Impact and fundraising, Issue 10, Things to do

The Big Mad Swim

What does 2018 hold for you? If you’re “the world’s least likely adventurer”, as Paula McGuire describes herself, the answer’s swimming – and lots of it. We’re not talking pool laps here. We’re talking icy waves, jellyfish, storm surges and whatever the seas choose to hurl at you. The 36-year-old Glaswegian is taking on a swimming challenge that’s never been done before: a full circumnavigation of the UK mainland. She’s calling it The Big Mad Swim Around Britain.

The 1800-mile journey is expected to take Paula between five and seven months to complete, and will see her enter the water for stints of around six hours. We’re proud that YHA will be an official partner during the swim.

Paula began taking on challenges in 2013, after a period of anxiety so severe that she could barely leave the house. “It got to the point where nothing was really helping – medication, doctors – so I gave myself one last chance, to try and frighten myself out of it!”

She began by forcing herself to try all 17 sports from the Commonwealth Games. This was some achievement, given that she had never learned to cycle or – amazingly, given the epic undertaking she’s about to embark on – to swim.

“The Big Mad Swim came about because it was my last big phobia,” she says. “I’m absolutely terrified of water. I couldn’t cross a bridge, couldn’t even go near big puddles. It seemed like this would be massive thing for me to undertake, and as soon as I realised no one had ever tried it, let alone done it, it was a bit of a red rag to a bull.”

“I just want to show it’s possible to be out there, living a life, in spite of anxiety, depression or any barriers that you’re facing.”

Paula sets off in April. Follow her progress or sponsor her at paulamusttryharder.co.uk.

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