Kind of like a book club, kind of like a group of people that just so happen to love reading and work together - we're always on the hunt for inspiring people, stories and books. 

Our latest read is by Alec Richardson, 'Ask Me Why I’m Stood Here: A Bristol Channel Swim Tale'.

As a quick overview, Alec completed a crossing of Bristol Channel from Penarth to Clevedon in England on 16 August 2017 in 5 hours 58 minutes 3 seconds. A cool thing to achieve by anyones standards. The challenge has also helped get the Bristol Channel Swim on the radar of a ton of ambitious marathon swimmers.

ask me why i'm stood here

Apart from the fact we're interested in all things open water, the books description is reason enough to pick it up: "After 10 years of living with frequent discomfort and exhaustion from an unidentified condition, teamed with the struggles of balancing fatherhood and work alongside nagging doubts about his general place in the world, Alec Richardson found open water swimming.

As a middle aged man, with three busy kids and a teaching job to fill his days, Alec returned to the sport that gave him so much pleasure as a youngster to try to re-find his sense of adventure, to give him a focus, and to give him an excuse to up his calorific intake (an extra layer helps with the cold apparently).

While gazing across the Bristol Channel from England to Wales one morning, he started to wonder if he was capable of swimming across this scarily difficult, yet enticingly challenging stretch of water. This is the story of how Alec planned and completed the resulting swim from Penarth to Clevedon in a respectable time and recounts tales of sunrises, seaweed caresses, mermaids and mashed boiled eggs.

A first-hand account of what goes into a journey like this, full of self-reflection and off-beat ponderings which are sure to strike a chord with anyone toiling through their own mid-life adventure, but also full of helpful tips and advice for anyone planning their own endeavours. Not just a book about swimming, a life affirming tale of frailty, endeavour and a man’s struggle to wear Speedos in public."

Our take

We discussed this on a rainy November afternoon, as the wind battered against the office window. Very atmospheric and a stark reminder of how mother nature can wreck havoc at any point during feats like Alec's. The book is easy to read and engaging as Alec depicts his swim from Penarth in South Wales, to Clevedon in North Somerset. Alec is down to earth, his writing is approachable and funny.

I am under no illusion that this was the greatest swim ever. For a bit of perspective, I have recently read Sean Conway's 'Hell And High Water' so in comparison, I don't think that a designation of 'epic' could be bestowed on my adventure which finished on the beach, at lunchtime, with a sandwich and a mug of tea.' 

What we liked most is that, similarly to our take on clothing production - 'it's not just about the clothes, it's the people wearing them' - Alec uses his swim as a type of hook in which he hangs his personal battles, family life, self doubt upon. As is always the case, it's far more than swimming. 

The take home message? 

Anything is possible. 

You can find out more or buy the book here.

December 08, 2021 — Ryde UK