Fergal Somerville is a 51 year old swimmer from Artane, Dublin. In his younger days Fergal played a lot of sport such as football and hurling. Through sport, he injured his back a few times but he didn’t take the medical advice. He was 25 years old and was out of work for 15 months. His bottom 2 disks had disintegrated and had to be removed. He was told that he had 5 years before he would be back for an operation called a fusion where they would fuse the bottom of his spine to his hips.
During his recovery, Fergal took up swimming. No other sport kept the pain at bay and managed to keep him fit. Now, he swims on a daily basis. He found out that there are a series of races between June and November but he found the times for training too short and wanted to train for longer. He followed John Daly’s trail in swimming across the English channel and was inspired to do it. John had learned how to swim at 39 and at 48 he crossed the channel. There is a very small community of distance swimmers.
At 50, Fergal cannot believe how fit he is. He trains five mornings a week for one and a half hours, two evenings a week in the gym or the pool. At 47, Fergal expected to be playing hurling rather than swimming but he has grown to love sea-swimming. He finds swimming in the pool boring, while the sea is different every time he swims in it.
Fergal was able to swim the channel at 50. This meant he was swimming for 12 hours 21 minutes. Long distance swimming is not a race to Fergal, it’s a big personal challenge. You have to lose yourself and he finds it quite therapeutic. It’s something he can do for hours which improves his level of fitness and it also helps him with his back. It doesn’t matter what time you swim the channel in, you’re a channel swimmer if you swim the channel.
“To survive an ice swim, it’s done by preparation. It is actually an extreme sport in itself. To survive in water of less than 5 degrees for approximately half an hour, you have to train for that…”