LISBURN man Ian Harrison made a splash for the charity Aspire recently when he completed a mammoth swimming challenge at Lisburn LeisurePlex, as he swam the length of the channel twice to raise funds for those with spinal injuries.
Ian said he was inspired by the Olympians and Paralympians he watched during the summer, and as a former player at Lisburn Rugby Club, he knows only too well of spinal injuries.
Ian completed the Aspire Channel Swim 2012, swimming an incredible 44 miles - the distance from Dover to Calais, not once, but twice.
Having a young family with partner Brenda, Ian juggled a full time job and his three-year-old twins Niamh and Dan, as he swam every Monday and Wednesday night during the challenge, which ran from September 10 to December 2, to complete 2,832 lengths of the pool.
Ian decided to take on the challenge for Aspire, a charity which supports people with spinal cord injuries, providing practical support, funding and advice in the UK and Ireland, as a way to keep fit, whilst also helping the charity.
Speaking about his challenge, which he finished on November 28, Ian said: “I was looking for a new challenge to motivate me and keep myself fit, when I came across the Aspire challenge at the pool.
“I used to play rugby and I know of guys who have had back or spinal injuries, so I thought it would be a worthwhile cause.”
He added: “I am a regular swimmer and would swim twice a week for 40 minutes but this was an hour or an hour and a half so it was tough going and if you missed one session you were 120 lengths behind so you just had to keep going, a missed session would have been a disaster to complete the challenge.
“Brenda has been very supportive. She works long hours, from 8am to 7.30pm, and has been helping me out. I would get the kids bathed and sorted for bed and then go to the pool for 8pm once Brenda was home.
“It’s nice to get it all finished,” Ian said. “I’ve taken part in the Swimathon before but that’s in one go. This was 44 miles, 2,832 lengths, it’s a big distance.
“When I would go out to swim the children would shout down ‘Daddy swim. Faster, faster, faster’, and when I came home after finishing the challenge they had made a poster saying that, which was special.
“The Paralympians were certainly an inspiration to me, seeing how many had spinal injuries. It amazed me how many people you see in the pool now, usually there’s a boom in January or February as people decide to get fit and then it trails off but there are so many there now, including clubs, who have all been inspired by the Olympics.”
Ian has been asking people to sponsor his challenge and is hoping to raise between £300 and £350. If you would like to donate to Ian’s challenge you can still do so by visiting his Just Giving page at http://www.justgiving.com/ACS2012-IanHarrison