Swimathon: I did it!

If you’d have told me a couple of years ago that I would complete a swimming challenge, I wouldn’t have believed you. In the summer of 2012 I learnt to swim to complete a 400m open water swim as part of the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon and that 400m felt like the Pacific. Since then I’ve paddled around in the pool a bit, enjoying my newly found confidence, but I haven’t really made much tangible progress on the swimming front. All that changed when ( as you’ll probably know) Swimathon invited me to join their #squad for Swimathon 2015 and, seeing as I can’t resist a challenge, I agreed.

I chose to complete my Swimathon at the London Aquatic Centre (aka the 2012 Olympic pool!). Not only is it my closest pool but I thought it would be pretty cool to earn my own little medal in a pool previously used by champions. I opted for the shortest distance, the 1.5km, but compared to my previous distance PB of 400m it felt like a veritable marathon!

On Sunday I was nervous.

Really nervous.

Walking over to the pool with Dayve I could feel a knot tightening in my stomach. The furthest I’d swum in training was 1000m and I’d been exhausted – how would I manage another 10 lengths?! Nerves were exacerbated by a well-meaning but slightly aggressive swimathon volunteer who caught me dilly dallying in the changing rooms and told me I NEEDED TO GO TO THE WARM UP RIGHT NOW. I opted to go to the toilet rather than the warm up, out of politeness for my fellow swimathon participants.

When the warm up was over (I watched) I made my way to my allocated lane and donned my coloured swim cap (we all had different ones, so that the lap counter can keep track!). At this point I kind of wanted to cry – the masses of people and the deep water were both making me feel less than ideal! I chatted to some other participants and met the lap counter for our lane, who was absolutely lovely, and started to feel more at ease. My lane was clearly the slowest lane and we had a whole mix of people, including individual and team swimmers, of all ages. We were told that we can take as much time as we need, and we were even allowed to get out the pool for a rest if we wanted to. As a nervous swimmer, I really appreciated the friendly and supportive atmosphere.

Before I knew it I was off and I immediately just focussed on getting the lengths done. Ability wise I would say I was pretty middle of the pack in our lane. Everyone was really friendly – letting others pass or go before them at the end of the lane, and being courteous to those who were slower or who stopped. One swimmer in our lane made frequent stops mid-length, hanging on to the wall or the lane marker! Although not the most convenient stopping point no-one minded and I made to point to check he was OK at regular intervals. The whole thing was very supportive!

Our lovely length counter would give me regular updates on my progress and addressed me by name (“Well done Sophie, you’re over halfway there!”) which I loved. The atmosphere at the pool was great, with music playing and lots of spectators, and it seemed to whizz by. Before I knew it I was done!

*** WARNING – INTENSE GOGGLE MARKS ***

Absolutely hideous yet completely hysterical photo of me after my swim, courtesy of Zoggs!

I deliberately kept my pace slow and steady to make sure I covered the distance. In hindsight, I think I probably could have swum faster, but I am really pleased to have covered the distance comfortably. My official time is 45:38, which puts me at position 363/822 for the individual 1.5km swim and 35th in my age group. Pretty chuffed with making the top 50%!

I will definitely enter the Swimathon next year, either to take on a longer distance or beat my time. I really enjoyed training for something different, and the event itself is great too! It felt like my own individual challenge rather than a race against anyone else, which means it’s a really low pressure way to challenge yourself. The atmosphere is supportive and friendly and it’s all in the name of a great cause (Marie Curie) so there’s no excuse! Having seen Laura’s beautiful photos, I fancy heading to London Fields lido next year.

Did you take part in Swimathon? Let me know how you got on!

(Also – check out this adorable trophy my boyfriend got made for me! It says “The Soph – Champion Swimathon…er”)