Balancing channel swimming and motherhood with Beth French
If you’ve ever felt like adventures are for someone one else, the elite or wealthy and healthy then this one is for you! We interviewed Beth French and we promise you’ll be inspired by her story.
Hi Beth! Why don’t you introduce yourself?
I’m Beth french, a self employed single mum who home schools her autistic son from somerset. After recovering from ME, having been reduced to a wheelchair when i was 17, i studied natural health practices around the world- Lomi lomi in Hawaii, Thai massage and diagnostics in Chiang Mai, even ordaining in a Thai Buddhist monastery to study intensive meditation.
Wow! We’re all about adventures around here, do you have a favourite activity?
Water is where the world makes sense to me- i was a kid that climbed in a bucket if it had water in it. I love the sea the most, although won’t pass up a river or a lake (or puddle or pond) and ultra distance is where i love to challenge myself. It led me to channel swimming. I love the thought that i can self propel from one place to another- one country to another, and have even swum one continent to another!
That sounds impressive! Do you have a specific event that stands out in your swimming career?
I guess my first channel holds everything i would ever wish to share. I trained for it over 2 years, having just become a single mum. I trained only when my son was asleep or at preschool til he was old enough to tow in a dinghy. It was the culmination of everything i had learned about staying healthy- avoiding a relapse of ME. I trained and coached myself. When the time came to swim to France, i had my sons teenage babysitter come with us for the week to Dover. Dyl was not quite 4yrs old. I put him to bed, having talked through the next day with him, not knowing when i would get back.
Leaving in pitch darkness, launching myself off the beach into the inky black water, i felt released. I love pouring myself into the unknown. I was doing it. I felt blessed and so privileged to be out there where the real swimmers swim… i loved it. The first 10hrs flew by.
Then i could see France… and the tide turned and i was swept down the coast. I knew i would never get the chance again (I thought naively that it would be the only time i ever did anything like this) so i threw everything i had at the swim. I discovered depths to my strength i never knew i had, and learned that getting aggressive to punch through doesnt work for me, only smiling and letting go of everything that holds me back…. And then it happened.
I knew i was going to make France, but all of a sudden, that wasn’t the goal. I realised I could make France and be back in time to put Dylan to bed.
I could swim to France and still be a MUM.
Walking up onto the beach, i became my own hero. Not a puff chested feeling, but a subtle shift where i accept responsibility for my happiness, my future and it is no longer scary. I made it back to Dover on an absolute high, but nothing beat waking up and making my little family breakfast.
Training for endurance events is never easy, but to do it while balancing everything else must have been challenging?
Balancing health was my first major obstacle, but balance in general sums it up- being a lone parent, I have had to be inventive with training, and that is a bonus. You learn to be more resourceful, see life as a training ground. Lack of support form family was a really sore area for a long time, but they have slowly come to accept that i am not avoiding being a mum, it is part of my motherhood. And the guilt of using portions of money to put into adventuring… all about balance!
Balance is most definitely key! Happy mum, Happy Son! Do you have any big plans for future adventures?
My son, not surprisingly, has grown up loving adventure. He climbed table mountain at 3 1/2 and is now 9. He is starting to dictate adventures we go on, which is awesome. Its taking me in directions i never thought of, which is an adventure in itself. I am loving not having plans beyond responding to his need for adventure. More land based activity, and a head for heights will have to be developed!
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to step out on an adventure?
One of the things that really held me back for years was the belief that people who climbed mountains or swum channels must be a different breed- born to adventuring families or rich or super sporty with Olympic coaches. I didn’t have the support of my family. I have learned about Imposter syndrome, whereby people feel they are frauds and aren’t doing it ‘properly.’ Even famous well established people feel this. It’s all a choice- to not do the adventure because you wont do it right or do the adventure anyway…. Choose to spend money on experiences or on the ‘sensible thing.’ I would far rather be an average woman with an extraordinary tale than someone who wonders if…. And doesn’t do. Let curiosity take you places in the world and yourself, life happens anyway. May as well fill it. When you feel stuck, look at what’s holding you back and let it go.
Do you have a favourite saying that you turn to when you need motivation?
Never be afraid of rock bottom- its the firm foundation on which to build a better life….
you may not always get to write the script, but you get to choose how you interpret the words.
The whole of life is an adventure- we are all pioneers as today has not yet been written, and tomorrow is barely sketched.