If you have ever stepped on a spikey rock barefoot, then you will known that instant sharp pain that causes you to let out a tribal yelp. That's what Morton's Neuroma feels like. It's a damaged and swollen nerve between the third and fourth toes. The toes squeezing this damaged nerve causes a sharp pain that runs up your your leg as your foot strikes the ground.
As a mountain runner, I thought I was fairly adept at running with a little discomfort. With that pain however, no. The sharpness causes me to react every strike and throws my running form off completely, tightening up other muscles and causing further discomfort.
Rest and treatment is what is needed to help a Morton's Neuroma. However, rest isn't something I enjoy. My lifestyle revolves around being an outdoors person and taking it easy doesn't really fit into that.
Often when I'm injured I try to catch up with far away friends and stay at their place's, and it was staying at my friend Alek's place in the Wasdale Valley in the Lake District that he mentioned that next time I stayed we should go for a swim. His local swim spot is Wast Water, one of the pristine lakes in the North of England. Liking the sound of some of his swim-run plans, where he had planned out long distance mountain runs, linking swims across lakes and tarns I went home and straight away bought a wetsuit and a Swim Secure dry bag (which doubles up as a tow float). Sporadic purchases often lead to epic adventures in my experience. Whilst I was injured, why not give swimming a go I thought?
From the little wild swimming/mostly paddling I had done in rivers and lakes when out on hikes I knew that the water was cold. But I was not ready for end of Winter/Spring time swimming. Two weeks later I was back at Alek's place and the first thing I realised was that I was incredibly jealous of Alek with his wetsuit socks and gloves. But I came out after 10 minutes with the biggest grin from an adrenaline buzz that I had only previously felt from running and climbing.
Another few purchases later and the next weekend I was back out with some new swim friends, this time staying in longer and swimming a little further. I paid for a wild swimming lesson with Suzanna Swims, wanting to feel safe and more knowledgeable about open water swimming. Not just “all the gear, no idea”. Instantly I felt the swim love from the community as I was supported and invitations kept coming to join swims and try out secret swim spots.
My confidence from climbing and running in the mountains only goes so far and my tow float stays strapped to my side for the bigger swims and in the deeper water. Especially as I am going through my wild swimming apprenticeship with fellow swimmers, swim guides and instructors, just as I did in the mountains years ago. I am so early on in my swimming journey, but it already has given me the purpose I lacked from being injured, as well as the adrenaline buzz and mental healing I missed so much from climbing and running.
As I learn more, train more and grow in experience I am loving seeing the huge improvements. Feeling more confident and more acclimatised in the water with each swim.
I've kind of limped into wild swimming, but now I'm here, I am loving it. Feeling super motivated and welcomed by the wild swim community, that first time grin is still there every time I get in that water.
By Rory Southworth