Being unable to swim as a child and suffering from water phobia, it was only when Tracy Meharg became a mum that she learnt to swim. Now she's taking on her first big swimming event at Swim Serpentine on Saturday 16 September, where she aims to complete the two-mile distance and achieve her London Classics medal.
What inspired you to take on Swim Serpentine this September?
The two-mile swim is the last event as part of the London Classics. I started the other events raising money for Children with Cancer UK and Swim Serpentine was a natural progression but required me to overcome my fear of water in the process, so it was a challenge in more ways than one.
What are you most looking forward to about Swim Serpentine?
I’m looking forward to my first actual major swim event. I took part in one event last year but there weren’t many swimmers signed up so it just seemed like a normal open water swim session.
You’ve spoken about having a fear of the water. What was the turning point that made you want to confront this and try to overcome it?
It’s always been an issue with everyday life, being a mum and not able to enjoy going swimming with my children. I made sure they all had swimming lessons and I always felt like they were missing out when I couldn’t join in any pool fun at home or on holiday abroad.
How was the experience of re-learning to swim in adulthood?
It was a long challenging process, I had different swim instructors in the pool and tried to get used to going past the point where my feet could touch the pool floor as well as trying to swim with my face in the water. I also had hypnotherapy as I could pinpoint three things that happened when I was younger which cemented my fear of water over the years. As an adult I think you need to work harder and for longer to overcome any fears.
What made you decide to try open water swimming?
If it hadn’t been for Swim Serpentine being part of the London Classics, I don’t know whether I would have been as eager to do a swimming event. However, I have a few friends who do open water swimming, and they all say how amazing it is.
Are you still anxious in the water? What is the main thing that helps you manage your fear?
I have a few moments where something may touch my foot albeit a weed, a buoy or another swimmer and panic sets in. It takes a little while to get used to murky water if I’ve spent a lot of time in a pool.
Has anything surprised you about open water swimming?
How calming it is, being in the water with wildlife floating past you is one of the most amazing sights to see. I’ve been floating in the middle of a lake admiring the beautiful views and seen swans glide by.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying open water swimming for the first time?
Do your first session with an open water swim coach to teach you how to safely swim in open water, they should also give you a list of things to buy. There are also companies that you can hire wetsuits from before you buy one.