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Alumna Hannah May Parker swims the channel!

Alumna Hannah May Parker swims the channel!

On the afternoon of Tuesday 7th September 2021, alumna Hannah May Parker reached the steps of Wissant Beach in France after 14 hours 52 minutes of swimming. At that moment, she became the 2631st person to swim the English Channel solo. So far, this feat has raised over £18,000 for her selected charities, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, Prostate Cancer UK and the Karuna Trust.

While the English Channel is a 22 mile swim, the tides and changeable weather conditions mean that the total distance swum varies for each swimmer and no two experiences are the same. Hannah's route came to an impressive 48 miles. Yet the training and circumstances surrounding this swim are as formidable as her achievement, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic. Hannah says:

'I had been training for nearly two years by the time I did the swim and it had been three years since I first met my coach Tim Denyer, founder of Red Top Swim. The training for this swim was extremely physically demanding: I covered 25-30km a week in training, from the start to my journey up to the swim, which equates to about 41,000 lengths of a 25 metre pool.' 

The training was a mental journey as much as a physical one, as she reports that the time spent alone with her own thoughts while swimming was as often lonely, especially 'at a time when we had all already been isolated from one another'. Moreover, the pool closures over the pandemic meant that she had to work twice as hard to keep herself in peak condition, as she travelled to the coast regularly to train in water.

On the day of the swim, she set off at 11.40pm on Monday 6th of September and swam through the night to sunrise, which marked the half-way point. When France was finally in sight, she experienced a strong wind and choppy waters, requiring her to work even harder 'just when I had almost nothing left to give'. She was swept with a strong tide past the Cap Gris Nez landing point, adding an additional 3 hours to the swim.

'For about an hour or so (which felt a lot longer!), it seemed like we were going nowhere. I was pushing to break out of the tide so that we could start making our way into land. I was swallowing a lot of water, my palms were brushing against a swarm of jelly fish and my shoulders were exhausted. It became apparent, when everything ahead of me started to become slightly clearer in my vision, that we were moving forward and the end was in sight.'

Pushing through these adverse conditions, she finally she reached the beach, where an audience of French locals applauded her and took photos. Hannah described the swim as possibly the greatest physical and mental challenge of her life, yet an experience that she will treasure for the rest of her life:

'Despite all of the sacrifice, months of training, Covid set-backs and weather hurdles over the past couple of years, I can hands down say — it was worth it.'

She thanks her coaches Tim Denyer and Matt Duggan, partner Charlie Burgon, friend and photographer Henry Redcliffe who were instrumental in providing the support needed to get her to the shore of France. She continues to take donations until the end of September. If you would like to contribute, please visit Hannah’s Virgin Money Giving Page, Han Swims the Chan.