I Beat Bulimia and Swam The English Channel!

Alimpiada Cassidy, 38, rethought her relationship with food as she caught the bug for endurance events.

‘I’ve always been fit. When I was three, my dad,who’s a military man, dropped me into a 4m-deepswimming pool, and said: “If you want to live, youhave to swim!” So I swam the length of the 25mpool! I’ve always enjoyed sport. I was involved inswimming competitions from the age of seven upwards, and dideverything from cross-country skiing to running and volleyball– I’d do about eight different sports activities in a day, writingout a timetable and planning what I’d do. My parents nevergot involved – they just thought I was a little bit mad!’

I Beat Bulimia and Swam The English Channel! Photo Gallery


‘I grew up in Russia, but my first big sporting challengecame when I moved to the UK. I wanted to swim theEnglish Channel. I was living in London, so I trained in theSerpentine lake and did lots of weights and running to getstrong. I knew it was going to take more than 13 hours, so Itrained for six to eight hours most days. When I completed theswim and walked onto that beach in France, I was the happiestI’ve ever been. Everything was wobbly – my legs, my arms,my stomach – but I’d done it!’‘Swimming the Channel helped me overcome bulimia. I used tothink I was fat, despite only being a size six, but because of thetraining, I began to see food as fuel. I thought, “I want to swimthe Channel. I don’t care how I look!” I had to put on lots of fat tokeep myself warm for the crossing, going from a size six to a size12, but I didn’t see myself as big; I just felt really, really strong.After the challenge, I lost some of the weight I’d put on, but Ididn’t ago back to having bulimia; I was happy in myself.‘Then in 2013, I ran an ice marathon on Lake Baikal in Siberia,the deepest lake in the world. It was the most wonderful runningexperience – the beauty of the area is just phenomenal. It wasreally scary running on ice, though. Sometimes the ice wouldsuddenly crack and make a really loud noise like a gunshot! I justkept running as fast as I could! I was running like an ostrich –lifting my knees really high, sticking my head out and shouting,“It’s cracking, it’s cracking”, but nobody could hear me as wewere all spread out. I was so happy when I was back on solidground – I felt like I needed a whisky, but I don’t normally drink!.


‘After that I did Revolve24, a cycling race around Brands Hatch,where you cycle as many laps as you want in 24 hours. I’d onlyheard about the event a week before, and wondered how youcould cycle for 24 hours. But I decided to enter and see what Icould do. I cycled 300 miles in 18.5 hours and stopped for 5.5hours (to eat, sleep, charge my lights and go to the loo). I onlyslept for 35 minutes, but I loved it. And I won! I was the firstfemale and fifth overall. I’m not a very fast cyclist, but I’m a goodendurance athlete. I want to improve my performance this year.Keep challenging yourself – it will give you joy in your life, and thepoint of our life is to be happy and have fun.’

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