The 110 lengths challenge held this year on 30 September 2017 is the closing party for the summer swimming season, celebrating a great summer at the lido and another year in the lido’s history. Tooting Bec lido opened in 1906 and in previous years the challenge has been to swim one length for every year the lido has been open. This year, however, the organisers very sensibly decided to cap the swim at 110 lengths which is the equivalent of 10k.
We have previously swum the challenge as relay in 2014 (read our account here) and as solos in 2015 (read our account here). Last year I (Katie) was away for the event so dragged a reluctant Brain to do the swim with me one morning. This year, after some mixed training over the last month or so and with another baby on board, we decided to swim as a relay again.
Just before 1pm we rocked up to join 20 solo swimmers and 9 other relay teams attempting the challenge. After a briefing the solo swimmers were off, including Emma Watson, who arrived just in time with a just out of the oven fruit cake in tow.
In 2014 when we had last swum as a relay team the format was very relaxed, we got in when we wanted, swum together and counted our own lengths. We were unprepared therefore for a formal mass relay start and Manda didn’t even have her hat and goggles on. This ended up with her starting two lengths behind me. We had decided to swim at the same time rather than in a standard relay format, which would mean no delay in cake consumption.
I was unsure how I would feel on the day as I am still suffering quite badly with sickness and have not been doing much training so we had just agreed that I would swim as many lengths as I felt able to and Manda would swim the balance (I think she was scared that I would only manage 10). On the day the water was a lovely 16 degrees and I just took it steady and plodded through the lengths.
Trying to keep track of how many lengths each other had swum so we finished after the requisite 110 lengths was challenging our mental arithmetic somewhat but we managed it with Manda stopping at the end of her 56 lengths when I was just starting my 54th. Overall between us we completed the relay in 2 hours and 48 minutes. This is slower than when we did the event as soloists even taking into account the additional length but I think that is mine and bump’s fault!
Once we were out it was time for some still warm cake – delicious – and to watch the soloists and other relays finish. The team organised by Bronnie Gray including last minute addition Fiona Wiggins, who was sporting her Team Mermaids hat, did an amazing job with 10 people each swimming 11 lengths.
Well done to everyone who swam on the day. Next year we are going to give the solo a crack again!