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Inspirational Women: I Swam the English Channel

Inspirational women

I Swam the English Channel

After being involved in a serious road accident as a child Christine Bradley lost her confidence and gave up swimming completley. Later in life, not only did she take it up again, but she decided to take on the ultimate challenge of swimming the English Channel.

The idea to swim the Channel had been with Christine Bradley from childhood, her parents encouraged her to swim and she loved it. 
But when she was 12 she was hit by an articulated lorry, leaving her in hospital for a month and off school for three months.
She narrowly missed having her leg amputated above the knee but luckily it was saved, it did however leave her with considerable scaring on her leg and affected her confidence.
“The embarrassment started then,” said Christine. “And I gave up swimming.”
But the idea to swim the channel never left her and after getting divorced at 40 she discovered a new found confidence.
She said: “When I was approaching 50 I developed a confidence I did not have before and I realised I could do things for myself. 
“I had always wanted to swim the Channel so I packed in work and trained to be a swimming teacher.”
She had to book her swim well in advance and for the next three years she spent hours training in the pool as well as in the sea to get used to the cold. 
She said: “I did a few sea swims but did not train as wisely as I could have done. I never actually swam in the dark before the swim.”
Channel swimmers are allocated a five-day window and find out the night before if they can swim. 
Bad weather put Christine’s swim in doubt, but eventually the weather improved and she was given the green light. 
She set off with a support boat, pilot, crew members and verifier on the morning of September 23, 2016. To be verified she was only allowed to wear goggles, one swimming hat and a swimming costume. 
She said: “I do no think you can take much of it in when you actually do the swim, but I remember feeling extremely cold at one point and my eyes felt like they were closing.”
Christine recalls how disorientating the swim was due to the cold, changes in the tide and  enormous container ships passing her.
“The tide changes every six hours and it washes you sideways. I kept swimming and swimming but could feel I was being pushed to the side.“
“I was very disoriented; at one point I was convinced there were children in the boat and I also thought I could see a person on the shore, those are signs that the body is shutting down.”
“I did not allow myself to think how deep the water was or what was in it as I do not like eels.
“The boat crew saw a bull seal but I never saw it which is probably a good thing.
”During the swim the water temperature dropped as low as 11 degrees and Christine was given food and drink via a rope from the boat.

Christine during her channel swim

Finally after 18 hours and 56 minutes of swimming Christine made it to the French coast, exhausted and disorientated her only memories are of being annoyed.
“The idea is you pick up a pebble as a souvenir and that is your medal for swimming the Channel, said Christine. “I was so fed up and annoyed I didn’t even want to do that so my support swimmer Steve got one for me.”
It was only in the weeks afterwards that she was really able to appreciate her enormous achievement.  
“I went across the Channel on a boat and I still cannot believe that I swam that distance.” 

Since the swim Christine has done an ironman distance race and is planning to walk to base-camp at Everest.