Ibstock Place School swam the Channel nearly 4 times!
I found out about Aspire when I was look for opportunities to take on a Relay Channel Swim. I think their work is so important, and it felt immediately very close to my heart as I am so grateful every single day, for being able to do all the active things I love. The thought of having that taken away permanently is terrifying, so raising money for people who are experiencing that seemed so right.
As a young swimmer, I always dreamt of swimming the Channel. A relay seemed like an amazing way to achieve this dream, and a good introduction to Channel swimming. I also wanted to push myself, and a Relay Channel Swim has so many different challenges within it (which I didn’t quite realise on signing up - the cold, the lack of sleep, the uncertainty to name but a few!). It challenged me so much, and I doubted myself all the time. But having now completed it, I know I can get through that doubt and I am capable of more than I thought.
I wanted to create a fundraising event at school, as I thought it was a terrific opportunity to use my own experience to inspire pupils and give them the chance to take part in something different to their usual sporting competitions. I had the idea to get my pupils to take on the Aspire Channel Swim almost a year ago. In my first interview for swimming the Channel, Des (Channel swimmer and boat leader) planted a seed that I could run some form of swimming event, and I developed it from there. The school were super supportive of me running the challenge, and I had some organisational help from my wonderful colleague Emily, who is Head of Swimming.
We selected the top swimmers in the school, ranging from age 11-18, and they were all very keen to be involved. Although at first, I’m not sure they knew exactly what they were signing up for!
I even had around 15 volunteers who selflessly gave up their evening to count lengths, there was a really wonderful sense of community.
There were 41 swimmers in total, ranging in ability. We grouped them into three ability groups and rotated the groups in relay fashion, so they all did three sessions each, a bit like a real Relay Channel Swim! The session times were tailored for each ability group. Each changeover was super exciting, with the next group flying off the start line on the whistle, and the previous group swiftly getting out of their way onto poolside.
They swam the distance of the Channel (22 miles) just under four times in three hours! 9km short of 4 times, in 3 hours! They swam so hard, it was so lovely to see them getting into the spirit of the challenge. Each one of them came out of the pool rather red faced and wobbly!
Paula Craig MBE was on another Relay Channel Swim team this year and when we were planning the swim, I asked her to speak to the pupils because I knew it would be so inspiring for the pupils to hear her story, and for her to tell them all about why they were raising money and what Aspire does. They absolutely loved it and hung onto every word. You couldn’t walk away from her talk not feeling inspired! They asked some really interesting questions too. They are still referring to her now, weeks after!
I loved running the challenge and I feel very proud of the pupil’s efforts in both fundraising and swimming. I hope to have inspired them to take on challenges later in life to push them outside of their comfort zones, and perhaps even raise money for charity too.