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American woman swims English Channel four times in tribute to cancer survivors

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas- Open Water Marathon Swimmer | Facebook | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 09/20/19

Sarah Thomas' record-breaking swim demonstrates human will power and determination.

Swimming across the English Channel is a major feat for anyone who wants to challenge themselves. Swimmers have to follow a strict set of rules, and the journey from England to France — which can stretch far beyond 21 miles depending on tides — is not only physically grueling, but potentially dangerous.

So when American Sarah Thomas made history this week by swimming the Channel four consecutive times, totaling 54 hours in the water and swimming a total of 130 miles, many marveled at her endurance and will power to complete a trip that would send her straight into the record books, and pay tribute to all those who have overcome cancer.

As a breast cancer survivor herself, 37-year-old Thomas, from Colorado, finished her mammoth swim on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ” I just can’t believe we did it. There was a lot of people on the beach to meet me and wish me well and it was really nice of them, but I feel just mostly stunned,” she shared with the BBC on her arrival.

It’s not surprising that Thomas, who ended treatment in 2018, felt “stunned.” While completing the swim she was literally stung in the face by a jellyfish, one of the many hazards awaiting any Channel swimmer. She also had to contend with strong currents that added an extra 50 miles to her swim, and salt water that hurt her throat. And all this in just a swimsuit, swimming cap, a pair of goggles, and layers of goose fat (protection from the cold, in place of the prohibited wetsuit) in order to comply with the very strict rules of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation.

If you’re wondering how Thomas managed to eat during the swim, rest assured, Channel swimmers are accompanied by people in a boat who hand out snacks and drinks along the way. However there are regulations in place, meaning that Thomas didn’t get to hang on to the boat during her half-hourly snack breaks!

Fellow record-breaking swimmer Lewis Pugh, who can attest to just how hard the crossing is, was quick to congratulate Thomas on her achievement:

With swimming being Thomas’ way of helping get through the treatment, it seems only fitting that she took to the water once more to acknowledge those who’d been on a similar journey.

For more detailed information about Thomas’ achievement, read the original BBC report here.

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