I have never trusted swimming. Unlike most forms of exercise and beach or poolside activities, when you are swimming you have to spend a lot of time in something that can quite handily kill you. And that has never seemed entirely wise to me.
While I did not grow up with a fear of water, I did grow up with parents who had a healthy distrust of the stuff and, as a result, swimming was never high on the family agenda on those incredibly rare days when our weather permitted us to go to a beach.
And even when we were at the beach – and had allowed the requisite hour to pass after eating our sand-coated sandwiches and red lemonade – the siren call of the Baltic-like water off our western shores was never too loud or too enticing for the child me.
So, I only really learned to swim in my 20s when I started going on foreign holidays and could see a point to the endeavour.
Well, I say, “learned to swim” but what I actually mean is I learned not to die while never straying out of my depth. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually took lessons and learned to swim a few strokes. A very, very, few strokes.
Now, with a whole lot of desperately inelegant flailing, I can crawl from one end of a 25-metre pool to the other. If I rely instead on the breast stroke, I can probably manage two lengths but my pace is best described as funereal. I even did the butterfly once. I think the water is still lodged in my brain.
This is why I can’t actually believe I have accepted the challenge to swim a mile. What was I thinking?
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