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 healthybeastpodcast.com
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