In July 2019 Kathryn, our Head of Financial Performance, swam the English Channel for St Mungo’s. She told us more about what got her through months of rigorous training. This is her story.
Doing things for a cause you care about
You don’t sign up for things if you don’t want to do them. But, I find doing things for a cause you care about adds another level of commitment and really gets you through.
Until about three years ago, I worked in professional services – I was at one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms. So a lot more corporate than St Mungo’s. Sometimes, I would be contracted out to the NHS and that was when I realised that I wanted to move to a non-profit. So I started looking, and I found St Mungo’s.
For me, it was a case of right role, right time – and right cause. From a finance perspective, the job is interesting and complicated. Coordinating all the different funding streams is an interesting challenge.
But the more I learnt about St Mungo’s, even just from talking to people, the more I realised that we’re the only ones who do it the way we do it. I really care about the work we do, and in today’s political and social environment, our work is essential.
Swimming the Channel was a dream when I was younger
Swimming the Channel was a dream when I was younger. So about two years ago I decided I was just going to go for it.
I was always clear that this was a personal challenge but when people hear that you’re doing something like that, they ask if they can support you. It felt stupid not to use that to raise money for such an important cause. And, for me, it gave it all a lot more purpose.
I swam 25-40km a week
I had to do interval training, get experience in open water and build up the distance – for six months before the Channel attempt I swam 25-40km a week. For a while it was just sleep, eat, work, swim. Repeat.
I had to consciously gain weight for insulation. As a woman that was strange. It went against everything societal norms and social pressures had previously made me think about body image. But it’s quite liberating to see your body as a tool, rather than for aesthetics. You earn a new respect for it.
You can feel quite selfish when you’re training for something like that – making sacrifices for something that is, in a way, for you. But it became about more than that, it had a lot more worth. If it had just been for me, there were times I would have wanted to quit.
One thing that got me through was thinking about our clients in winter
There was a six hour qualification swim and I’ve never been so cold in my life. I had done a lot of cold water training to prepare, but this was just horrible. I really wanted to get out.
One thing that got me through was thinking about our clients in winter. Because even if it felt cold and horrible, it was nothing compared to a night on the streets.
So when it came to the actual challenge, I felt ready. I did a lot of mental preparation and had my sister, one of my best friends and my coach in the support boat cheering me on. The last two hours were pretty painful, but I managed to stay positive.
The work St Mungo’s does is incredibly important
After 12 hours and 11 minutes, I was climbing out of the sea in France. It was surreal and took a long time to sink in – I was just buzzing. Plus I’d raised £1,500 for St Mungo’s.
Doing something like that is a slippery slope – it’s kind of addictive. But right now, I’m enjoying swimming for fun and having more variety in my life!
I think the work St Mungo’s does is incredibly important and I’m proud to have contributed to a small part of it through working in finance and the fundraising swim. I hope we see a change to how the political environment tackles the problem over the long term. For a real improvement I think we need those who’ve benefitted from privilege, or from the current system, to help us drive change.
Our 50 year history is filled with some extraordinary people. To mark our anniversary, we will be profiling 50 Lives throughout 2019 – a snapshot of those who have played their part in our story. You can read the stories on our website at www.mungos.org/50-lives.