Top fundraiser Victoria's friend sustained a spinal cord injury after she started the challenge

I was flicking through Facebook one Saturday evening when my husband was away for the weekend and the Aspire Channel Swim challenge caught my attention. I signed up there and then without really thinking too hard about it. It felt like the right time to take on a challenge. I needed something in my life to focus on and this was perfect. I knew I'd never really do a long marathon run so I thought this would be right up my street. I'm so glad I signed up, although the day before it started, my husband and I worked out how much I would have to swim each week and I did have a mild panic about what I had to achieve!

I can swim but I'm not a good swimmer, so I don't swim regularly, apart from taking the kids to splash around in the pool. I always thought that swimming lane lengths looked a tad boring so never really tried it. I'm not a strong swimmer and never really did well in my swimming lessons as a kid, so this challenge was pretty daunting.

I'm now doing a strong breaststroke and a mediocre backstroke. Each time I swim I try front crawl and see if I can do one more length than my last time. It's not an easy stroke but I think I'm getting there. I'm definitely looking less like I'm drowning - the lifeguard can sit easy now!

I do love being by the water and in the water, but exerting energy whilst in the water has never been my thing. I prefer lounging on a lilo! I try and keep fit as best I can so swimming will be great for that but above all my mental health needs resetting and swimming is perfect for this.

Before it closed for Winter, I managed to swim in a lido near me which is spring water fed and heated by the sun. It was glorious and one of the nicest swimming experiences I've had. It turns out I really like cool water, who knew?!

I didn't know anyone with a spinal cord injury when I started the challenge, I just felt drawn to the charity. It struck a chord with me that I have it very easy, being able to get out of bed and go swimming when so many people can't, yet I wasn’t taking advantage of the fact that the pool is 10 minutes down the road.

But then two weeks into the challenge, I had some shocking news that an old school friend had a fall in her garden and broke her neck and bruised her spinal cord. She is currently in hospital, with paralysis from the neck down. Her whole life has changed in an instant and her husband and kids are having their lives thrown into turmoil. She is on the mend but it's a long road ahead. That day I went swimming, and it was just so much more poignant for me.
Victoria

Over the years I've sponsored so many friends for their various challenges and I have never asked anyone for sponsorship, so I was really excited to be the one in the hot seat! I have been posting updates on Instagram and Facebook (pictures of me in a pool, near a pool or looking knackered out of the pool) and I always get a few more sponsors each time I post. I have been bowled over by people's generosity. I have also been asking people to join me for a swim to make it more fun.

I’ve been asking people to sponsor me on social media and word of mouth. My mum came swimming with me one day and she was telling everyone in the pool what I was doing, and one lady just handed me £10! It helps to keep posting pictures as it jogs people’s memories - most people are happy to sponsor, they just forget.

It means an immense amount to me to be supporting people with spinal cord injuries and I am very proud to be doing this challenge. I am thrilled to have raised so much already.
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