Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Water Baby ..Michael Jennings

I came across this article yesterday via the Swimshaw method website who agreed for it to be reposted here.

Amazingly I was born in the bath, in 1938, not that I remember it. I was saved by the nursing home matron who directed Mum to hold me UNDER the water while she snipped the cord etc. Under the water because I hadn’t drawn my first breath and physically was still in the wetness of the womb. Thus I consider myself unique in as much as I could swim before I could even breathe. When Dad came home from the war in 1946, he despaired at my first swimming efforts and after a while just slung me in the deep end of the local pool. Again, I survived.

I should have been born with gills and web-feet because in the water I feel totally at home. I love the softness of wallowing in warm water on holiday and also pitting myself in rough open ocean conditions. I love night swimming in the sea and diving. I’ve done 400 scuba dives, once going to 198 feet in the Maldives. If racing I love he sheer joy of winning.

I never had any formal swimming lessons by a professional coach. My dad was a very good swimmer and he pointed me in the right direction. I did go to a couple of sessions under Harry Hyde at East Ham Baths when I was about 16. He made us do press-ups between sprints then run to the other end of the pool and do it all over again. Useless.

I was never going to be a very good sprint swimmer. I once came third in the Kent 100 yds championship, but 440 and 880 yds were my thing. I graduated to winning the Kent Long Distance twice, once in the River Medway and once in Dover Harbour. It was after this that I thought about a long distance swimming career and thought I should try the BLDSA (British Long Distance Swimming Association) Torbay race. I won it in record time and that same year (1960) did my first Channel swim, France to England in 13 hrs. 31 mins.

I wrote my book, Believe It Or Not, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my first Channel swim. I swam it again, from England to France in 1966. I also wanted to document the unbelievable life of an ordinary couple, which I consider myself and my lovely wife Ann to be. We’ve rubbed shoulders with all sorts of well-known personalities from the sporting and entertainment worlds. Ann is a very accomplished international vocalist. Two years ago she got to the last 100 in X Factor at age 71! As for me, I have swum the Channel twice, bowled Sir Donald Bradman twice as a boy, nearly killed Bobby Charlton, survived two shark attacks, spent eight days in a decompression chamber in Nassau and am an ordained minister.

The book is only available from me. Because I’m selling it in aid of the EllenorLions Hospices I didn’t want book retailers taking 40%, so I have promoted it and sold every copy personally. I’m out at least three times a week doing book promotions in supermarkets, garden centres, sports centres etc. and speaking engagements to groups and associations. I have currently sold about 1,600, and gave the Hospices £12,000 in November.

My favourite place to swim is Hythe, Kent. It has about the cleanest water around the Kent coast, and of course it is the sea. I was always a better swimmer in the sea than fresh water, as my BLDSA records from the early 60s will show. Also Hythe has the best fish restaurant I know, right on the promenade. I just just love to sit on their terrace overlooking the sea. And I love to swim at dusk as the sun goes down. It’s etheral.

My greatest swimming challenge was my 1966 England to France record attempt. The record was 10hrs 23mins held by a Dane, Helge Jensen. After six years of long distance experience and having been on countless Channel swims as either crew or observer for the Channel Swimming Association I knew, if I got a good day, I could better it. In the event the attempt was filmed by Dutch TV Station AVRO who paid my expenses. After seven hours I was only two miles off Cap Gris Nez, but the weather deteriorated and I eventually made a landing at Sangatte in 12hrs 59mins, the third fastest time in that direcion. Jensen’s record stood for a further 12 years, eventually being beaten by a girl!

Last year I got back into competitive open-water racing, doing four swims in UK with commendable results and took part in the Hellespont race in Turkey. I came second in the over 70s, narrowly beaten by Murray Rose from Australia, who won four golds, one silver and one bronze in Olympic swimming (1956 and 1960). I’m currently doing gym work five times a week and will start swimming in February. My main aim is the European Masters 3k Championship in Yalta, Ukraine in September, but before then I’m booking a one week trip with Swimtrek, probably in the Greek Islands.

My swimming tip? Aspiring long-distance swimmers can feel their way into the sport by joining the BLDSA. They have events over all distances nationwide, brilliantly organised in the sea, lakes, rivers etc. You mix with swimmers of all ages, abilities and experience and, in competing, you can see how you rate in the sport. Many Channel swimmers have graduated from doing these swims.

Get your copy of Believe It Or Not from Michael Jennings. Call him on 01474 704495 or email

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Support from The Master

I recently had cause to exchange emails with Lewis Pugh regarding 2swim4life, we have much in common both on a military basis and a personal level. I was disappointed yet flattered to receive this today..What a true gent he is..
Dear Mark

I would love to come and support your swim, but unfortunately I am in Cape Town - where I am training for a new expedition. I do hope your event is a great success. Go for it! And best of luck with the Channel.

With kindest wishes

Lewis Gordon Pugh

Friday, 21 January 2011

2swim4life Guildford Lido


Starts 09.30am 30th April 2011

Finishes 09.30am 1st May 2011

At Guildford Lido,

Stoke Road,


Surrey GU1 1HB
If you live in the UK please try to support this event, there are still places available for swimmers and helpers are needed, if you have a blog or a twitter account please pass on the info it would be great to see you there either in or out of the water, there are some awesome swimmers already entered including Colin Hill the organisor of the Greeat Swim Series, Julian Crabtree and many more (including me of course) spread the word and or visit the website of The Swim 4 Life to Help the Heroes

Thankyou to Steve Munatones for promoting the event via The Daily News of Open Water Swimming

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

H2Open Magazine

The new magazine for open water swimming -
H2Open magazine will provide swimmers with all the information they seek on races, training and gear.

Launch dates: Website: January 2011 Magazine: February 2011

If you would like more information or would like to subscribe to H2Open Magazine to ensure you receive the first issue, please contact them at:

Sounds interesting, I have emailed re subscription though I am yet to receive a reply..

UPDATE...REPLY RECEIVED..see comments re how to subscribe and costings etc

UPDATE..Many thanks again for your interest in H2Open Magazine. We are very excited about our launch, which is just a few weeks away on 11 February 2011.

You can now subscribe to the print version of the magazine at  The electronic subscription will be available at the same location shortly.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

New Year New Targets

New Years Eve filled with parties, alcohol, fireworks and festivities isn’t always my favourite time of the year. I often find myself reflecting on memories from years ago, childhood thoughts of ‘first footing’ at my parents house and the joy those days brought. On the flip side is the dread of what the coming year may bring. Trying to dispel the fears of the emotional battles that lay ahead we move into 2011 with another set of goals.

2010 more or less rebooted my swimming , with a specific set of stepping stones leading to the target of the One way Windermere swim. I generally find it a lot easier to be motivated when I have something to aim towards, last year was very methodical and thankfully allowed me to progress without to much trouble be it mentally or physically, I had some lower back problems earlier in the year but this soon subsided as my condition slowly improved.

If anything, training of late has been ahead of schedule in comparison to last year, timings in the pool are down on twelve months ago but stamina appears to be improved, basically I am not as quick but I can go for longer! A better situation to be in I suppose…slow and steady wins the race so says the tortoise!
Last week brought my first little challenge since the summer when I decided on a steady two hour pool swim (I hadn’t swam for longer than 90 minutes since August) I was pleased to get 7000m under my belt which is a great benchmark for the big plan. That said, like most of the UK I have been suffering with varying degrees of ‘manflu’ since before Christmas which has resulted in a chest infection coupled with an intercostal muscle injury. A trip to the GP for confirmation and a weeks supply of anti biotics and instructions to take it easy was not what I wanted to hear yesterday. I dare say the weather hasn't helped with everything including the River Tees being frozen.
The lay off from training has allowed me time to get stuck into my recent birthday present from Charlie….Lewis Pugh’s book ’Achieving The Impossible’
I actually have several new swim books to keep me motivated. I am all too aware of the phrase “a little frustration builds the desire” and this certainly is the case whilst injured. Speaking of motivational gifts from Charlie, I also received the DVD film Touching The Void which I recommend without hesitation. If you enjoyed my other favourite ‘Two Swimmers’ you not be disappointed in this powerful documentary film. a frustrated state, unable to train, that brings me to this years ambitions…similar to last year I have a main goal with some testing challenges enroute..

Here goes:

The April/May weekend of the Royal wedding brings the Swim4Life…a twenty four hour event, swimming 1 mile on the hour every hour for twenty four hours at Guildford Lido. Whilst this isn’t in freezing cold water it will definitely be a tough day with little sleep/rest between each mile.

Having rejoined the BLDSA the next insane stage is the Champion of Champions event at Dover Harbour mid June, this involves three swims of 5 miles, 3 miles then 1 mile in what usually averages around 13 degree water. This will without doubt be a very very tough day.

This leads me to my principal 2011 Challenge… some time in August I will attempt to swim Lake Windermere both ways non stop 21 miles of freshwater, I have already asked another swimmer to join me on this challenge, I am delighted he has accepted but he will remain anonymous until he is happy to be identified (oh and when he has told his Mrs!)

The 2Way swim is a massive event for me, it will take over 13 hours, but throughout the swim I will have the words of The King, Kevin Murphy himself ringing in my ears.."if you have plenty of sea swimming experience and can do a two-way Windermere I'd bet on you completing the Channel"
The King of The Channel