Monday, 16 March 2015

Can you swim a marathon?

I used to be able to complete a mile in 9 and a bit minutes on a good day.

For the last year it has taken me about 40 minutes, and 70 lengths of my local swimming pool.

Most of that time, I've felt as though I was competing in the wrong event. Managing to get along, sure, and even do it quite well a lot of the time. But nonetheless I've always still felt as though I was not really doing the right thing.

Sometimes I watch my daughter and I wonder if she feels the same way. She's a fabulous teenager these days. While many things are much better than they were when I used to write on here about her primary school years, some other things are not better at all. Grace has some wonderful days but she still has very tough ones, when her experience of the world seems to be light years away from everyone else's, and the gap between her understanding and everyone else's causes her pain.

On those days I feel that whatever I'm doing for her is not enough. On those days I ask myself how else I can help. It doesn't seem fair that she goes out to a daily challenge and I don't. It doesn't seem fair.

Lately, I have wondered whether the injury that has been kept me in the pool and away from marathon training and fundraising for so long might need to be tested again.

As I have ploughed up and down the blue-lined box of the swimming pool, constrained by the bobbing orange ropes and the other swimmers in front of me and behind me, I have chafed more and more at the feeling of being hemmed in and thought back to the glorious ten- and fifteen-milers of last spring before my knee popped and I limped over the London Marathon finish line an hour later than I wanted to, and all the running had to stop for a while.

When I hug my daughter and kiss her upset away, I sometimes smell the chlorine on myself and it makes me think again: I am not doing enough. I need to get out of the pool and back into the real world of tough training. Grace's days are hard. Mine, though sometimes I find them so, are really not.

So I've taken the plunge. To get out of the pool, that is.

In November this year I'm going to take part in the New York Marathon for Britain's National Autistic Society (NAS), to raise awareness of autism and support my daughter and many more thousands of people like her, and, I hope, to attract many generous donations so that the NAS can continue to provide information and support and pioneering services. So that together we can campaign for a better world for people with autism.

I'm a bit nervous about this, I confess. I don't know if my injury is healed or just keeping quiet until I really test it. But what's the worst that can happen? Living with autism must, I think, feel a bit like trying to swim a marathon.  Or maybe cycle a swim-athon. Or run a bike challenge.

All I have to do is complete 26.1 miles with a slightly busted knee. It's really not much, by comparison.

If you would like to support Grace and me please click here. I'll be posting more regularly on this blog as I get back into training. Thank you for reading, and for helping us both to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

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