London's Thames Swim Marathon

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Ever heard of a swim marathon? Nor had I until I discovered Henley Swim's annual Thames Marathon a 14km swim along the River Thames. A beautiful route that takes through windy parts of the river from Henley to Marlow. 

I grew up from the age of 8 a competitive swimmer, however I had a pretty big fear of open water. I was a strong swimming, but plonk me in the middle of the ocean, or put me next to rocks, a boat, an anchor, and I used to FREAK OUT. 

As my passion for triathlon grew over the years, I knew I had to face this fear, if I wanted to progress triathlon with an open water swim. As part of facing this fear, I decided to enter open water events, including a 14km swim from Henley to Marlow, run by Henley Swim. I first took part in this event in 2016, and enjoyed it so much I entered in 2017 too. To complete the Henley Swim was a huge step in facing my fears. It really goes to show, by tackling your fears face on you can really diminish those fears

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I can't recommend this event enough. It's incredibly well organised and the route it so utterly beautiful. You'll past huge sprawling mansions with gardens opening onto the river. Pass quiet parts of the river only surrounded by fields and woodlands. A way to really be in nature in the truest sense.

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The Route

The route is split into four sections, with the first two as the longest distances.

First Leg - 4km swim

Swimmers will begin the marathon with an initial 4km swim where, at the end, you'll be helped out of the river bank by volunteers where you'll find a fuelling station. So many sweets and crisps! Take the time to refuel don't forget to santize your hands before touching the food though! Top tip! 

Second Leg - 7km swim

The second leg consists of the epic 7km distance. Don't get overwhelmed by the distance, the route is simply stunning. You'll be mesmerized by the silence and solitude of river swim where only birds and nature will surround the banks. It's definitely the most peaceful part of the river. If you tire, you can always find a shallow part of the river to rest at. I took the time to tread water and take in the pure simplicity of my surroundings, not a sound apart from the lapping water, wind against towering trees on the bank and morning birds tweeting and playing in the sky.

Third Leg - 1.8km swim

By the 3rd section may see swimmers' arms will tire, so take your time to take on fluids and fuel at the food station. All the volunteers are incredibly supportive and friendly, so make sure you have a chat and thank them. The 3rd swim is only 1.8km which begins to feel minimal compared to the previous swims. Enjoy it :) 

Fourth Leg - 2.2km swim

The fourth, and last section, is the home straight. By now all you'll focus on the end. Try to find a buddy to swim the last part with to take your mind off the ache in your arms and shoulders. 

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Walker's route

The route is walkable for family and friends. A downloadable route for the walkers can be found from this link.

The swim & DAY

  • You can either register on the day or in the morning.
  • A race briefing will be held just before all the swimmers are ushered into the water.
  • At first sight it looks scary and dark, once you immerse yourself in the water it can be overwhelming with the fellow pod members of surrounding you. Take your time to ‘flush’ out your suit with the river water, let your body adapt to it’s new surrounding and the water.
  • Once you begin the swim you’ll notice spectators swimming alongside the banks of the river, so bring along friends and family for the first part of it!
  • Henley Swim provide volunteers all along the way on kayaks and paddleboards, so you’ll always feel safe and close to a helping hand.

 

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Kit LIST

  • 2 x goggles in case on breaks
  • Swimming hat (two if you want to keep a warm head)
  • Wetsuit. There are limited places for non-wetsuit entries. 
  • Tow Floats are compulsory. Henley Swim recommend Selkie tow floats. You can pop a back up gel or energy bar in case you feel hungry between any of the food stops.
  • A mate! Swimming with friends is always so much more fun. I made friends to swim with who were relatively the same pace.
  • Check in a bag which will be taken from the start to the finish line. 

Let me know if of any other long distance events you recommend!

Alice