Marathon Swims

I’m writing this blog on my phone on the train back from London, so it probably won’t represent my finest work, but it’ll at least kill 10 or 15 minutes of the journey.

As mentioned in the last blog, I took part in the inaugural Marathon Swims 5km event at the Olympic Aquatics Centre today.
Here’s my three word review if you’re not inclined to read any further: Tougher than expected.

Still with me? Allow me to expand.

I came into this thing aiming for a time of 1.45 to 2 hours. Where I’d plucked this target from, given that I don’t ever count or time my lengths, I have no idea, but it sounded good so I went with it.

Beyond this, though, I knew that all I really needed to do was come in under 2.30, as going beyond this would mean not getting a time, and missing out on the all important medal.

I arrived in the capital yesterday afternoon for a tune-up in the pool of champions, deciding to swim 1km in order to multiply my time by five to produce an actual educated estimate as to my finish time.

The result was alarming to say the least.

I touched in 29 minutes. Multiply that by five, add in transition time, factor in fatigue… you do the maths.

Fanciful thoughts of a 1.45 finish now consigned to the scrapheap, I adjusted my ambition to simply get around and earn that medal.

And so, to race time this morning, and the excitement of event day at the Olympic pool. Having pledged to put aside any concerns arising from yesterday’s alarming final warm-up, I focused on simply enjoying the occasion.

The event was brilliantly organised, and really offered that grand sense of occasion I was looking for. The PA announcer chappy (whose voice I definitely recognised, but was unable to put a name to) announced each swimmer idividually, until finally it was my turn.

“From Birmingham, dressed all in green today, please welcome TOM PARKER!”

*SPLOSH*. In I went.

It wasn’t until I was on about length four of one hundred that I realised, amid all the anticipation, I’d forgotten to look at the clock as I began, so had no idea how I was doing for time… and I was very glad of this indeed. I figured I’d do better to get my head down, relax and enjoy it, rather than stress about timings.

So I plodded on. Each 50m length sapped a bit more energy, and it was bloody tough going. But I was in control, and that’s all that mattered.

Before I knew it, the first kilometre was done. The second seemed longer but still reasonably comfortable. Then came the halfway point, where the tiredness really seemed to set in, but the psychological effect of knowing I was over the hump spurred me on.

Taking time out for some water and an energy gel before the final kilometre, I was actually feeling reasonably good. In so much as I hadn’t yet passed away.

Then everything started to go wrong. First my foot began to cramp up. The 4.5km mark saw a quick, sharp, painful pull on my right hamstring, followed almost immediately afterwards by a similar sensation in my left calf.

Swimming now almost exclusively with my arms, predictably my biceps started to tighten uncomfortably.

Take it from me, attempting to swim with both arms and both legs refusing to function is not fun.

But I needed to get through the final ten lengths, so I got my head down and plowed on, driven by thoughts of family, the charities I’m supporting, and by promising myself a pizza and some beer tonight.

And so, finally, I made it across the finish line, where my medal was quickly hung around my neck. They didn’t seem to check my time at all, meaning that my fears of being denied one seemed fairly redundant.

As for my finishing time, a few backwards calculations lead me to believe it was around 2.20… but I’m not concerned about that.

This was, undoubtedly, the most intense physical challenge I’ve ever put myself through. A bit of a grandiose claim in comparison to feats achieved by others, but they may not have spent the vast majority of their adult lives eating too much and moving too little to the extent I did!

I’m massively proud of my accomplishment, and hope to return next year, when maybe I’ll have progressed enough to go for that 1.45 target? Or perhaps not!

One last thing – I put myself through this in order to raise funds for two great charities in the shape of LoveBrum and VICTA. Any donations at would be hugely appreciated.

You know they would. They really would.

Thank you.


Changing Lanes

I started this blog back in August 2016 with the intention of chronicling my progress before reaching the denouement of the tale – a dip in my personal mecca, the London Olympic pool.

It says much about my commitment to this project that it’s a full nine months since I achieved that ambition and it’s only now that I’m relaying the experience here.

So, why the delay? Primarily laziness, if I’m entirely honest. But I think, at the heart of it, is the fact that the experience didn’t quite match up to my rather lofty expectations.

A walk around the Olympic Park these days is a strange experience for anybody who was present during those heady few weeks five years ago. The stadium’s still there, the Mittal Orbit sculpture still dominates the skyline, and it undoubtedly remains an impressive destination for any fan of sport.

16830968_10158197417775133_6876968525418393065_n (1)
Sporting a fake London 2012 medal at the Olympic Pool. Because I’m that kind of twat.

Something’s missing, though. The colour, the excitement and the throngs of enthralled spectators have given way to the mundanity of everyday life. Not that I really expected it to be a hive of activity on a Monday afternoon in February, mind, but it was still a difference that affected me more than it probably should have.

It was the Aquatics Centre where my own ‘perceptions versus reality’ dilemma came to the fore. In the same lanes where the likes of Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky had dominated just a few years earlier, I instead found Joe Public doing head-above-water breaststroke.

Again, I’m really not sure what I expected. It’s legitimately ridiculous.

While the pool’s underwater windows through which television cameras once peered offered a reminder of its illustrious past, it became all too painfully obvious that this was no longer one of the great arenas of world sport.

Getting a bollocking from a lifeguard for attempting a poolside selfie finally hammered home the point that this place wouldn’t offer me an authentic experience of what elite-level swimming is like. At least not yet. But we’ll get to that later.

Little did I know it, but my Olympic swim was followed immediately by an enforced swimming hiatus. A new job brought me a promotion and a pay rise, but also a longer commute – and it soon became apparent that the increased journey time meant my 7am morning swims would have to be knocked on the head.

I tried manfully to keep going with the odd evening swim. I even did the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere in May – my first open water swim, where I was proud to cover the mile-long circuit in 45 minutes.

19029400_10158749960610133_721698482373590749_nObligatory unflattering wetsuit shot after The Great North Swim.

Ultimately, though, as time wore on, my regular swimming became irregular, my progression turned to regression, and I grew more and more demoralised until I just stopped completely.

The weight I’d lost began to come back, the old lethargy returned, and my reinvention as a swimmer fell to pieces.

And then came a lucky break.

September saw the closure of Erdington Baths, my local swimming destination. And while I was sad to see the back of the slightly grotty pool I’d become so weirdly fond of, I was happy to welcome the state-of-the-art new leisure centre that came in its place.

Particularly given that its 6.30am opening time heralded my long-awaited return to the water.

A few months of relative inactivity meant that I apprehensively got started again in the slow lane. Within a couple of weeks I progressed to medium. After a month, I was living life in the fast lane once more.

I’d well and truly been re-bitten by the bug, and suddenly I found myself looking for the next big challenge, for a target to aim for.

And then I found out about Marathon Swims, a new concept with 1k, 5k and 10k pool-based challenges.

The venue? The London Aquatics Centre.

Within seconds, I’d paid my money and signed up to the 5k event.

And so it is I’ll return to the Pool of Champions this weekend, where I hope the scale of the challenge, the camaraderie of my fellow participants, the roar of the spectators in the stands, and – importantly – the chance of a medal at the end of it will provide the sense of excitement and competition that was sadly lacking on my last visit.

So, there we are – the blog is finally up to date. And, seeing as you’ve made it this far, I might as well get my begging bowl out.

I’m using this swim to raise a bit of moolah for a couple of great causes, and you can find my sponsorship page here.

I’ve set myself a slightly ambitions target of £500 – or, in other terms, £100 per kilometre, and a fiver per length.

50% of the money I raise will go LoveBrum, a charity I’m incredibly proud to be an ambassador for. It provides funding to small charities and good causes across my home town, helping to make a real difference to communities.

I’ll also be raising money for VICTA, a charity for children and young people who are blind and partially sighted. My wife, Anna, is a teacher specialising in children with visual impairment, and I’m proud to be doing something for a cause that’s very close to our hearts.

If you can donate whatever you can afford, it will be hugely appreciated.

You know it will. It really will.

Thank you.

Real men wear lycra

I’ve never been able to even tentatively explore a new sport without investing in some sort of expensive equipment I probably  don’t need.

Despite this relentless commitment to the spirit of ‘all the gear, no idea’, as I set out on my new guise as a daily swimmer, I was less keen than usual to attire myself in the sort of apparel usually preserved for the professionals. And it was all down to body confidence.

You see, whereas my previous temporary attempts to be a runner or a footballer have allowed for gear baggy enough to at least partially disguise the fact that I don’t possess the body of an athlete, the attire associated with professional swimming doesn’t allow for any such cover-up.

It was bad enough to have to be topless. For years I’ve been somebody who’s barely been able to cope with being shirtless in my own company, let alone in front of other people. And I was hardly going to compound that by hanging my gut over the waistband of a very tight pair of lycra shorts, was I?


Back in my past life working for Speedo’s PR agency, I remember writing a piece about a new range of women’s swimwear that had been designed in-line with research showing that women felt self-conscious when walking from the locker room to the pool. To combat that feeling, the new collection had a number of contouring features to improve the wearer’s perception of their own body shape.

Writing that piece made me jealous. Not because I have any desire to don a ladies’ swimming cossie, obviously. But the issue of body confidence was all too real a struggle for me… and, sadly, no good solution was forthcoming when it came to men’s swimwear.

Between then and the time I began regular swimming last summer, my issues regarding body confidence had improved somewhat. I’d met my fiancee, Anna in that time, and I suppose the fact that I get dressed in front of her every morning and she doesn’t recoil in horror reassured me that I wasn’t all that repulsive.

But still, my morning routine would see me struggling to get ready at poolside in a way that meant I was topless out of the water for the absolute minimum amount of time, before plunging into the pool wearing a very baggy pair of shorts.

The Epiphany

As I started to enjoy and feel the benefits of my daily swim, my ‘all-the-gear, no idea’ tendencies came to the fore. As I read more around my new specialist subject, one thing that struck me is that anyone who’s actually serious about swimming, be it competitively or purely for fitness, wore tight fitting apparel rather than loose-fitting togs.

What really compounded it, though, was when a lady turned up at the pool one day wearing a pair of leggings beneath her swimming costume, together with a t-shirt on top of it, presumably to mask her larger than average frame. And the pity was, I realised, that her own lack of body confidence had led to a scenario where she had effectively drawn more attention to herself than she may have done had she opted for more conventional attire.

It’s like the comb-over hairstyle. Often, the more you attempt to hide something you don’t like, the more obvious it becomes.

charlton1Noted purveyor of the comb-over, Bobby Charlton

It was at that point that I realised nobody particularly cares about what you’re wearing other than yourself. I went home, fired up the Sports Direct website and ordered the cheapest pair of plain black Speedo jammers I could. “Feck it”, I thought.

A couple of days later, I found myself squeezing myself into them, and trotting to the pool. As I disrobed at poolside, to my eternal surprise, I didn’t feel like a fat lad in lycra, as I’d assumed I would. I felt like a swimmer.

I took the plunge, and suddenly felt sleeker, sharper, shapelier and speedier. Whether it was hydrodynamics or just the placebo effect, I’m not sure, but I immediately felt better for donning my new outfit.

The baggy shorts haven’t been touched since then. Not only that, but I’ve also increased my array of jammers with new additions that feature more elaborate, more eye-catching patterns. I take this alone as evidence that my once significant issues with body confidence have all but dissipated.

For the first time in my adult life, I’m comfortable in my own skin, and it’s a very nice feeling indeed.

Over the last few months, I’ve realised that embarking on a new exercise regime is not so much about how you look, but how you feel. Which is just as well, given I still possess all too many wobbly bits that aren’t generally associated with the stereotypical swimmer’s body.

However, if looking the part can help you feel the part, then it doesn’t hurt to try, does it? Looks like there’s something in the philosophy of ‘all the gear, no idea’ after all…

You know there is. There really is.


It’s been a while…

When I began this blog in August, my aims were simple and unassuming: To rapidly grow my audience whilst taking my readers on my enthralling journey of reinvention, to garner the attentions of the worldwide swimming community, and ultimately secure a book deal that would form the basis of a Hollywood movie, making me millions.


For a week, this ambitious plan was attacked with gusto, as I published three missives about my daily adventures at Erdington baths.

That bull in a china shop strategy wouldn’t last, however. Months of radio silence followed, broken only today by this short update.

So why did I neglect my big project? Various reasons. Renovation of our house kept me busy for a while. Believe it or not, a packed social calendar often prevented me from writing. And… who am I kidding? Pure laziness had a part to play, too.

However – and here’s the astonishing bit – while my natural lethargy prevented me from writing about swimming, it didn’t get in the way of my daily(ish) trudge to the pool. I think it’s the longest I’ve stuck at a fitness regime in my adult life, which is probably worthy of celebration.

So why now?

You may recall, way back in my first entry on this blog, I stated that my swimming goal was to reach a point where I felt satisfied enough with my progress to take a dip in my own personal aquatics mecca, the Olympic pool in London.

I’m pleased to report that I’ll be doing just that on February 20th.

What this means, essentially, is I now have 28 days in which to tell a story I intended to relay over the course of six months.

So I’d better get cracking if I want rake it in from the movie rights, hadn’t I?

Watch this space…

You know you should. You really should.


The Race

During my morning sessions at the pool, I like to keep myself going by ‘racing’ fellow swimmers.

I use inverted commas there because my opponents have absolutely no idea that a race is taking place, given that the narrative takes place entirely in my own head.

Until one morning this week, when we all went head-to-head for real.

Sort of.

Competitors swim in the women's 200m butterfly heats during the London 2012 Olympic Games

The unusual scenario played out when I arrived at the pool to find the curious sight of everybody lined up in the shallow end, backs to the wall, as if they had been called to stand outside the headteacher’s office. Presumably for flooding the school.

I whipped off my shoes, shirt and shorts to reveal my swimsuit beneath them, stuffed my bag into a locker, endured the obligatory couple of seconds beneath the cold poolside shower, and found myself a gap in the line to jump into.

“What’s going on?” I asked the bloke waiting next to me as I pulled on my goggles and cap. “The lifeguard’s late”, he replied. “They say we can’t start until he gets here”.

A few more moments passed. “Shall we have a race?”, I asked, my question greeted by polite laughter. Screw that… I wasn’t joking.

It was at that point that The Walking Dead arrived and stood at poolside.

“ON YOUR MARKS…”, he roared, looking more thrilled than anyone has ever looked before. “…GET SET…”

…and would you believe it, the bastards actually went on ‘GO’.

Meanwhile, I stood still, alone, like a moron, waiting for official permission from the still-absent lifeguard.

After a couple of seconds, I realised that this was no time for playing by the rules. There was a race to be won.

I surged forward, trying to eliminate the head-start I’d unwittingly granted to my adversaries, and soon overcame much of the chasing pack (mainly because I, unlike most of them, am under the age of 60).

By the 15 metre mark, I had just two swimmers in front of me. Two very capable young ladies, whom I can identify only by the colours of the silicone hats atop their heads – Red Cap and Blue Cap.

The gap was shortening as we approached the end of the 30 metre length, until I found myself already having to circumnavigate The Walking Dead, who had begun his trot from the opposite end of the pool.

With my race impacted once again, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to catch Red Cap and Blue Cap. So I did what anybody would do when faced with defeat – I changed the rules.

They may have beaten me over 30 metres, but this race now covered a 60 metre course. And I had faith I could pull it off.

I turned as quickly as I could, and began to give chase once more, attempting valiantly to overcome the flawless front crawls of Red Cap and Blue Cap with my own peculiar brand of breaststroke.

As we reached past the halfway point of the second length, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to catch up with Red Cap. I could live with that. She’d swum a terrific race, fair play to her.

Second place was in my sights, though. Me versus Blue Cap. I was determined not to allow her to beat me.

And so, for the closing moments of the race, I’ll hand you over to our commentator.

“Into the final ten metres now, and Red Cap leads Blue Cap by a couple of body lengths, and it looks like she’s going to take this…

“…but the battle for second place is hotting up, with Tom Parker in the bronze medal position closing in on Blue Cap, having recovered well in this final 30 metres after a shaky start…

“…and they’re NECK-AND-NECK as they approach the wall… has Parker done enough?!

*pause to wait for result to be shown on the scoreboard*

“HE HAS!!!!!!

“Tom Parker takes the SILVER medal in the Men’s AND Women’s 60 metre whatever-stroke-you’re-physically-capable-of-doing, at the end of a quite ASTONISHING race!”

I believe they then cut to Helen Skelton, Mark Foster and Rebecca Adlington, who spoke at length about how proud I should be of my recovery, whilst lamenting blue cap’s decision to finish her race on a half-stroke.

What a race, what an achievement… what a start to the day!


Introducing Erdington’s finest

I swim each morning at Erdington Leisure Centre. Built in 1925, its exterior boasts a largely unspoilt stunning red brick frontage. Inside, while traces of its original elegance remain, cheap and tacky fixtures and fittings from the 1980s detract from its period charm.


Erdington Baths.

Still, it’s located a mere two-minute walk from my front door, and has a more than decent 30 metre pool, so it’s good enough for me.

The main drawback is the fact that it’s also good enough for many other people, and it tends to get really busy in the mornings. I must be honest… I get terribly annoyed with some of my fellow swimmers.


The original reception area at Erdington baths… sadly now long gone.

After a few weeks of daily swimming, I’m now au fait with the regulars, and while I’ve no idea as to their real names, I’m going to introduce them to you now by the nicknames I’ve made up for each of them.

I should point out that some of these monikers are unnecessarily cruel. I acknowledge this willingly. But, before judging me, please bear in mind the fact that  I tend to arrive at the pool feeling tired and grumpy (hence the name of this website), and I’m often at a disposition where people can infuriate me just by existing.

Are you ready? Then we’ll begin.

The Walking Dead

Always there seven days a week, come rain or shine. I’ve overheard other swimmers complaining about this guy, so at least I’m comfortable in knowing I’m not alone in my mild irritation.

The Walking Dead is an old man who opts to use the pool not to swim, but to walk. He jumps in at the deep end and ventures to the centre of the pool, before stopping, catching his breath, turning around and going back again. What this means is he spends an inordinate amount of time standing still in the busiest section of the pool, thus getting in way of pretty much everybody.

The worst thing about The Walking Dead is that he tends to do his thing right in the lane which I’m swimming in. This has unfortunately led to me giving him an inadvertent swift kick in the legs on a number of occasions, and it’s happened with enough regularity that he must believe it’s deliberate.

So, The Walking Dead, if you ever read this, please be assured that this is purely accidental. Also, I’m sorry for the insulting nickname my sub-conscious has bestowed upon you.

Michael Feltz

I think I’m more ashamed of this nickname than I am of ‘The Walking Dead’, partly because this man has done nothing to annoy me, and partly because it plays negatively on his physical attributes.

But still. Michael Feltz is called Michael Feltz because he swims with the grace of a certain Mr. Phelps, despite a physique akin to that of TV and radio personality Vanessa Feltz at her peak.


As I said, unnecessarily cruel. I’m a terrible, terrible person.

Doctor Backstroke

As you’ve probably guessed, this one incurs my wrath because she appears to believe that swimming backstroke in a massively busy pool is a good idea.

Why I have decided this is worthy of a doctorate is not as clear.

The Doc’s chosen stroke means that she has no awareness of other people around her, and the onus is on the rest of us to get out of her way as she ploughs through – particularly when she torpedoes her way out after kicking off the wall at the start of a length.

Just this morning, Doctor Backstroke’s insistence on swimming in this manner caused an incident when I was heading towards the deep end as she came in the other direction. With others swimming close to us, and little time to readjust my path, I was forced to abandon my stroke and stand up to let her pass.

Unfortunately, my momentum caused me to stumble forward, in turn leading to a robust shoulder-barge on The Walking Dead, knocking him down helplessly under the water. Doctor Backstroke, meanwhile continued forward (or backward), blissfully unaware of the carnage she’d caused.

Doctor Backstroke is definitely my least favourite at the moment.

Terry Triathlon

This fella is one of the elite few who are good enough to go in the designated fast lane, so I tend not to encounter him during my swim.

Despite this, he manages frequently to make me seethe given that he arrives at the pool dressed like he’s about to cycle the Tour de France, before hitting the water in attire which is usually the preserve of somebody preparing to swim the Channel.

This does not irritate me per se. People can wear whatever they want for all I care. It’s more the fact that dealing with two lots of fiddly gear means that he spends an inordinate amount of time by the lockers, and he has an incredible tendency to stand right in front of the one I’m specifically trying to get at.

No amount of passive-aggressive behaviour on my part is dissuading him from doing this. And seeing as I’m clearly not brave enough to say ‘excuse me’, I’m not sure what the correct course of action is…

Goggles McGinty

Goggles is brilliant. He’s absolutely my favourite.

A gentleman whom I’d estimate to be around 60-years-old, Goggles is there nearly every day, yet I’ve never seen him swim more than a couple of metres at a time.

He kicks off from the end, puts in a couple of token strokes, then stands up to adjust his goggles, before walking the rest of the length, still fiddling with them. He then rests for a good ten minutes, during which time he’ll usually stop somebody for a chat, before repeating the process again.

I love him, and I want to be his friend. Maybe I should buy him some decent eyewear for Christmas?

Billy Butter-Free

Billy rivals Doctor Backstroke for being a danger to others in the pool, given his unique swimming style which sees a freestyle stroke somehow delivered with a wide armspan that you’d normally associate with butterfly.

His problem, as with others, is spacial awareness. Put simply, if you ever find yourself in the same lane as Billy, keep your eyes open – I’ve had to dodge a smack in the mouth on more than one occasion.


The pool – Circa 1955.

So, there you go. A cut-out and keep guide to the characters I encounter on a daily basis.

Despite my harsh character assassinations, I have to say that I have a weird fondness for them all, and their little quirks… or at least I do when I’m over my early morning grump.

Just like me, they are all people who have opted to forego time they could easily spend dozing in bed because swimming every day is something that makes them feel good, or better, or healthier.

And let’s face it, they probably think of me in exactly the same way I think of them.

Terry Triathlon, for instance, might refer to me as ‘All The Gear, No Idea‘, such is my tendency to come along dressed from head-to-toe like Michael Phelps, despite possessing none of his ability.

The Walking Dead might think of me as ‘Alan Shearer‘, the prick who aims sly kicks at him and pretends it was an accident. (For the avoidance of doubt, it always is an accident!)

Doctor Backstroke may have nicknamed me ‘The Big Bad Wolf‘, such is the amount of angry huffing and puffing I do every time she swims near me.

The point is we’re all the same. Each exactly as guilty as the next. Agitating one other by not doing much wrong at all.


The pool – Circa 2016.

What’s nice about Erdington Baths is that there seems to be a community feel among many of the regulars. At around 8am, as I’m leaving to get on with my day, many of them have reconvened in the shallow end of the now empty fast lane, sitting jaccuzzi-style in the corner of the pool, having a chat.

That said, I’ve not been engaged in conversation with them myself, so I guess I have more to do before I’m accepted as one of their own.

Either that, or they’ve heard me muttering ‘for f**k’s sake’ when they’ve been in my way…

Follow me on Twitter! @SleepySwimmer1



From Wembley to Stratford, one stroke at a time

I was settling down on the first day of an Easter 2015 holiday in Ireland when I got a phonecall I’ll never forget.

“Mr. Parker, I believe you recently entered a competition to play with Ian Wright at Wembley…?”

“Yes, that’s right…”

“Well I’m pleased to tell you that you’re our lucky winner”.

Holy. Mary. Mother. Of. God.

Having grown up harbouring doomed ambitions of a career as a professional footballer, the opportunity to play at the home of football is something I’d spent plenty of time dreaming about, but had long since conceded would never happen.

And now, here it was. My figurative lottery win. Every boy’s dream. Yet, along with my natural feelings of excitement were ones of apprehension. Dread, even.

Yes, my dream had come true. But it had done so at a time when I was in about the worst shape I’d ever been.

The late fitness test

My week of feasting on Guinness, Tayto and the odd Easter egg was abandoned. Instead I threw myself wholeheartedly into a crash fitness course in the short time I had before setting foot on the hallowed turf.

The days that followed saw me make a few trudges up and down the Slievenamon mountain in Co.Tipperary, as well as a few blasts around picturesque Irish country lanes on a mountain bike.

At the summit of Slievenamon as part of my training for Wembley

My return home to Birmingham saw me continue in the same vein, with a few desperate trips to the local park for a kickabout to try and kid myself I was in any way ready for a 90 minute game of football.

Needless to say, I wasn’t. 20 days isn’t enough time to undo 20-odd years of excess. That the video below shows my most meaningful contribution to the game says everything.

In most ways, my Wembley experience was wonderful. The walk down the tunnel, lining up for the national anthem, and climbing the steps to the Royal Box to collect the trophy are moments that will live long in the memory.

But the day will always be tinged with the disappointment that I wasn’t physically able to grasp the opportunity with both hands. And I have only myself to blame.

Team Wrighty – Wembley winners

Righting the wrongs

The one positive was that the day served as a wake-up call as to how unfit I truly was, and I’d soon joined my local leisure centre to continue my pursuit of fitness.

The problem was that, while I was doing a manful job of plodding along to the gym two or three times a week, I was taking no enjoyment from the experience whatsoever. It made me feel hot and heavy, and frankly I was always glad of a good excuse not to bother going.

An exception to this feeling of indifference was the fact that I quite enjoyed swimming… and now, finally, we get to the crux of why my first post on my swimming blog has revolved around a football match I played last year.

The truth hurts

My gym is located in the same 1920s building as the Erdington swimming pool, and my occasional weekend wallows in the water were much valued, if few and far between. The problem lay in the fact that the pool is only open for public swimming at 7am each morning, and I found myself point blank refusing to haul myself from the comfort of my bed in order to exercise.

Despite gentle encouragement from my fiancee, Anna, I was not to be dissuaded from this view. Until she dropped a truthbomb one day.

“You could use the hour you spend lying in bed and looking at Facebook on your phone to go swimming”.

Bugger. She was dead right. So, the next morning, I set my alarm for 6.45 as usual, but instead of hitting snooze four or five times, I dragged myself up and out of the house.

And shock horror, I really bloody enjoyed it. So I went the next day. And the day after that. And six weeks later, my daily morning swims are just about my favourite thing.

All the gear, no idea

I’m feeling stronger and fitter than I have in a long time after just a few weeks, and I’m feeling certain that swimming may be the route to redemption to rid myself of those Wembley regrets.

A new target

The obvious way to resolve this story is to get in shape, step out again at Wembley and score the winning goal for that classic Hollywood ending. In reality, that’s not going to happen. Opportunities like that rarely come along once, let alone twice.

However, I won’t get closure until I do myself justice in an equivalent setting. And luckily, my new chosen sport offers me an easy enough route to do just that.

Full disclosure time: While I’m a relative newcomer to regular swimming, I actually used to make a significant portion of my living from the sport. Between 2010-2013, I proudly worked for the PR agency of the world’s leading swimwear brand, Speedo, working as part of a team delivering its communications to more than 170 countries across the world.

That period, of course, took in the London 2012 Olympics, and it was there that I enjoyed one of the most rewarding periods of my professional life by helping to deliver Speedo’s projects surrounding the event – with the opportunity to witness the likes of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte turning in medal-winning performances the ultimate highlight.

aquatics centre

It’s for this reason that, for me, the London Aquatics Centre is swimming’s equivalent of Wembley.

And, as luck would have it, it’s since taken on a post-Olympic life as a standard public swimming pool.

One condition

If I wanted to, I could just make a booking right now and swim in the Olympic pool for the princely sum of just £4.95. But I’m not doing that yet, and it has everything to do with how I feel about Wembley.

To swim in that pool, to follow in the footsteps of the greats, feels like a huge deal to me. That’s why I have no intention of taking the plunge into it until I feel ready to do it justice.

How long this will be, I don’t know. I’m not even sure how I’ll define ‘ready’. But I’m sure I’ll know when the time comes.

This blog, therefore, exists to chart my progress as I set out to reach this target, and hopefully my experiences along the way will prove to be interesting, entertaining, and perhaps even inspiring.

I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.

You know I am. I really am.