You may or may not remember me from the run blog that I wrote for the Joseph Foote Trust to try and inspire folk to run for charity whilst improving their health and fitness along the way.
I'm the forty something unfit mother of 4, the plain Jane that somehow ran the great north run by accident. Then 4 years later found myself swimming 6.5km across the open sea -again by accident!! A series of events followed my great North Run adventure which came about when I turned 40.
One year later, at my son's swimming lesson, and very much tongue in cheek, I just happened to say to the swimming instructor, "Hey, do you reckon you could teach an old dog new tricks? Do you reckon you could teach me how to swim? My parents could never afford swimming lessons when I was a kid. I have my own self taught version of a cross between doggy paddle and my version of breast stroke and I've always admired those folk that glide through the pool beautifully doing the front crawl."
He said it was never too late to learn, indeed he'd recently taught a 65 year old widow how to swim. It had turned her life around. She went to
"Well!" I thought, "If a 65 year old can learn how to swim, then so can this 41 year old, after all, I can run now, right?"
So, I pinched about 8 of my sons swimming lessons and I persevered and eventually I could swim properly. It was a tremendous feeling. I loved it. Then, a girl at the running club said, "Hey Jane, Why don't you try a tri?" I thought she was completely bonkers. It was one thing jogging along merrily - but to swim, then ride your bike (without even getting changed in between!) and then run - now that was completely barking! Anyway, despite my fears and questioning of my sanity, I entered my first triathlon. It was exhausting but I completed it and was extremely proud of myself. Whilst training for triathlons I then discovered open water swimming or 'wild swimming' as it is sometimes known. Wow, this was when I turned my life around. This I loved - the freedom of being in the icy cold north sea (In a wetsuit - I’m mad but not that mad). Coming across seals, jellyfish, fish, big bouncy waves - I had discovered what makes me tick!! I couldn't get enough and at every opportunity, whatever the weather, I’d be in that
Then came another strange occurrence in my sequence of events. I joined Facebook and met up with an old school friend, David. He and his wife and two kids love scuba diving. It is especially incredible for them because their autistic son loves it. He has the freedom and enjoyment and it is something fantastic they can do as a family together. Anyway, what's David got to do with my chain of events? He was visiting Northumberland and needed somewhere to park his boat - my house had room so they parked at mine. In fact we had a lovely weekend together, I met his family, he met mine and everyone got along brilliantly even though I’d not seen him for 20+ years.
Now, David knows I wild swim and he asked if I fancied doing a Robson Greene style swim. I said I’d love to but you need cover boats, knowledge of the sea etc etc... He said he had a boat and he and his family were holidaying in Eigg (a tiny Island off the west coast of
in the August. If I wanted, he'd give up a morning's diving and be my cover boat - I could swim to the Isle of Muck (6.5km across the sea!!!). I said I would love to and he said why not do it for charity - it's an amazing thing to do. I actually said 'no' initially. I'd already done the Great North Run twice. I live in a small town and it was the same people I was asking to sponsor me. I didn't want to create the situation whereby people would see me and say "Quick, Hide!! Here comes Jane with another sponsor form". However, very tragically (and this is where Joseph Foote fits into the sequence of events) a little boy in our town, Matthew Philips tragically lost his battle with a brain tumours. He was almost two when they discovered it. His mother Vicki went to the same toddler group that I took my son to. I couldn't imagine what that family were going through. I have 4 kids of my own and I do not think I would have the strength to cope with such a blow. However, they did everything they could to prolong his little life but sadly he passed away. He was just 5. I took the phone call to say he'd lost his fight about 30 minutes after my phone call with David when I'd said I wouldn't swim for charity. Everything changed. My whole body was covered in Goosebumps. I would never even begin to imagine their pain - but I could swim for charity - and we did. Scotland
It was August 1st 2011, exactly 6 months since Matty passed away. Everything was on our side and in our favour. The sea was flat like glass, still, crystal clear and there were no currents. Off we went. I swam with 4 friends, Rebecca Hoskins, Caroline Findlay, Sarah Moor and Sam Swain. The sea was cold - about 11'c but we swam and we swam and we swam. We saw some of the most beautiful jelly fish - fortunately they were deep enough that no one got stung. We were joined by a solitary baby seal that curiously swam amongst us playfully and magically - I believe Matty probably organised the seal as we were getting cold and tired when it appeared - then, just as it suddenly appeared and lifted our spirits, it vanished and we swam on.
We made it!! It was amazing. We were cold and exhausted and elated at the same time - who'd have thought? Three years previously I couldn't swim. Now I'd swum 6.5km across the sea!!!!!!!! On the boat ride home we were joined by porpoises, Minky whales, and dolphins - all splashing along the way - were they cheering? Did they know what we'd just done? They were truly beautiful, graceful magnificent creatures and a pleasure to see.
We raised £1400 for the Joseph Foote Trust.
I'm still wild swimming whenever I can, I feel honoured that I am able to do it.
The end xx
Blog written by Jane Hardy.