I love swimming. I really do. I like the shock of the cold water as I dive in, the way that I cut through the water, feeling the power and symmetry of my body.
I have the perfect tall, broad-shouldered, long-limbed frame for the sport, and a few spare pounds don’t impact on my ability in the same way they do in cycling or running. So why haven’t I swum for over 7 years?
Two words: swimming pools.
Yeuch. I hate the mingled smell of stale sweat, cosmetics and cleaning fluid, the distorted, echoing sounds, the slightly slimey feel of the tiles beneath my feet, the thought of the countless children who have peed in the pool, the lines round my eyes from the suction of my goggles, the chlorine making my eyes smart, my hair turn to straw, my skin to paper.
I feel exposed walking from the changing room to the pool in a swimsuit that compresses my breasts into some sort of bizarre monoboob, and equally awkward when shivering in the lukewarm communal showers.
I despise the little old ladies, and even youngish ones, swimming sedately up and down, sometimes chatting to their neighbours, in a waft of perfume and lipstick, gamely keeping their heads safely clear of the water. I loathe the show-off who insists in swimming speedy backstroke in an overcrowded session, forcing other swimmers to take evasive action, and I despair of anyone who is unable to work out the appropriate lane to swim in.
But just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…