The last time I was in a swimming pool, the distance of a length was measured in yards… or was it leagues?
However, the fact that swimming a mile was on the list meant that it was always going to be difficult to avoid dipping my toe into chlorinated water at some point (open water was always a non-starter). On the May Day Bank Holiday in 2017, I felt the time was right to go to my local leisure centre and see how close I could get to the 66 lengths of the 25-metre pool that would equal one mile.
I had been doing quite a bit of training in the gym, so I knew I was reasonably fit; but an hour’s breaststroke was a totally different proposition to the same time on a rowing machine. I was concerned that my back might seize up, but the hope was that I would get somewhere near halfway before the aches and pains started.
And as it turned out, it was around halfway when I got my first twinge—halfway down the second bloody length. Six lengths later, I was convinced one of my contact lenses had come out (and yes, I know you’re not supposed to wear them in the pool….), but after a couple of minutes the blurred figures that kept overtaking me started to come back into focus.
As far as my technique is concerned, the fact that my back was getting pretty sore would suggest it wasn’t very good; add to that the fact that I was considerably slower than “Eric the Eel”, it was probably a slight error of judgement that I chose to plod up and down the “fast lane”….
Thankfully I started to forget about my back… when my neck and shoulders started to stiffen up; but as soon as I passed 33 lengths, I was confident that I was going to complete the mile. I didn’t time myself to the split second, but as my weary arms touched the wall at the end of the 66th and final length, a quick look at the clock confirmed that it had taken a few seconds either side of 58 minutes to finish the task.
The biggest test was still to come. Despite the lanes being all but empty by now, the lifeguard at the opposite end of the pool wasn’t overly impressed when I tried to take the customary post-challenge photo. However, he was twenty-five metres away; I pretended not to hear him and took a quick selfie before dropping my phone back in the rucksack I’d left near the edge of the pool. I hauled my portly frame out of the water (at the first attempt… impressive!), and trudged back to the changing room… aching, but happy.