I used to be a runner- the kind who runs not for health or weight loss but for fun. There were running holidays and running friends, tough races in the mountains and long beautiful runs along hiking trails.
Then, suddenly in April 2012, I became someone with a slipped disc. When I left the hospital I couldn’t walk unassisted and the doctors told me I would never run again (they were wrong but that is another story). They also told me that the only sport I would be able to practice was freestyle swimming. At the time I could only swim breaststroke and didn’t even enjoy it that much, but I was determined to make the most out of it – not only would I learn to swim freestyle, I would also turn swimming into the kind of fun adventure that running used to be for me.
It was fairly obvious that pool swimming was not going to do the trick.
Sure, the first 100 meters of freestyle felt like an amazing achievement and I was thrilled the first time I actually caught up with the person in front of me in the lane (regardless of the fact that this someone was doing heads-up breaststroke and had distinctive white curls). But this was not what I wanted to do, this was not why I had learnt to swim.
I set about to look for my swimming adventure and quickly realised that there is one stretch of water that really stands out when it comes to swimming challenges, one swim that is more epic, more mythical than any other swim: the English Channel.
More people have climbed Mount Everest than have completed a Channel solo swim. It takes years to prepare for a challenge of this size and it was clearly beyond my reach.
Instead, I settled on doing a more manageable chunk of the Channel by registering for an international Channel relay team. There are six of us and we will take turns to swim an hour at a time. The past 12 months have been filled with pool sessions, Skype phone calls and a never-ending hunt for suitable lakes, rivers or beaches for open water training.
My swim is scheduled for 24 June and I am terrified.
The temperature in the Channel is currently a bone-chilling 13 degrees, cold enough to make your teeth hurt. Despite training for a whole year, I have not managed to fit in a single session of swimming in big waves. I am afraid of fish. It is the world’s busiest shipping lane.
But it is ok to be terrified, if it was easy it wouldn’t be an adventure.
Kari is a Swedish national and has worked for the European Commission for more than three years. As the Social Media Team Leader in the Youth and Sport Directorate of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture, Kari is responsible for the digital and social media aspects of the #BeActive campaign.
Would you like to know how Kari’s adventure evolves? Follow the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Facebook account for updates on her progress.