Standing under the white cliffs of Dover looking across to France and thinking of my swim across the English Channel in a few days, I am reminded of lines from ‘Ambition’ by the Australian poet, Russell Plunkett. My mother gave a framed copy to me some years ago.
‘Everyone climbs a mountain; some are satisfied to stop at lower levels. Those who reach the top see other mountains to climb. The world is enriched by this vision… Climb mountains till you find one with your view’
I am far from the top of the mountain I have chosen to climb, indeed in Everest terms, I’ve just made it to basecamp and the final ascent is ahead of me. I am humbled by the view across the channel and I’m thinking of others I have met along the way that have swum much further and better and performed more heroic feats than I ever will and they inspire me.
I am thinking of my friends Marty Filpowski who won last years meritorious swim award for crossing in the toughest conditions of the year, Cyril Baldock who at 71 attempts his second crossing to become the oldest person in the world to do so, Irene Keel (appropriately named) who at 74 may take Cyril’s record from him some hours later, Helen Conway who after crossing the channel swam 65 km down the length of the Sydney coast from Palm beach to Bundeena, Lachlan Hind the youngest Australian to swim the English Channel and about to attempt the third leg of his Triple Crown (English Channel , Manhattan and Catalina Bay) and become the youngest in the world to have achieved this title , and Stuart Johnson a dual double crossing legend attempting to become the fourth person in history to complete a triple crossing of the English Channel and who will spend some 40 hours continuously swimming in his attempt to do so.
These people have common attributes apart from their swimming prowess. They are, to a man and woman, utterly humble about their achievements. They are generous in sharing their knowledge and encouraging others including me, and they are determined to live their best life.
These people have reached the top of their mountain and have seen another to climb. I am indebted to their efforts. They enrich my life.