Blog. Every day is precious, we should 'make the most of life'.

January 25, 2022 | Author: Maria Boney

A couple of months ago, on 25th November 2021, Stephanie Whiteley dived into her local pool and started counting lengths into miles. She’s set herself the challenge to swim The Cotswold Way, 102miles in 102 days. Stephanie is honouring the memory of her wonderful father and her challenge is due to complete on March 7th 2022, exactly a year after the loss of her precious dad.

Stephanie strongly believes if her dad was with us today he would tell us all to look after ourselves and our mental health because every day is precious and we should 'make the most of life'.

I’ve asked Stephanie a few questions:

Q: Your chosen charities are Oxfordshire Mind, Hospitality Action, and Band of Builders because your dad was a builder by trade and Director of his building business. Why Hospitality Action?

I chose Hospitality Action because I have worked in hospitality my entire working life (my first job was when I was 14yrs old in a tea rooms in Chipping Campden). Since then, I have worked as a waitress, bartender, front of house, reservations, and now sales and revenue.

Having worked in all of these departments, I have seen first-hand how working in this industry can have a direct impact on your mental health, a few examples could be working long hours, night shifts, weekends, unsociable days, as well as holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

Since working for The Oxford Collection, who have around 300 employees over their two hotels and three restaurants, I have heard that Hospitality Action has directly helped many of my colleagues who have needed support and I think it's fantastic what you do. I'm so pleased I am able to contribute.

Q: What inspired you to swim a total of 102 miles, 6,528 lengths, in 102 days?

When I found out my dad had passed away I was also 3 months postpartum. Giving birth in the pandemic and the trauma that had brought in itself, I felt there was nowhere for me to put my grief. It might sound strange to some, but I honestly couldn't take on any more emotions. I subconsciously decided to not allow myself to feel the feelings of complete heartbreak, utter sadness, anger etc., because it was simply too much, and I had to keep on going for my son. (I went into self-preservation mode!)

I wanted to do something good and make a statement about mental health because I think it's important to raise awareness of the physical side effects of mental illnesses (such as prolonged stress).

My dad was born and lived his entire life in and around the Cotswolds, so I decided to swim the Cotswold way which is 102 miles. Walking the Cotswold way can be done in around one week, but that's not possible for me to do with my baby. So instead, I'm going to be swimming it in 102 days!



Q: How did you prepare, both mentally and physically, for such a great undertaking?

I have found swimming to be a great outlet for me to clear my mind and get into the rhythm of breathing. I like the repetitiveness of it; it allows me to be alone with my thoughts whilst being physically active.

I have to be honest, at first, I was excited about the challenge I had set myself. Then, when I swam my first mile (64 lengths) it was a shock to the system that I had signed myself up to be swimming 6,528 lengths!!

After going 3 to 4 times a week in my first month of training, I realised I could swim a mile in 40 minutes. I didn't think this was too bad after giving birth eight months ago, I was very happy with it! 

At times it can be tricky to train because of having a baby at home, but my husband has been amazing and so supportive.

Q: Have you done challenges of this kind in the past and do you think you might do again?

I have never done anything like this, but I'm already enjoying it! I’ve swam over 50 miles so far, so I’m halfway there. It feels amazing to be giving back. I have never fundraised or donated to charity apart from the odd donation here and there, but it's definitely something I would do again, and perhaps get more people involved. It's really lifted my spirits in very dark times. Knowing there is so much support and encouragement around me, it has lit a light inside of me and I am fully dedicated to completing this challenge to the best of my ability. I know my dad will be watching and keeping me going even on those frosty winter mornings, which I can't say I'm looking forward to!

Q: What do you have planned for the future?

My husband and mum are always telling me to stop planning ahead! I can't help it... it's what I do best!

2021 has been the busiest, and most eye-opening year of my life. We managed to have a baby, get married, and move house, all in the space of 11 months. Losing dad amongst all of these huge life changes has put a very large hole in my heart. I am told things will get better with time and I have so much to be grateful for, so for the moment, the plan I have is to look after myself mentally and physically so I can be there for all of the amazing friends and family I have around me.

In December Stephanie decided to leave her role at the Oxford Collection, a company that is still very close to her heart. For now, after the whirlwind that 2021 was, she is very grateful to be able to take a career break, to spend more time with her family, to enjoy the moment. 

Stephanie is raising much needed funds for Oxfordshire Mind, Hospitality Action and Band of Builders because her dad was a builder by trade and Director of his building business.

We would like to thank Stephanie for sharing her story and supporting Hospitality Action. We wish her and her family good health and a lifetime of wonderful memories.

If you would like to encourage Stephanie and show your support, please click here and donate.

Go Stephanie!