I had the most interesting experience this weekend.
Given the schedule of my non-swimming life (the one where I work and am part of a family) I tend to load up the yardage a little more on the weekends. So, swims on Sundays are the heaviest of the week, and I typically will swim 8,000 – 10,000 yards on that day. It is heavy enough that I reward my shoulders with Mondays off.
I headed off to the YMCA on Sunday. There was a bit of an irony to it, because the weather was a beautiful 80 degrees, and here I was going to swim indoors, staring at a black line on the pool bottom for a few hours.
The pool had only a handful of swimmers, so I dropped into an empty lane and was getting ready to start my warm-up. The guy in the next lane over looked like he was finishing his workout, and I said hello. Actually, I made some smart remark like, “It sure is a pretty day to be inside swimming.” He gave me a curious look, and said, ”Hey, good luck to you.”
I didn’t know what he was talking about.
Me: “Have we met? I don’t think I know your name.”
He: “No, we haven’t met. I recognize you from the article in the paper, about your English Channel swim. That’s a really big deal. Good luck to you.”
Me: “Wow. Thanks – that’s a nice lift for what is going to be a long afternoon in the pool. Did you grow up swimming around here?”
He: “No, I swam as an age-grouper in St. Louis. I really wanted my son to swim – he’s nine and is swimming for his first year on the local swim club. Being a new guy, he has struggled a little. Swimming for him has been a lot of work and not a lot of reward, and we just want him to get to the point where he enjoys himself so he’ll stick with it.”
Me: “That’s great. I hope he keeps going, because those age-group days can be a blast.”
He: “Actually, it has been a long season and he was getting pretty sick of it. That is when the article about you swimming the Channel came out. We read the article, talked about it, cut it out and taped it to the fridge. He read it, and he was inspired about swimming again. So, thanks for doing this, and good luck to you.”
Me: <sputter> “Thanks for your kind words. I don’t know quite what to say.”
He: “Nothing to say, really, just keep it up. What you are doing is amazing, and I really hope it goes well.”
That was the end of the conversation. A former age-group swimmer wants his son to enjoy the same experience he had as a boy. The lad is thinking that, as far as swimming goes, he would rather play hoops or something. Then, the boy sees the article about some local guy who started out as age-grouper just like him, and is suddenly re-energized about swimming.
I would never be so arrogant as to think that someone would start swimming because of something I was doing. But if by reading that article and learning what a lifetime of swimming can lead to makes a nine-year old boy go to one more swimming practice, then something good has come from it.
Some days, training is a drag. It is long, painful and often a diversion from what you feel like you should be or want to be doing. This last Sunday was not one of those days. I was sky high after that conversation, and realized that this Channel effort has the chance to touch a lot of people. The ripples are spreading much wider than it ever occurred to me that they would.
And, I am going to make a point of meeting that nine year old boy, because he is me and I was him.
See you at the pool. I will report back.