Norwich man looks to be first person with multiple sclerosis to swim the English Channel
- Credit: Jessica Roberts
A man from Norwich is setting out to be the first person with multiple sclerosis (MS) to solo-swim the English Channel.
Mike Dawson, 46, is aiming to raise £10,000 in the process for the MS Society by swimming more than 21 miles from Dover to Calais.
Only 1,751 people have completed the swim since 1887 but with 500,000 metres already under his belt the single father is planning to take on the waves during the last tide of September.
Before his diagnosis in 2005, Mike was always outdoors looking for a more challenging route to cycle or a steeper slope to ski. But he says having relapsing MS has changed his life.
The web and print designer from Taverham said: 'When I was in my early 30s, I started having trouble controlling my legs and my vision began to deteriorate. It didn't really hit me until the last day I ran. I remember it like it was yesterday.
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'I went out with my dog Harley and we ran up a 400 metre hill. When we reached the top, I had to sit down. I knew then that I probably wasn't going to be able to run again.'
Mr Dawson now uses a stick to walk but this has not stopped him staying active. He has since taken up handcycling and competed in para-triathlons.
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He said: 'It [MS] isn't a death sentence. It doesn't mean you'll be confined to a life of disability. It doesn't mean you'll not be able to follow your dreams.
'Yes, there are some not so good days but I may not be able to do this one day. I'm going to embrace it, get out there and do it.'
Mr Dawson swims six days week, splitting his training between the pool at his gym and the bitter waters of the North Sea. He says training in open water at Sea Palling on Norfolk's north-east coast has prepared him.
MS affects more than 100,000 people in the UK. It can be painful causing problems with walking, sight, thinking and sense of touch.
To support Mr Dawson, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mikedawsonswim00
For more information about MS, go to www.mssociety.co.uk
What will happen on the swim?
To be able to swim the English Channel the swimmer has to be able to show that they are up to the challenge.
Mike Dawson said: 'Before you even attempt the Channel, you have to show that you can swim continuously for six hours in water below 15.5C.
'All those swims I did throughout the winter months when the beach was still frosty and the sea temperatures were closer to 5C really helped me push through.'
Mike says he's also bound to bump into some wildlife on his journey to France.
'In my training, I've come across seals that like to swim into my legs and jelly fish that have unforgiving stings.
'I want my daughter to dream big and know that she can achieve anything she puts her heart into. I also want to show that MS doesn't have to stand in the way of being active and doing extraordinary things.'