At first the distances themselves are the goal; then, as training intensifies (ooh, suddenly I can do a 5k training set) a time becomes a goal. A carefully planned progression of races: 3.8k Seahorse Swim, 6.5 Brownsea Island, 14k Henley to Marlow, 10k Little Red Lighthouse (NY), SLSC 107 Lengths (10k) Challenge. Distances that a year ago seemed unattainable.
Why do we do this? I know that I’ll never be Olympic standard, or even win any of these races. But top 20 is a possibility, and there is the adrenaline rush of swimming fast and strong, of pushing yourself to the limit of your physical capabilities. For a short while you allow yourself to feel like an Olympian – racing, swimming tactically. It is fun. You get out the water smiling stupidly. It can hurt afterwards, but it’s worth it. Sometimes I ask myself, why push yourself so hard? Isn’t just completing as important? Why be so obsessed with training? But I want to swim fast, I want to swim as hard as I can for that distance, and I don’t want anyone to overtake me. The training can’t be wasted. But most of all, I got to swim in some amazing places – and when I wasn’t deluding myself that I was Oussama Mellouli, I made sure I stopped to take in the view: the beaches and cliffs of the National Trust’s Brownsea Island, Studland Beach, New York traffic going overhead on George Washington bridge.