The gruff and weathered lady motioned for me to sit on the deck chair next to her. She put her arm around my shoulder and took a long drag from her cigarette. She loves a cigarette.
As she blew smoke away from me out of the other side of her mouth she said, ‘Love, let me tell you something about this swim. People over complicate this swim. My advice is don’t look up, and never look back. Take a feed when one is offered to you and don’t worry about anything but the next one, and eventually you run out of water. You’ll know that when your tits are dragging on the sand.’ And that is exactly as my swim happened.
For a relatively inexperienced marathon swimmer seeking to do what at that time less than 1500 people had ever done, her advice was priceless. But more than that, the lesson that lay deep in this lady’s wisdom, to focus singularly on getting from feed to feed to get hard things done became words for me to live by, and they got me through the hardest years of my life that had only then just begun.
(From my forthcoming book about channel swimming and learning to live well with bipolar. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my blog, Michael)