August 03, 2005

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer

The weather is still holding up. Scattered showers are predicted for tomorrow, but otherwise it looks good, so we're still likely to go.

As the end of this journey draws near, I've been looking back and thinking over how I got here. I thought I'd share some thoughts.

Several weeks ago, as I arrived on the beach in preperation for a six hour training session, a friend on the beach looked at me, laughed and said, "You're not enjoying the training, are you?"

I thought about it for a moment before replying, "Actually, I'm okay with the training and the boredom. It's the loneliness I can't stand. I miss my family and my friends."

A few days ago, as my sponsors were trying to decide whether to let me go ahead with a swim on Wednesday, a week early, they woke me up at night three times with the phone, and later when I got out of the water I found I had eight missed calls and four text messages waiting for me.

"Blimey," said another chap on the beach, "You need a manager, mate!"

I laughed, but quite often I have really wished I had someone else here with me. Every weekend, looking down the beach, I have envied the other swimmers, who all arrived with friends and family to wait for them on the beach, help them out of the water as they stagger out, shivering and dazed, and wrap them in warm clothing. I've relied on the kindness of strangers to help me.

I've met some terrific people on the beach, whose help has been invaluable- Freda, Barry, Cliff, Ali, Stu and his mother, Matt and Xanic, and Laura to name a few- but the vast majority of my journey has been alone. Which is not to say I'm not grateful and heavily indebted to everyone whose aided me and believed in me these past eight months, but the fact is I've travelled a lone path in pursuit of my dream. From the original idea to the organising and the preparation, the travelling and the accomodation, the waiting and most of all the long hours spent swimming up and down the harbour without even a training partner, my journey has been spent alone.

The only thing keeping me going, really, has been a dream. A dream that one day I might face the greatest and most legendary of swimming challenges and conquer it. That's all.

So when I think back about how all this started and how I got to this point, and how journey's end may actually be in sight, I can only conclude that there is no force so great in life as the impassioned, faithful pursuit of one's ideals. I hope that anyone who reads this will take away with them this little lesson of my life- that at the end of the day, the fact that I had neither ability, opportunity, or funding to make this happen mattered. All those things came about solely because of my determination to make them happen, and that is all that matters.

Posted by pj at August 3, 2005 12:32 AM

Great post, and in the immortal words of Mr F. Tay: YOU ROCK!! In other news, I have just sent an email to your address. Am thinking of organising a dinner for the Oxford people, whenabouts do you reckon you'll be home? Hope to see you soon!

Posted by: Rach at August 4, 2005 07:27 PM
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