Monday, 14 November 2011

Guest Post ..Donal Buckley (Today is The Channel)

Contradictorily, I'm not a great person for motivational aphorisms, but at the same time I love reading and have a large collection of quotations I like. Many relate to the sea or swimming somehow, and I have a few that I've used a few times on my site.

With the English Channel or any other epic marathon swim, you will be asked "why". Many times this question is asked in a "what is wrong with you that you need to do this kind thing" way. There is rarely an answer that works for those particular people.

We all have both similar, and different answers though. I eventually found an answer that worked for 99% of people. That 99% of people are those who don't do what we do, and the other 1% are endurance athletes, who will not even ask the question, because they already understand. I don't need to ask you why you might be thinking of a marathon swim. You don't need my reasons. So my simple answer became a quotation:

No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.- Socrates

After all, who is going to argue with Socrates?

But that wasn't my motivation.

Another that I use, and have used in advising people about the English Channel is:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Usually incorrectly attributed to Goethe by W.H Murray. You can feel something in those words. You can feel the urge to sprinkle fairy dust over your life, to step outside.

But the English Channel is not just about dreams, it's far more about grind. About swimming day in and day out, on frosty mornings and when you are sore, hungry and tired, and have lost the love of swimming you had.

And on those days, when there was just me, when the rest of the Magnificent Seven were all training down in Cork, when I had no-one to swim with, when my local pool was treating me like dirt, I needed something else. I really did need motivational help. So on my training log and inside my locker I wrote:

This Is the Channel.

Today. Every day. Every metre. Every stroke. And it helped. The reminder was always there. Everyday when I opened the locker and when I entered my metres into the spreadsheet. It is still there on my ongoing training logs. It became part of my swimming ethos. I began to value the bad days more, to enjoy the good days.

And when I was done with the Channel, I fell back on another quotation, written by Philip Larkin and used incorrectly by me, but to me the only way I can really describe the English Channel and  my own feelings about it.

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.


Caroline Cooke said...

What a great post. I have a dream to swim the channel, it's a tentative, delicate dream and requires protecting from the doubts my mind likes to throw into the mix, but it's starting to develop into a strong desire. By the way, I didn't dare mention this to anyone until this week!

I know the training and preparation will be a hard grind and it's important to be reminded of this, but there's something compelling about the challenge. It feels as though the channel itself is calling (weird)?!

I like Donal's training idea for the hard sessions - 'Today is the Channel' Today. Every day. Every metre. Every stroke.' I started with that in mind during my sea /other training yesterday, it made a big difference to my mindset and attitude. I felt I achieved much more from these training sessions than any of the others I've done and my training has stepped up a gear.

Thanks to Donal and Mark, and all you swimmers out there who continue to inspire and encourage me, and others, to work towards our dreams.

Caroline Muggridge said...

Thought provoking, well written, rings many truths...when you're in the 'Channel Circle' the questions and feelings you have are very different to when you're wondering why you would ever choose to be in it. Grind is a good choice...there's room for beauty too.

I enjoy the honesty of your writing. Can relate to many experiences.

It's a good journey you're on, your foundation is robust, enjoy it all...both the beauty and the grind.