Mark Ormrod: You’ve got to ignore that little voice in your head

Published On: Jun 11, 2021

So I did it, I managed to complete my 1000-metre charity swim in open water. Actually it was 1100m, as we veered a little bit off course. I couldn’t have done it without my amazing coach Ben Wadham, plus a few expert tips from none other than Olympic medal-winner Sharron Davies.

Swimming that far with just one arm was no small task.

Particularly when I think back to the first time I got in a pool after my injuries, which really didn’t go so well.

Along with my 5k run, we have now managed to raise almost half a million pounds for Reorg, which is mind blowing. Big thanks to everyone who has contributed or supported us in any way, it makes a massive difference. And the support I had as I ended my swim was incredible.

Before I got injured, when I still had all my fingers and toes, I was a strong swimmer. I wasn’t world class by any means, but as a Royal Marines Commando I was always very confident in the water.

Then a couple of years after I got blown up in Afghanistan, I decided to try swimming again. I went to the pool at the naval base and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to try swimming without anybody there in case it went wrong. And go wrong it did.

At first I thought I was doing fine…

I set off doing a kind of one-armed doggy paddle and from the shallow end I quite quickly managed to get myself nicely into the danger zone in the middle of the pool.

Suddenly I got tired and let out a breath, and then I started to sink. Then I was panicking – this had never happened to me when I had my legs and both arms. I didn’t understand what was going on.

I just about managed to throw my head back and get my nose pointed at the ceiling. Then I started to take little breaths and was able to slowly drag myself to the side of the pool.

I got out and after that I didn’t get in a pool for about four and a half years.

So how did I end up winning medals in the pool at the Invictus Games, and doing this 1k swim in freezing cold water? Easy. We all have a little voice in our head telling us we can’t do something. If I’d listened to that voice I’d still be in a wheelchair. And I’d certainly never have swum in the sea.

Fish don’t have legs, I’d tell myself.

With my coach Ben, I learned a whole new way of swimming. There’s opportunity in adversity. The older I get, I see the importance of technique over brute force and strength. Ignore the voice and get out there.

Mark was speaking to Richard Holt. For the full interview go

Follow Mark’s charity mission on Instagram 


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