A couple of years later, I am still a little surprised that LoneSwimmer.com won the inaugural 2012 Irish Blog Awards for Best Sport and Recreation award (when the site was also a finalist in a second category).
Ireland is a sport-obsessed country, even more than many others. Football (soccer), football (rugby), football (Gaelic), football (compromise rules) and even football (American, once a year in the country’s biggest stadium). Golf (world’s number one golfer), horse-racing (the three most successful horse-racing studs in the world are all within twenty miles of my house) and of course towering over everything else, the native amateur games of the Gaelic Athletic Association (the world’s largest amateur sporting association, in a country of only four million people), not to mention a whole bunch of smaller sports.
That’s a lot of balls.
Whereas all I’ve got is this pair of Speedoes, my cap, goggles, an odd tan and these … well let’s keep it clean here, okay?
As I say, it came as a real surprise to me in 2012 that a blog about a minority aspect (open water) of an already minority sport (swimming) won that inaugural award.
Therefore to once again be a finalist in two categories, and then winning the (2014) Sport and Recreation category, for a second time, is even more surprising and gratifying. Should I do a Gwynneth Paltrow type acceptance speech? I’m crying right now if that helps. No, not really.
There’s always, even for myself, the suspicion that inaugural awards might be a bit easier, the standard might be lower, less people will know about it or be entered, though there was no evidence of that in 2012. But a couple of years later making it to the final ten finalists in two categories and winning one a second time, with many thousands of blogs entered (and beating professional journalists along the way, though they have the last laugh as they actually get paid) lays that suspicion to rest.
They say the hardest part of sky diving is not the first jump, but the second, because you know what’s coming.
For the curious, readership of LoneSwimmer is large enough that winning Blog Awards Ireland has negligible effect on overall readership numbers, and there’s no prize, other than the recognition or accomplishment of winning an independent and judge-selected national award. (No vote brigades or other such typical online shenanigans). Purely on merit. Oh, I did get some yoghurt vouchers. The yoghurt was nice. Ah, the blogging high life.
Something like an award or an anniversary or audience milestone does allow a bit of reflection and retrospection.
2014 hasn’t been an easy year to write for a variety of personal reasons and continues to be difficult but in my biased opinion I think the previous twelve months of the blog have been the best. The biggest change over the past four years is the move from mostly original content (about 75%) to almost exclusively original content (over 95%). Having to keep coming up with original content on a single subject is a continuing huge challenge, and it surprises me more than anyone that I’ve managed it so far. There have been many occasions where I’ve realized that I have nothing left to say and no ideas… only to go for a swim and discover either something new or another way to tackle a previous subject.
Not everything is to everyone’s taste of course and not everything is to the same standard. I have to experiment with different forms and approaches in order to keep writing. Two inevitable results of writing something well known, popular and opinionated are first, to make enemies, and second to hear a lot of less than savoury details about the sport I love. Contrary to what you may believe, I dislike confrontation, I just will not back down when I think something is wrong, and while I’ve lost my rose-coloured glasses about marathon swimming, I continue to try to act in a fair manner myself, even when it feels like there are less of us doing so than I’d originally thought.
The larger recreational pursuit or sport of open water swimming however continues to be everything it always was for me, and I hope for you. Cold mornings, warm evenings, days at the coast swimming by myself, friends meeting and having a chat, a swim and fun and sharing some tea and biscuits.
Around the time of last year’s blog awards I was completely caught up in that controversy about you-know-who. There was my (seemingly interminable) highly critical coverage of the IISA and Ice Mile swimming . There was the post which was my own favourite of all I’ve written and there was a fiction series that got little love but which kept me sane and which I enjoyed writing more than almost anything else. Prior to that series’s germination in spring of 2014 was actually the closest I’ve come to stopping the blog.
That reminds me, your comments or shares or Likes are really important to me even if I’m slow to respond. They give me a clue to what I’ve done right and wrong and sometimes might be all that keep me writing.
There was coverage of big swims notably Sylvain Estadieu’s first ever man to butterfly the English Channel and Finbarr Hedderman’s North Channel swim which gave me the chance to once again share the amazing world of marathon and Channel swimming and swimmers with you.
In directly related matters, Evan and I continue to run the Marathon Swimmers Forum, and of course my involvement in that came about because of this blog, rather than my swimming prowess. The MSF led to the release in early 2014 of the first ever global Rules of Marathon Swimming written by Evan, Elaine Howley, Andrew Malinak and myself.
From a purely personal average-swimmer-in-the-middle-of-nowhere point-of-view, having a chance to make an impact on a sport at a global level is pretty cool.
Though I am a co-founder of the MSF, I keep most of my writing here to clearly differentiate (even to myself) the two roles of private blogger/swimmer/commentator and Administrator/Moderator of the Forum. I am proud of my involvement in MSF and proud of LoneSwimmer and see them as complimentary.
Thanks most importantly to all you regular readers. Awards or not, the continuing engagement of the now not-insignificant readership of LoneSwimmer is the most important award any blog author can really receive. Thanks to Blog Awards Ireland, prime organisers Lorna and Amanda, whom I’ve never met, and the judges (whoever you are) for the selection and award, I’m quite proud and very gratified. As always, my partner Dee remains a constant unwavering support when all else has disappeared.
I don’t know, any more than I ever have, what the future will be for LoneSwimmer, so I suppose we’ll have to find out together.
Oh, by the way, new site layout to celebrate. Expect a few bugs to work out. I might even take a week off posting.