While Joanne Jones, an STA swimming teacher at bstFitness in Newbury waited nervously for her Channel slot to open and the phone call to say she’s swimming to France, we caught up with her to find out more about this exciting solo challenge, which she is doing right now.
Tell us a little about yourself Joanne and why you decided to take on the challenge of swimming the Channel.
I’m 24 (25 in October) and several years ago I set myself the challenge to swim the Channel. After completing a 6-person Channel relay in 2010, I said to myself I would swim the Channel solo before I was 25. Plus I am raising money for Newbury YMCA.
What has your training involved?
As part of my training I have swum Lake Windermere (in 5hr 30m, and spent the majority of weekends swimming in local lakes (Reading Tri20 Lake, in the Thames in Goring and Bray Lake Maidenhead). Since April I’ve also done a lot of swimming in the sea in Bournemouth with Durley Channel Swimmers.
What are you looking forward to the most?
Actually putting myself against my own challenge, and what I’ve been training for.
What are you least looking forward to?
I think this waiting stage has been the hardest bit so far – the waiting for a phone call. My bags are packed, my training is done, and so it’s waiting on the weather and a phone call from my pilot to say come to Dover to swim. There’s a strong possibility I will either be starting, or finishing the swim with a few hours of swimming in the dark, which is daunting, but necessary.
What do your friends and family think of it?
I’m not the first in my family to swim the Channel; my uncle swam it in 2009, and my father and I were part of the 6 person relay in 2010. My family have been taken on the ride of crazy sport endeavours before. My husband, who was thrown into the deep end as I was planning the Channel swim before we met, has been amazing, and will be risking seasickness to come with me on the boat – he’s also done lots of cooking and housework to help me have time to swim more.
My friends have been amazingly supportive, and understanding as this has taken over nearly all my weekends since April so I have missed many birthdays and other social meet ups. Throughout my training, and one of the things I love most about this sport is the people you meet along the way and the supportive nature of the swimming community. Everyone has different backgrounds and limitations but we all support each other to overcome personal challenges and complete our swims. I’m learning that everyone has their Everest, as some people call it. As a child it was competing in club competitions, in 2010 for me it was swimming as part of a Channel relay, last year Windermere – and this year the Channel solo. For some people, it’s getting into the water for the first time, for some swimming a whole length of front crawl and for others – it’s swimming the Channel. I love being part of a community which support and help everyone in it achieve their goals.
Why have you chosen Newbury YMCA as your charity?
I’ve always been passionate about helping young people. Being a teenager is tough enough with trying to figure out who you are; with social media and screen presence everywhere, with what seems like dwindling resources and places to go and fewer things to do, it seems to be even tougher. I was always grateful for sport, but also local youth clubs where I could go and hang out with friends, feel safe, independent and try new things. Newbury YMCA, who I volunteer with weekly provide spaces like that, which I valued when I was a teenager. We run drop in cafes, football tournaments and other events for 11-18 year olds and create spaces for young people to belong. It is a privilege to get to know them, and it is exciting that the money we raise is going to go towards events and activities that the teenagers help plan.
— Joanne, the best of luck from all at STA!
As we go to press Joanne’s Channel swimming slot will have opened and you can keep up-to-date on progress via her Facebook page.
If you’d like to sponsor Joanne, please visit her JustGiving page!