My name is Beth French and I’m an avid ultra-marathon swimmer. Having been in a wheel chair at 17yrs old with ME, my childhood love of the water and swimming was put on hold, as with everything else. However, the dream of walking into the water and swimming straight out, keeping on going til I reached another country was something that kept me going through times of being bed ridden. It became almost a mantra that one day I would….
Once recovery started, I left the UK and lived and travelled in various countries- I was lucky enough to swim in Hawaiian waters almost daily for 3 years- falling in love with ocean swimming and finding 4hrs in the water a pleasure, I began to regain confidence in my body. I also spent 8months ordained in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, studying intensive meditation practices which gave me extraordinary insights into the stamina of the mind.
Becoming a mother spurred me on to return to swimming as I feel it is important to show your kids that dreams can be real and how to fulfil your potential is a vital part of life. Teaching the young the discipline and determination involved in actualising your dreams has become a passion of mine- although I think it is never too late to live life to the fullest . I gave myself a target of a swimathon as the excuse to swim daily. I quickly moved from 2.5k to 5k then 10k distances. The longer I swam, the more comfortable I felt. I found myself wondering how far I could swim, so I signed up for the Aspire channel challenge, booked a lane in the local pool and swam 11miles in one go- then went home and booked my slot to swim the English channel.
I completed my solo English Channel crossing in July 2012, then went on to become the first British woman to swim the Molokai channel in Hawaii in December 2012- a combination of channels that only 13 other people to date have done. My time in the wheelchair now helps me through the long swims as once the fantasy of swimming kept me going before. Stepping out onto French soil, I realised I had become my own hero- something that I never expected, but which brings brighter colours to my wider life. I’m looking to keep swimming, and exploring the watery world around us. It’s not over til I run out of water.
This summer, I’ve set my sights on a world first much closer to home- swimming from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly. It’s a 26mile stretch of exposed ocean that is renowned for strong currents, cold choppy water, vicious tides and our beloved English weather. This swim will see me tackle an unchartered swim route, a real expedition.
Crowdfunding gives me the chance to reach out to a wider group of people through friends of friends and already in the pre-promo days, I’ve had amazing responses from previously unmet people, sparking inspiration and conversation. I’m really looking forward to giving back to those who choose to back my project and connect with supporters of human endeavour. Kindred spirits all, whatever their chosen metier. It’s a loner’s sport that takes a massive amount of support to succeed and crowdfunding gives that support a framework and names, a real community feel.
(My Hawaii swim was filmed for TV- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOkhPF9_ZVI