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What Could Be Better? Dr Roger Allsopp And Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

We find Dr Roger Allsopp to be one of the most fascinating and humble individuals in the global open water swimming community. His energy is palpable; his personality is engaging; his smile is contagious.

And his swimming pedigree is without question.

In 2011, the retired surgeon and active big-thinker and fund-raiser became the oldest person to swim across the English Channel* when he swam from England to France in 17 hours 51 minutes.

Besides his most recent entry into the winter swimming community, he continues his inspirational work among aging Baby Boomers. “For twelve or more years, I have been chairman of Hope for Guernsey which is a locally registered charity that fund raises for Wessex Medical Research. They concentrate on start-up grants for innovative medical research projects to be carried out at Southampton University.

The focus of the money that we have raised over the past 10 years has been towards proteomic markers in the blood of patients with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancers. The proteins can be identified as a fingerprint of disease to help in early diagnosis and hopefully in future as a measure of response or otherwise to treatment. It is still early days.

Analysis of proteins is done on a mass spectrometer. One of our goals was to raise the money for a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer for Southampton University costing £500.000 (2011) We are working with Professor Paul Townsend who is now based in Manchester [at the Institute of Cancer Sciences]; he is one of the leaders in the field. He is the one who deserves the credit for the achievements so far. He is an inspiration.”

One of the discussions that tremendously impressed us is Dr Allsopp’s perspective of the value of the older generations. He believes that their collective value to society can sometimes be overlooked. “It is my experience – certainly in Guernsey – that many people after retirement devote a lot of time to unpaid work for charitable works and social causes. It is a fantastic privilege to be able to volunteer to help without the need to seek financial recompense.

It is amazing how much there is to do.”

In Dr Allsopp’s own life, he certainly has much more to do. And he is a healthful living example of the importance of keeping fit in order to achieve one’s goals. “I believe that lifestyle is the single most significant contributor to health. More than anything else, we have the answer to health and happiness in our own hands.

The five key factors include (1) staying slim, (2) smoking no cigarettes, (3) drinking not too much alcohol, (4) getting plenty of exercise, and (5) eatig vegetables. These factors appear to reduce the incidence of cancers, diabetes, dementia, strokes, and heart attacks by over 50% and increase longevity by about 10 years.

It has got to be worth going for.

Of the five, exercise has to be top of the list. With regular exercise, the others follow without much effort.”

Dr Allsopp, competing in the 75-79 year age group, swam the 60m race at the Big Chill Swim in Windermere, finishing 41st (out of 74 competitors) in 53.77. His first foray in winter swimming served as the catalyst for him to start training for more and longer races in the future. He looked upon his inaugural winter swimming event with an enjoyable sense of challenge. “If you are able to enjoy swimming – even in the 6.4ºC (43.5ºF) cold of Windermere – then you are born lucky. It is a perfect form of exercise, you get to take you clothes off and experience the freedom. What could be better?

* Since eclipsed by Dr Otto Thaning of South Africa and Cyril Baldock of Australia. See English Channel Half Century Club list here.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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