Why we love parkrun

Now Team Mermaids are swimmers which means that we are pretty rubbish at running but we do absolutely love parkrun. Parkrun is an organisation which operates 5km runs usually at 9am on Saturday in parks and commons literally ALL OVER THE WORLD. What’s more the runs are FREE to enter!

All you have to do is sign up on the parkrun website and you get issued a bar code. At the end of the run you are given a token which lets the organisers know what place you came and the timers know what time is associated with that place. You then have your token and barcode scanned and your individual time is logged.

Parkrun relies on volunteers on the day – our favourite job is doing the bar code and token scanning.

There are awards for parkrun milestones. You get a free t-shirt when you have run at 50, 100 and 250 (!) events. We have currently done 10 but we have ambitions of getting to 50 in the next 10 years!

The atmosphere at parkrun is always fantastic and so relaxed – everyone chats to each other brought together by a shared love of running.

One of the things that I think is amazing about parkrun is how many off them operate. There are 359 parkrun locations around the world and over 800,000 registered runners – wow!


To give you a bit of a flavour of the events we are going to write reviews of the different courses we have run at below. We will add to this as we run at more events.

Tooting Common

30 January 2016 was a momentous day – Tooting Common held its first parkrun!  Campaigning to bring parkrun to Tooting Common has been going on for years but Wandsworth Council kept refusing permission for the event to take place.  We were pretty excited therefore to finally be getting our very own local parkrun.  Parkrun organizers tried to keep it on the ‘downlow’ so as not to have too many people at the first event but despite the lack of publicity 200 people turned up and ran.  We were clearly therefore not the only people who were happy to see parkrun come to Tooting Common.  The event was even covered by the Wandsworth Guardian.  The article included pictures of Max and I (Katie) and some quotes – we are famous!


The course is a three lap loop, most of which on is on concrete paths but with a small section on a track.  It was a nice course with some interesting twist and turns.

Post run refreshments from the nearby Tooting Bec Common Café.  There is no inside space which makes it a bit of a chilly stop in winter but perfect for summer.  There are also loads of brunch places in Tooting and Balham.  We headed to Mud after the run which was yummy.

Post run swim at Tooting Bec Lido of course (temperature dependent)!

Buggy running suitable – The parkrun website says that the course isn’t suitable for buggies but there was no way I was missing out so ignored that advice.  While it probably is not the easiest course for a buggy as there are some narrow gaps to squeeze through overall I didn’t have a problem.  We have a BOB utility stroller but I imagine if your running buggy is wider or not as sturdy it would be trickier.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park was the first parkrun we both ran at. Richmond Park itself is gorgeous and the perfect place for a parkrun. We are so lucky to have a park like this within a shortish drive of us. The course itself starts off going downhill and along a trail before veering on to the grass and up what I can only describe as a mountain! At least it is just one loop so you only have to climb the mountain once.

Our friend Karen (@runwithkaren) is a regular run director at Richmond.

In 2013 I (Katie) did the Christmas Day parkrun event. It was so much fun and had a lovely Christmassy community spirit.

Post run refreshments from the café at Pembroke lodge (also nearest car park) or otherwise head down to Richmond town centre for tea and cake from hummingbird or coffee and breakfast from Butter Beans.

Post run swim at Pools in the Park. Heated outdoor and indoor pools. (Note: this pool is closer to old deer park parkrun)

Buggy running suitable – TBC

Bushy Park

The original and some might say the best. This is where I (Manda) logged my fastest time thanks to the favourable flat course. It has been known to have +1000 runners on a Saturday morning and is really a sight to be seen. Like Richmond park it isn’t unusual to be running past a deer/stag, which should be done with caution!

Post run refreshments from mobile café at car park where run finishes.

Post run swim at Hampton Pool. Outdoor, heated and 36m. They also have a small but lovely café on site with a terrace in case it is sunny.

Buggy running suitable – Yes – not from Katie’s experience but confirmed due to number seen there!

Brockwell Park

This is a deceptive 2 lap course that seems to cover all the mountains in London in one go but it is a cracker. If the race director is Andy you have GUARANTEED sunshine for the run… he can’t guarantee anything post run though. You also can’t fail to smile and have the cockles of your heart melted when the volunteer high fives you after your first lap with a foam hand. He is my hero every time. It has become our regular parkrun due to proximity and post run refreshments and swim options.

Post run refreshments from the lido café. This is one of our favourite places for brunch in London.

Post run swim at Brockwell lido… although in the winter we have to relocate to Crystal Palace.


Buggy running suitable – YES… as long as you don’t mind pushing a buggy and baby up a MOUNTAIN or 2

Wimbledon Common

Guaranteed mud no matter what time of year. It is a flat course but the mud does make it a challenge but I (Manda) love it for a bit of “trail” running. 2 lap course but not one for a PB. We need to get Katie some trail shoes and she will have to get over her sever aversion to mud. I blame it on her growing up in the city.

Post run refreshments from the windmill café right by the start/finish and car park.

Post run swim at Putney (if you can be bothered to deal with the traffic!)

Buggy running suitable – Not really due to mud and challenging terrain

Longrun Meadow

Dennis, Max and I were away for the weekend in Somerset and I (Katie) thought this was the perfect opportunity to try out a parkrun in a new location. We therefore went to Longrun Meadow parkrun in Taunton only a 10 min drive from where we were staying. We happened to turn up at the event’s second birthday which meant that lots of people were in fancy dress. Everyone was so welcoming and we had a chat with the run director prior to the event who told us that he wanted to break the record for the number of runners that day. I’m not sure if they did or not.


The course itself was lovely and flat and comprised of two loops.

Post run refreshments at a lovely mobile coffee van there especially for the occasion. Dennis wanted to have a bacon sandwich but I wouldn’t let him as we were heading home for breakfast after the run.

Post run swim – we had a pool at our cottage so we headed back to that. It wasn’t really long enough for laps but Max had a little dip.

Buggy running suitable – The course was very flat which is great for buggy running but the paths were quite narrow which did make passing people pretty challenging – you had to veer onto the grass and sprint! There was a lovely lady there also pushing a buggy who I had a chat with most of the way around.

Old Deer Park

Old deer park is a smaller parkrun to its big neighbours of Richmond and Bushy. I (Manda) visited during the rugby world cup where old deer park hosted a fan zone, this meant running on their B course.  The course is flat but 3 laps.  I thought I wouldn’t like it but it actually made the run go quicker if not faster.  Due to its small nature I banked a position of 36th… unheard of!

Post run refreshments – nothing of note but there is a cafe in pools in the park.

Post run swim at pools in the park.  Luckily for me the outdoor pool was open – such a treat on a winter’s day.

Buggy running suitable – TBC

Dulwich Park

We went to Dulwich parkrun on October 31 aka Halloween and were promptly greeted by various spooky creatures.  After a Halloween pun filled briefing we were soon off.  Like Old Deer park this is a 3 lap course of the flat (hoorah!) tarmac carriage way in Dulwich park.  The 3 lap format meant I (Manda) got overtaken by a few of the leading runners when I was just settling in to my 2nd lap  – their speed is amazing!  Our friend Claire also came along and finished 300th.  They had never had this many runners before so only had tokens up to 299, so Claire didn’t get a finishing token but did become a record breaker!

Post run refreshments – we headed down to Gail’s for some tea, brunch and cake.

Post run swim –  You have a choice as you are between Brockwell lido, Dulwich leisure centre and Forest Hill pool.  Personally if it is warm enough for you then head to Brockwell every time.

Buggy running suitable – yes! The wide tarmac paths make it perfect for a buggy run and the paths are nice and wide so easy to overtake / be overtaken!

For New Year’s Eve 2015 my husband, baby and I (Katie) took a trip to Ilkley to spend the evening with some of my university friends. The way Christmas and New Year fell this year meant that you could run on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and the 2nd of January. So after running at Richmond and Dulwich on Christmas and Boxing Days respectively we were determined to therefore find a nearby run so we could ‘complete the set’. After somewhat of a late night we therefore dragged ourselves out of bed to head to Skipton parkrun 20 mins drive away.

After a very mild winter the weather had taken a dip and it was 0.5 degrees when we arrived. I was not properly equipped at all and had very cold hands for most of the run.

The course was a four lap loop which meant that I was lapped by the fastest runners on my second lap and on the final lap I was even lapped by a seven year old (oh the shame). I know people have mixed views on several lap courses but I don’t mind them at all as I like to know how far I have still to go. There were a couple of inclines but generally it was an enjoyable course.

Post run refreshments – as it was New Year’s Day the café wasn’t open but I think on regular days there is a standing invite for post run coffees.

Post run swim – There was a pool right next to the start of the course (Craven Swimming Pool). I didn’t have a dip but my friend who I was staying with says the pool is really nice and modern.

Buggy running suitable – Most of the course was on tarmac which made pushing the buggy quite easy but for parts of the course the path was quite narrow which meant that overtaking was quite difficult which slowed my progress (well that is my excuse anyway)!


I (Manda) was staying in Hastings for new years and after missing the opportunity to do an official parkrun in Guernsey over Christmas (Guernsey sort.it.out!) I was looking forward to racking up 2 parkruns, however, Hastings decided to give themselves New Years Day off so I headed down for the 2nd January run.

The course is an straight out there (to Hastings pier) and back (towards st Leonards) run along the sea front.  The only deviation to the normal course was we were sticking to the promenade as there was too much shingle on the beach side path from a storm. As expected a sea front run is beautiful, however, we had gale force winds and this is the excuse I am using for the personal worst parkrun time I have ever logged… oh and that my husband was slowing me down (Fortunately for me he doesn’t read the blog!).

Post run refreshments – not close but highly recommend The Red Pig food van down at pett level for some lovely food and drink.

Post run swim – the sea!! Not always suitable though.

Buggy running suitable – straight route and wide tarmac paths are perfect for this.

Peckham Rye

For the first ‘normal’ parkrun of 2016, Dennis, Max and I (Katie) headed to Peckham Rye parkrun. This is one of the smaller parkruns in the local area with around 100 runners normally.  New Year’s Resolutions were in full force with a massive 186 runners on the day.

The course is a three lap run meandering through the park and common – lovely, if slightly ‘undulating’!  There is a car park not too far from the start which makes the logistics of getting there quite easy.

I’ve not been to Peckham Rye before but it is really lovely.  It is a mix between a common with wide open spaces and a more manicured park including a Japanese Garden!

Post run refreshments the parkrun team go for a coffee at Cafe on the Rye each week and all runners are welcome to join them.  I’ve not been to the café but it looks pretty nice from the website.

Post run swim Dulwich Leisure Centre is not too far away and the newly refurbished Peckham Pulse Healthy Living Centre is just around the corner.  Both are run by Fusion Leisure.

Buggy running suitable: The course is on tarmac which makes it good for running with the buggy. The paths are also relatively wide which makes running alongside others quite easy.  There are some tight turns which can be a bit more difficult to manoeuvre but all in all a pretty good course for buggy running.


Dennis (Katie’s husband) and their friends Ali and Dawson have been having a competition to see who could be the first to run 1,000 miles. Dawson, who lives in Chicago, trained for and ran the Chicago marathon in 2015 so was well ahead of the other two.

Dawson was over in the UK for a wedding in April and as all the gang was together, I (Katie) managed to persuade them to put their hangover aside and go to parkrun on Saturday morning.
The wedding was near Sandhurst and due to a lack of childcare I had to travel back to London on the Friday evening. Max was up bright and early on the Saturday, however, so despite only having about 4.5 hours sleep, I jumped in the car to meet the guys at Rushmoor park run.

The run starts on the edge of a field which you run across. You then run by the road for a bit before dropping down to the river to run along the bank which was lovely. I felt like I had been running for miles so it came as an unpleasant surprise to find out as we left the river that it was a two lap course and I needed to do the whole thing again.

Overall a lovely course and I would recommend a visit if you are in the area. Out of the boys Ali speeded to victory in 21:37. Dennis and Dawson ran together for 24.30ish.

Post run refreshments we went back to have brunch at the Aviator hotel which was very nice. The official post run coffee is at Daisy’s café in Queens Road, North Camp.

Post run swim we didn’t go for a swim post run but google reliably informs me that there is a 50m pool at the Aldershot Garrison Sports Centre nearby.

Buggy running suitable there are some tricky bits running across the grass and some sharp turns coming down onto the river but generally it was a good course for the buggy.

Thanks to Kimberly for the below reviews:

Highbury Fields

The course is a five lap loop all on is on concrete paths around the edge of the park which is on a hill so you go up and down five times and finish going uphill.

It’s a good run but a bit soul destroying to see the short-shorts runners finishing when you’re only on lap 3!

Post run refreshments from The White Swan, which is the local Wetherspoons so I decided to give that a miss…  There are a few nice cafes nearby, I went to the fairly new Nanna’s for an excellent latte.

Post run swim There is a 25m pool in Highbury Fields or Cally Pool is only 25mins walk away too.

Buggy running suitable – Yes, although it was horizontal rain that day so not much fun for a child! My buggy is not running appropriate so I left it and the baby at home.

Finsbury Park

I haven’t ever been to Finsbury Park and it turns out that it is beautiful, bonus! It is a deceptively hilly course, two laps takes you up a long drag of a hill, then it’s flat and down through the trees before you head up a very steep climb, however you are rewarded with a lake-side path and a finish through some flower gardens which makes you feel like a proper winner!

Post run refreshments from the cafe in the park, which is nice but will be really lovely in the summer as it’s right in the centre of the park with loads of outdoor seating. We walked down to Green Lanes for a Turkish breakfast, delicious.

Post run swim: Clissold Park is the nearest.

Buggy running suitable: Yes, it’s all on proper paths. There was one kid shouting ‘faster daddy! as they hit the hill, poor man.



Mini Merman

Over the last few months I have been taking little M to baby swimming lessons. We started when he was about 4 or 5 months. I had wanted to take him before but getting on to a baby swimming course in South West London is very competitive! In retrospect though I think it was wise to wait as he seemed to get more out of it being a bit older.

We have been going to London Baby Swim near Southside in Wandsworth. This has a specially designed baby pool which is maybe 5m by 5m and is warmer than your average pool thank god!

The lessons consist of nursery rhymes, floating around in different holds, teaching them to hold on to floats and the side as well as the dreaded dunking!

The theory is that the lessons teach babies water safety from an early age so should anything happen accidentally what they have been taught will kick in. I am a bit sceptical about how much Max could really retain at this age but he certainly has lots of fun. So much fun splashing that he generally manages to totally drench my hair which I am trying to keep dry. Clearly a mini merman in the making!

Max swimming

~4k (4000m) swim sets


**UPDATED 20/05/17**

These are sets we are doing ourselves so will be added to as and when we do new sessions.

See also:

2.5k sets

3k sets

5k+ sets

A few abbreviations explained:


ALT -> MEANS ALTERNATING, therefore, one length one thing, one length the other.

BUILD -> get faster over the distance.  Start EASY finish HARD.

BP -> Breathing pattern.  So BP3 = Breathe every 3, BP4 = breathe every 4 etc



500m swim

200m drill choice

100m swim

200m alt kick/pull

Main set:

10*200m 20 Seconds rest (SR)

  1. 70%, 2. UP 80% DOWN 60%, 3. BUILD (Get faster over 200m distance from easy to sprint), 4.70%, 5. UP 60% DOWN 80%..REPEAT

10*100m 15 SR

  1. 80%
  2. 75%
  3. 70%
  4. 65%
  5. 60%

REPEAT (using the 9th(65%) and 10th(60%) as swim down)

Total: 4000m


25m pool

Warm up:

4*100m free

3*100m drill choice (catchup, fingertrail, doggy paddle, fists etc)

2*100m pull

100m kick


50 free @ 70% 20 SR

100 free @ 70% 20 SR

150 free @ 70% 20SR

200 free @ 70% 20SR

250 free @ 70% 20SR

10*25 @ 90% 15 SR

50 free @ 70% 20 SR

100 free @ 70% 20 SR

150 free @ 70% 20SR

200 free @ 70% 20SR

10*25 @ 90% 15 SR

50 free @ 70% 20 SR

100 free @ 70% 20 SR

150 free @ 70% 20SR

10*25 @ 90% 15 SR

50 free @ 70% 20 SR

100 free @ 70% 20 SR

10*25 @ 90% 15 SR

50 free @ 70% 20 SR

10*25 @ 90% 15 SR

Swim down:

300m alternating, free, catchup free, back, catchup back.  Repeat * 3


400m swim

200m choice drill (break at end of every length if needed)

200m alternating 1 length kick, 1 length pull

Main set:

1000m @ 70% 1 min rest

2 * 500m @ 75% 30 seconds rest

5 * 200m @ 75% 20 seconds rest

Swim down:

200m alternate 1 length of non-freestyle and 1 length of free.  Thinking about perfect stroke for the freestyle.

Total: 4000m


500m swim

10*50 or 5*100m (depending on pool length) 15 SR.  UP drill choice, back easy.

500m swim

Main set:

1000m @ 70% 1 min rest

2*100m 15 SR @ 80%

600m @ 70% 45 secs rest

2*100m 15 SR @ 80%

200m @ 70% 30 secs rest

2*100m 15 SR @ 80%

swim down: 200m alt back and free

Total: 4100m


500 swim 500
100 pull 600
400 alt lengths:  60%, 70% 1000
100 kick 1100
300 alt lengths: BP 3 BP 4 1400
100 pull 1500
200 BUILD over the 200m so easy for first 25/50 all the way to sprinting the last 25/50 1700
100 kick 1800
800 4*200 REST 30, 20, 10 60 2600
600 4*150 REST 30, 20, 10 70 3200
400 4*100 REST 30, 20, 10 75 3600
200 4*50 REST 30, 20, 10 80 3800
200 SWIM DOWN 4000

TOTAL: 4000m / 4k


400 @60%
350 @70%
100 KICK
150 BP 5 (50m), 4 (50m), 3 (50m)
250 PULL
200 @80%
250 PULL
150 BP 5 (50m), 4 (50m), 3 (50m)
100 KICK
350 @70%
400 100 @ 60%, 100 @ 70%, 100 @ 80%, 100 @ HARD

TOTAL: 4K (4000m)


400 SWIM 400
500 @60% 30 SR 1200
400 @70% 20 SR 1600
300 @75% 15 SR 1900
200 @80% 2100
1 MIN REST 2100
400 @ 60% 30 SR 2500
300 @70% 20 SR 2800
200 @75% 15 SR 3000
100 @80% 3100
1 MIN REST 3100
300 @ 60% 30 SR 3400
200 @70% 20 SR 3600
100 @75% 15 SR 3700
50 @80% 3750
250 SWIM DOWN 4000

TOTAL: 4K (4000m)


300 swim

100 drill choice

200 swim

100 pull

100 swim

main set:

1000 @ 70% ensuring pace is same through out

800 up length hard (80%), down easy (60%)

600 negative split. Making sure that 2nd 300 is faster than first 300

400 1 length easy, 1 length medium, 1 length hard, 1 length kick  Repeat through to 400

200 @ 75%

200 swim down.

Total: 4000m / 4K


300m swim

100m kick

300m swim

100m pull

4*200 @ 70% 30 SR

8*50 @ 80% 20 SR

2*400 @ 70% 30 SR

4*100 @ 80% 20 SR

800 @ 70%

200m swim down

TOTAL: 4200m/4.2k

SET 10

400m swim

200m choice drill.

200m alt pull/kick

1000m @ 70% (take a note of the time taken)

5*200m 30 SR

  1. @60% BP (breathing every:) 3
  2. 10 strokes hard, easy to wall..repeat through to 200m
  3. 50m @ 60%, 50m @ 70%, 50m @ 80%, 50m @60%
  4. Breathing to your right on odd lengths, breathing to your left even lengths (aiming for 60%-70%)
  5. Odd lengths catch up, even lengths: SPRINT

1000m @ 70% aiming for same time as before

200m swim down (include some backstroke)

TOTAL: 4000m/4k

SET 11

8 SWIM 400 400
2 PULL 100 500
6 SWIM 300 800
2 KICK 100 900
4 SWIM 200 1100
0 1100
0 1100
10 500 @ 60% 500 1600
8 400 @ 65% 400 2000
6 300 @ 70% 300 2300
4 200 @ 75% 200 2500
2 100 @ 80% 100 2600
0 2600
4 EASY 200 2800
0 2800
20 10*100m @ 75% 20 SR 1000 3800
0 3800
0 3800
0 3800
4 SWIMDOWN 200 4000

TOTAL: 4000m/4k

SET 12

2 variations of set depending on whether in a 30m or 25/50m pool.

30m pool one below

12 SWIM 360 360
8 ALT PULL / KICK 240 600
4 DRILL 120 720
4 ALT PULL / KICK 120 840
8 DRILL 240 1080
12 SWIM 360 1440
0 1440
  0 1440
6 2*3L hard 30 SR 180 2220
0 2220
10 STEADY 300 2520
6 2*3L hard 30 SR 180 2700
0 2700
6 2*3L hard 30 SR 180 3480
0 3480
10 STEADY 300 3780
6 2*3L hard 30 SR 180 3960
0 3960
8 SWIM DOWN 240 4200

For a 25/50m POOL.


(If 25m pool)

12 SWIM 300 300
8 ALT PULL / KICK 200 500
4 DRILL 100 600
4 ALT PULL / KICK 100 700
8 DRILL 200 900
12 SWIM 300 1200
0 1200
  0 1200
8 2*4L hard 30 SR 200 1900
0 1900
12 STEADY 300 2200
12 3*4L hard 30 SR 300 2500
0 2500
8 2*4L hard 30 SR 200 3200
0 3200
12 STEADY 300 3500
12 3*4L hard 30 SR 300 3800
0 3800
8 SWIM DOWN 200 4000

SET 13

This is for a 30m pool.  If done in a 25m then comes to 3500m but you can add to the pyramid to increase.

10l swim

8*1l drill choice.  If swimming with someone take it in turns to choose.  15 SR.

6l pull

4l swim

2l kick.

16l @ 75% but every 4th length hard/sprint.

5*4l @ 85% 30 SR

16l @ 75% but every 4th length hard/sprint

swim all at 70%.  You should keep a consistent speed so that the when you are going down the pyramid you are hitting the same times as going up!  15 SR between each interval.














9l swim down.  Do some backstroke!

Total: 4200m (in 30m pool)

Set 14

200 swim

100 pull

200 swim

100 drill choice

200 swim

100 kick

100 swim

8×50 @80% 10 SR

5×100 @75% 15 SR

1k time trial

5×100 @75% 15 SR

8×50 @80% 10 SR

200 swimdown

SET 15

400 SWIM

300 PULL


100 KICK

8*200.  Odd 200s HARD, even 200s EASY 20 SR

8*100 50 non freestyle stroke of choice, 50 Mod free 15 SR

8*50 SPRINT 15 SR

200 swim down

TOTAL: 4000m

SET 16

500 every 3rd length drill

200 alt pull/kick per length

100 easy free

1000 @ race pace. 1 MIN REST


600 @ race pace. 1 MIN REST

400 @ MOD. 1 MIN REST


200m swim down.

Total: 4000m

SET 17

500 SWIM


400 SWIM

100 BACK

300 SWIM


400 @ race pace/75% 1 MIN REST

2*200 PULL @ MOD 15 SR

400 @ race pace/75% 1 MIN REST

4*100 HARD 30 SR

200 @ race pace/80% 30 SR

2*100 PULL @ MOD 10 SR

200 @ race pace/80% 30 SR

4*50 SPRINT 10 SR



SET 18

400 swim

300 pull

200 drill

100 kick

2 * 400 UP HARD (80%), DOWN EASY (60%), 20 SR

3 * 100 1) 60%, 2) 70%, 3) 80% 10 SR

2 * 300  E,M,H,H,M,E (if 25m pool, repeat to get to 300)20 SR

3 * 100 1) 60%, 2) 70%, 3) 80% 10 SR

2 * 200 UP HARD (80%), DOWN EASY (60%), 20 SR

3 * 100 1) 60%, 2) 70%, 3) 80% 10 SR



SET 19

400 swim

300 pull

200 drill choice

100 kick

400 swim, hard into wall from flags and out of wall to flags

4*100 odds hard, even technique 20 sr

2*200 50 fly, 150 free @ mod 20 sr

400 50 E, 50 M, 50 H, 100 KICK, 50 H, 50 M, 50 E

4*100 BUILD 15 SR


2*200 100 PULL, 100 FREE @ MOD 20SR


TOTAL: 4000

Introducing the Winter Challenge 2015/16

Last year during the winter (i.e. indoor) swimming season Team Mermaids and friends challenged ourselves to swim in as many pools in London as possible.  You can read about the challenge and our favourite pools here.

Given how fun last year’s challenge was we have been racking our brains for a challenge for this year and we have finally decided that the 2015/16 Winter Challenge is …..(drum roll)….Swim the Rivers!


Between 1 October 2015 and 30 April 2016, Team Mermaids and friends are going to aim to swim in the pool the length of the 10 longest rivers in Britain.  Why did we pick this challenge?  Well this year we wanted to do something more focused on achieving a distance rather than capering all over London visiting pools.  Over the summer we have also done quite a few longer distance river swims (Jubilee, Bridge to Bridge and Dart) and have really enjoyed them so we wanted to re-create that indoors over the winter.  Shame we don’t get the benefit of the current in the pool.

The 10 longest rivers and their distances are as follows:

Rank River Length (km)
1 River Severn 354
2 River Thames 346
3 River Trent 297
4 River Great Ouse 230
5 River Wye 215
6 River Ure/River Ouse, Yorkshire 208
7 River Tay 188
8 River Clyde 176
9 River Spey 172
10 River Nene 161

The total length of these rivers is 2,347km.  With 7 people and 7 months this equates to each of us swimming 48km a month – eeeeek.

We will be providing regular updates on the blog to let you know how we are getting on – wish us luck!

Essential pool kit

Unfortunately for us from the end of October…ok maybe beginning of October to April, cold water swimming just isn’t possible due to the distance we need to train so we defect to the heated pools of London. Here is the essential bits of kit we use.


There are many a name, Bathers (Guernsey), Togs (Australia), costume (a theatre somewhere?), for the piece of material that adorns you whilst bathing (I knew bathers was the correct one), likewise there are many an option for cossies.

Manda: Due to the long distances we are often covering in training, I prefer a thinner/softer strap to avoid chaffing. One of my favourite brands is funkita, an australian brand that is often loud and colourful.

Katie: Now I am less a fan of the colourful costume so go more for the black, navy, grey colour pallet when picking costumes. Often I do not have the luxury of choice though as I am quite often know for forgetting my costume and then having to buy one at the pool. This has led to quite a few colourful additions to my swimming wardrobe. In terms of brand I normally go for speedo endurance material as I find they really do last for ages – no more having to wear two costumes like I did when I was younger and they went all baggy!

Evidence of a hard days swimming


Pool goggles are often different to open water goggles, you don’t need such a range of visibility and you don’t need tinted lenses. You should always try out your goggles pre race but that doesn’t necessarily mean wearing them for every session in the pool as this could lead to you losing the anti-fog, so should be saved for best.

Manda: I wear glasses during the week and don’t want to be putting in contact lenses just for a swimming session so I wear prescription goggles. View are my current choice after I didn’t get on with the latest iteration of speedo’s prescription goggles.

Katie: I wear my contact lenses all the time so I just use the same goggles for pool swimming as I do for open water. My favourite are the Zoggs predator flex. We often refer to these as the ‘team goggles’ as loads of people we know race in them. I agree with Manda though, even if you wear the same type of googles in the pool and in open water, best to save a newish pair for race day.



A cap is essential kit for keeping your hair out of the way (and for co-ordinating with your costume).

Both: the Team Mermaids cap!

We both have quite long hair and one question we were asked recently is how do you keep your hair under your hat. Now we both have different techniques for this.

Manda: I tie my hair up in a low bun and then put my cap on over this.

Katie: I leave my hair down, put the cap on and then twist my hair into two pigtails and tuck it under. This generally works for me apart from the time that my hat nearly came off in a race leaving my hair flowing behind it. I wish I has used the bun approach that day!


You can have a watch that is multi sports that covers GPS for open water swimming and does laps but often they are bigger than a pool/lap watch so better to slim down for winter training.

Manda: I currently wear a garmin swim. For ~£100 I think it is an absolute bargain. It counts my laps, which is most definitely needed when I am in front of the lane and have no idea how many laps I’ve done.. I literally push off the wall and lose count.

Katie: Not everyone trains with a watch preferring either not to know or to use the pace clock on the wall. I lost my latest watch (I have been though about four in the last couple of years) at the swimathon in April and therefore I have been swimming without one over the summer. Part of me has enjoyed the freedom of not knowing how fast or slow I am especially as the answer was generally slow. However, as I am getting more back into shape I think it is time to return to using one so I can more accurately track my progress. I have always used a cheapish ironman timex watch (c.£30). These have pretty basic functionality but I can time my laps and rest which is all I really need. After my last watch left me though Manda has persuaded me to invest in a garmin swim. I will need to take better care of this one!


Manda: Nuun. Lemon and Lime if I have to be specific. I used to suffer badly from cramp in sessions, especially those at the end of a day or after a run, but nuun has knocked that on the head.

Katie: I’m a fan of Nuun as well although drinking too much can make me a little queezy. My favourite flavours are fruit punch and citrus fruits but I am also partial to Lemon and Lime as well.