‘JUST KEEP SWIMMING’ Experiencing ‘becoming’ a Channel swimmer

Authors: Rees, K.

Start date: 10 July 2017

This paper offers a phenomenologically orientated reflection on the embodied experience of becoming a Channel swimmer. This is a work in progress as I seek to understand the ‘more’ of my recent experience (Gendlin 1997).

Marathon and endurance swimmers usually describe the act of swimming a long way for a long time as twenty percent physical and eighty percent mental. This embedded Cartesian mind-body split pervades much of the discussion about preparation for Marathon swims; many unsuccessful swims are attributed to having ‘let the demons and the doubts in’ and successful swims to ‘mental toughness and determination’. However, my experiencing of becoming a Channel swimmer felt much closer to Merleau-Ponty’s sense that ’I am my body as opposed to having a body’ (1964). Experiencing an intertwining of the body-self-world, I ‘adventured’ in the way that Todres (2007) described; both excited and scared at the edge of my own sense of finitude. As the swimmer in that space there is a blurring of necessity and choice, my role was to ‘just keep swimming’ if I was to achieve my dream.

KEY-WORDS: Channel swimming, embodiment, becoming

Karen Rees: I am a Senior Academic at Bournemouth University leading Public Health and Health Visiting programmes. My current research interests focus on Open water swimming, the health benefits of Blue Space and Public Health workforce development. I successfully swam the English Channel, Dover to Wissant, in August 2016 under ‘Channel rules’ wearing just a standard swimming costume, a hat and a pair of goggles. I landed in 17 hours and 13 minutes and became the 524th woman and 1679th person to ever swim the Channel solo.

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