Brookshire is Channeling her motivation toward historic swim

It was about a year ago, when the health of Linda Brookshire’s mother continued to worsen. Brookshire knew her mother’s passing was going to leave a void in her life.

“I knew I was going to need to have a reason to get out of bed,” she says.

You never know where inspiration can come from. Nor do you know where that inspiration will lead you. For Brookshire, it’s going to take her to Dover, England, where she will attempt to swim the English Channel.

“I knew I needed to do something thing big,” she says. “And that’s about as big as you can get.”

If you thought Brookshire, 49, grew up as a competitive swimmer and this was a natural extension of that, think again. She never did much more than just going to the pool during the summer when she was a kid.

So when she decided that she want to make her mark with a gigantic life-altering accomplishment, there wasn’t a lot to fall back on.

“I can’t climb and I can’t run,” she says. “But I can swim.”

And swim a lot, if this all turns out as she hopes.

Strangely enough, the idea of swimming the English Channel came from an 80-year-old movie, National Velvet. Though that storyline is mostly about horses, there is a subplot involved Mrs. Brown (played by Anne Revere) being taught how to swim the English Channel.

Brookshire figure that if Elizabeth Taylor’s on-screen mother could do it, she might as well give it a shot as well.

And so she will, but not until September, 2024. You don’t just hop in the English Channel and start swimming (well, you can, but chances are it’s not going to end well.)

The first thing Brookshire did was go to the English Channel Facebook Page and placed a comment, basically asking “is there any way a person like me could train for the channel?”

She got a response and, more importantly, a plan. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

A swim has to be planned for about two years out, just to get on the schedule of an accompanying boat pilot, and there are only a few of those. The actual swim training takes about 18 months and there are qualifications to meet.

“There are some really strict guidelines,” Brookshire says. “I’m not an athlete. It’s just something I think I can do if I train right.”

She’s been training in some of the most un-English Channel locations you could possibly imagine – Galveston, Texas, and Lake Bistineau – and has already done several four-hour swims.

That’s a walk in the park compared to the English Channel. First of all, Lake Bistineau’s water temperature is about 20 degrees warmer. Secondly, if you jumped in the water in Gavelston and could swim the width of the English Channel (21 miles), it would take you to the outskirts of Houston.

But even that isn’t accurate because due to the tides, Channel swimmers end up taking an “S” pattern, so the mileage is actually even greater.

The average time of the swim is 12-13 hours. “I’d like to do it in 14,” Brookshire says, “but they say you should plan for up to six hours more than you plan.”

According to the English Channel website, there have been 1,881 different swimmers to complete the solo trip. (Thousands more have been part of a relay.) Seventeen percent of those have been from the United States.

Even when the date arrives, there still are no guarantees. “You have to be put in a window and wait to see if the tides allow you to swim,” she says. “The boat pilot has to think that you have a chance of making it. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

And not all of that is physical.

“The mental part is probably 80 percent of it,” she says. “You can train for it, but you have to be prepared to suffer. You have to train to be tired and uncomfortable and just have that motivation to keep going. I think it’s more mental than anything else.”

Brookshire went to England last month to get a feel for all that was about to tackle. One of the interesting aspects of the preparation is that she has to gain weight. “That’s been interesting,” she says. “Thin people don’t make it across because they get hypothermic because you are in the water for so long.”

And when her feet touch French soil after that swim?

“People always say they are thankful it’s over,” Brookshire says. “I don’t know what I’ll be thinking. I think when I wake up the next day, I’m going to feel like I can accomplish anything that life throws at me. If I can do that, I can handle anything.

“I want to prove to get that you can do anything you set your mind to.”

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