I was having a night in and was just about to nod off in front of the computer ,when an advert on Facebook suddenly caught my attention. The advert was for In the Swim 2012 – a fundraising swimathon for disability charity United Response.
Two things made me sign up. Firstly, I felt that I was at a point in my life where I had so much more to give to others, and I thought a bit of charity would do me some good. Second I was encouraged by the fact that it was a swimming rather than a running event – running is not really my forte! So I signed up, and from that point on I couldn’t have been more pumped up for the event.
After researching United Response, I felt even better for having registered for In the Swim. This is because I am from Malaysia where there is still very little support for the disabled and this is the case even more so in the context of sport. I felt it was my chance to make a difference.
Being from a family of swimmers, I was familiar with the water but not with swimming long distances. Before the event I could barely do a half mile jog without my panting getting louder than my thoughts, let alone swim 2 kilometres – so I started my training regime early.
The night before In the Swim I made my way to London to stay with my sister. At that stage I was thinking about little but how far I was supposed to swim the next day.
The morning of the swim came and I got a little jittery, as I guess you would do before any form of sporting event. Soon enough I was in my swim suit and was just about to jump in when the lifeguard told us to wait.
As we were being briefed, a very special guest made her appearance, Fran Williamson. We were in the presence of a paralympic medal winner! How many people would ever have the chance to meet a medal winner, let alone a paralympic one!
The moment we were given the green light I took to the waters and paddled my way through my laps. Once I had completed my distance I got out of the pool and felt some vocal encouragement might encourage my team mates.
So, I started cheering our team on and soon enough everyone else was cheering each other on and the atmosphere really warmed up. After the event I got to know my team mates a bit better. They were the loveliest of people, and once I was a little more at ease we sat in our team dugout and shared a couple of laughs.
I felt honoured to have been there that morning and the other participants were inspiring. One of the teams featured two hearing impaired women and we learnt how to cheer them on in sign language, which was something new for me.
It was truly amazing watching these people swim laps despite having limited formal training. Everyone gave their all and still managed to have a smile on their faces.
It was simply one of the most life-changing days of my life. There was so much positivity that surrounded me that day and In the Swim was truly spectacular in so many ways.
And when we finished – collectively – all 2012 laps… That moment was particularly amazing. The free tea, medal and t-shirts that came after that at the reception were great, but they didn’t compare to what I felt by the pool side when the last swimmer touched the side and completed the final lap.
If you would like to take part in a challenge event experience like Lara then see which of our challenge events takes your interest.
If you would like to fundraise for United Response then you can download our free fundraising toolkit.