about to change.
Both my dream of joining the army and my aspiration of swimming the English Channel were taken away. I had to face the fact that I would be on medication to control epilepsy for the rest of my life. Moreover, my parents became overprotective because my mother’s sister had died in an epileptic seizure 18 months before I was born. She was just 14 when she died. In those days too, it was almost taboo to talk about my condition outside of the family circle. We were advised not to reveal it to the local community.
But life takes you in unexpected directions. I found new dreams to pursue. Fast forward many years and I was a married man with two wonderful children. Swimming was just a thing I did on holidays with them.
My athletic ambitions found a new outlet in the form of ultra distance running. I ran across the Grand Canyon from the North to the South Rim, broke world records for running on treadmills, including the seven-day treadmill world record. The day after that, I ran in the London Marathon. I have run in races of 150 miles (non-stop) and completed the Grand Union Canal race (145 miles) five years in a row, where I finished fourth twice, third twice and second once.
Unfortunately, a complete knee replacement forced me to quit running. I had to look for another sport to take on. I rediscovered swimming, tried open water swimming and loved it immediately, and started thinking, “what if?”.
My swimming progressed and next year I will be part of a six person English Channel relay team. If we get across, a 45-year-old dream will come true. I am now 60 but I feel like a 20-year-old again. There’s something magical about swimming in open water. It makes me feel free. When I finish my training sessions, I feel rejuvenated. My confidence, my energy levels and my wellbeing are improving all the time.
If it all goes to plan with the relay, can I dare dream about a solo swim across the Channel?
As for the epilepsy, well, I’m still on medication and I will be for life, but attitudes change. Given everything I’ve done in running, I know I can muster the strength, stamina and mental energy to take on these swimming challenges. Epilepsy took away my childhood dream. It’s time to take it back.
You can find out more about Glyn’s sporting and fundraising history at glynmarston.co.uk
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