Milverton marathon swimmer, Beth French, is just one more victim of the storms that have lashed the South West over the past few weeks. She has had to abandon sea-training for her attempt to be the first person to swim the 26 miles from Cornwall to the Scilly Isles later this year.
Beth said, “As you can imagine, with the weather as it is, sea swimming is off limits. It’s not just the waves; in the aftermath, the water quality can be atrocious with sewage overflows and agricultural run-off making coastal waters pretty dicey. So I’m pool-bound at the moment.
“I’ve started to up the distance, doing a 10k swim a week plus at least 2 other swim sessions and one or two gym sessions as well. Working to strengthen and stabilise muscle groups involved in front crawl whilst streamlining their function for stamina is a key part of marathon swimming.”
The swim is an attempt to tackle what is an uncharted route, 26 miles of exposed ocean renowned for strong currents, cold choppy water, vicious tides – in her words, “a real expedition.” She is attempting to raise money for two charities from her swim – Level Water and Surfers Against Sewage.
She explained, “Level Water is a charity that helps to get disabled kids swimming. A shocking number of disabled kids never get the chance to become independent in the water, despite long-standing knowledge of its therapeutic benefits. So Level Water aims to get disabled kids 1 to 1 coaching sessions to get them to be safe and independent in the water so they can join able-bodied swim sessions.
Surfers Against Sewage is a marine conservation charity based in the south west, although it has international support. Marine ecology and water conservation should be on everyone’s agenda. Water is what makes this planet habitable and yet we do worse than taking it for granted!”
Beth’s list of marathon swims already includes 2 of the prestigious ‘Ocean 7’ – the 7 most challenging long-distance swims across the world. In 2012 she swam the English Channel and was the first woman to conquer the Molokai Channel in Hawaii. Only 5 people in the world have completed both crossings.
Her achievements are all the more remarkable as she was bedridden and then wheelchair-bound at 17 with ME; she is also a mother. These two factors have been significant in her developing what she refers to as “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 fulfilling your potential is a vital part of life. Teaching the young the discipline and determination involved in actualising dreams has become a passion of mine – although I think it is never too late to live life to the fullest.”
Beth paid tribute to the support of Crowdfunder: “It’s a loner’s sport that takes a massive amount of support to succeed. Crowdfunding gives that support a framework and names, a real community feel.”