A Decision that's All Mine

By: Elise Crane

I’ve always considered myself more of a mid-distance athlete than a marathoner. I remember swim coaches pushing me to embrace the 500-, 800-, and 1,600-meter freestyle events, noting my endurance relative to others my age, but I bristled against the pressure and stuck mostly with 100- and 200-meter distances. But as I peer up the hill and see 40 looming, distance no longer feels like something I’m forced into but a decision that’s all mine.

Five miles was the longest continuous swim I’d done until last weekend. Those five miles were a painful, grimy affair in Maryland’s Chester River the summer of 2018, when I was woefully undertrained for the distance. In June of this year, I swam around a pristine Croatian island, clocking about 3.5 miles, and it triggered a long dormant intrigue for marathon swimming. That weekend, Andy got me on video saying I’d decided to attempt to swim the English Channel.

I’ve wanted to swim the Channel since I was an angsty 13-year-old making bucket lists with my best friend.

I once dreamed of being the youngest person to swim the Channel; this was before Google and I was blissfully ignorant that an 11-year-old had checked that box in 1989. A few years later, I pivoted toward aiming to be the oldest person to swim the Channel. Fast forward 20 years and I just want to swim the Channel and survive to tell the tale.