I limped home from the pool last night, exhausted and exhilarated. First week of training nearly done. The start of the Marie Curie Swimathon is precisely 27 days and 15 hours from today. And, hopefully I’ll be ready.
I’m really looking forward to my massive 10K swim alongside my beloved DEB (who doesn’t need to train). It’s so nice to be completing this challenge together as a couple. We’ve already started making plans for our next “big swim”. Marie Curie has another challenge in June. Swimming across the Padstow Estuary, down in Cornwall.
I am utterly petrified at the thought, but it’s one of those things, isn’t it? If I don’t do it, I will only kick myself later, wishing that I had. Life’s a bit like that, wouldn’t you agree? The DEB would love to swim the English Channel, one day – he’ll definitely have to do that one on his own.
I have really fallen in love with swimming. And these challenges, and doing something good for charity are such great incentives. Not bad for a girl once voted “Least Sporty” in school.
Ah, yes, back in those days there was no ‘equal glory, passed round in equal measure’. No, sir! No thought of ‘everyone gets a certificate on Sports Day’. We were not “all winners”. In those days, the ethos was, rightly or wrongly, if you were rubbish at something, you needed to know, accept it and move on to something else.
As no surprise, I was an “arty-farty” sort of girl in school. I excelled at languages and the arts (music, ballet, theatre, etc). I was First Chair Violin in the Orchestra, won book reading contests (a very odd concept, and one I must explore at length at some point) and blue ribbons for French recitation. I acted, and wrote for the school paper. And, I sucked at sports.
I was always, always the last girl to be picked for a side. No matter the game. Once, a girl on crutches, with a broken leg in a cast, was picked before me. For a relay race. And, I don’t even want to recall the agony that was the act of playing “Red Rover.”
While we are on the subject – not that I’m bitter – but, why, oh, why, if you’ve decided that someone’s the weakest link, why would you place them as the last leg of the team? Surely, it would make more sense to have the second, or even first strongest runner in that post? For goodness sake, put the crap person in the middle, where they could do the least amount of damage. I have never, ever understood the rationale of putting a Sad McSaddens at the end of the lineup.
One day, I put down my copy of Nancy Drew, and went along to see the P.E. teacher. “I want to be more sporty,” I declared. He suggested running. And, why did I listen? Like a fool, I joined the Cross-Country Team. On the day of the team practice, I turned up to the track, and you know the hurdles, those things they jump over? I stood next to one, and it was as high as my shoulder. Not a good sign.
That afternoon, in blinding sunlight, I huffed and puffed around the track, amidst a pack of long-legged gazelles. Quite clearly, this was doing wonders for my self-esteem. (Not!) At the end of the session, the Coach announced a cross-country meet happening that weekend. “Just come along and join us, give it a shot.” He said patting me on the back.
The fateful day came, and there I was, standing at the back of the pack. The whistle blew and off the runners went, like bats being released from hell. And then, there was me. Little me, who’d only “joined the team” that week. I had no idea what I was doing, or where I was going. I just followed, watching the pack stretching farther and farther ahead and away from me.
I didn’t give up, I didn’t turn round and head back. Although, I absolutely wanted to! I struggled on, best I could. By the time I made it back, everyone had gone home. Only my “coach” and my mother were there, sitting in their cars waiting for me. Awful. Absolutely awful. I’ll never forget the look of disappointment on the coach’s face. My mother was just happy I was alive.
“I think I’ll stick to reading books.” I said to my mother as I collapsed on the back seat of the car. My mother was keen sportswoman in her day. Quite surprisingly, given that she is not much taller than me, she played basketball when she was in school, and was apparently quite an ace “guard”, on a championship winning team in the 1940s. “Darling,” she drawled as she drove us home, “You just have to find what you’re good at, and stick with it.”
It was a walk for charity that got me back in my feet. I did a 20 mile walk for MS (Muscular Dystrophy), and felt incredible. I started walking seriously, but it wasn’t until much later in my adult life that I finally made peace with running.
I used to run around Washington Square Park everyday when I lived in New York. One summer, my best chum, Sarah, and I decided to set a simple goal, “Let’s build up to a 4mile run along the Hudson River, just to see if we can.” And, we did. That 4 miles then became 10K, and now Sarah’s running marathons regularly! And, I am so proud of her. For me, I fell in love with the feeling I got from running. I’ll never be keen on doing it competitively … for obvious reasons!
Feeling that I had conquered my running-phobia, I decided in 2005/2006 to conquer Swimming. I’ve always loved the water, and playing around in it, but never took the time or effort to learn how to swim properly. So, I enrolled in an adult swimming class at NYU Gym, and the rest, as they say, is history! There’s no stopping me now!
Not bad, for “The Least Sporty Girl” in school.