The lengths challenge has been held every year for donkey’s years as a celebration of the lido’s opening in 1906. Each year another length was added to the challenge to match the number of years the lido had been open. Fortunately in 2016 someone decided that the lido was quite old enough and to limit the event to 110 lengths, which at 10k is a pretty tough challenge in anyone’s book.
You can complete the challenge as a solo swimmer or as a relay team with up to 6 members splitting how you want meaning this really is a challenge that everyone can participate in. The event is held on the last Saturday in September just before the lido closes to the public. For us we love swimming in this event as it feels like a real celebration of the lido and another summer of great swimming.
2019 was the 6th time we had swum in the event. In 2015 we competed as solo swimmers but in each other year we have swum as a two person relay. Swim captain Charles had introduced a new handicapping system this year, which while a little confusing at the outset, did provide an interesting dynamic as you tried to chase down swimmers who were ahead of you in the handicapping.
The solo skin swimmers started off first at 1pm with relay skins swimmers starting between 1.05pm and 1.13pm depending on how many swimmers were in the team. Solo wetsuiters then started at 1.18pm with wetsuit relays starting at 1.23pm.
We were very lucky with the weather on the day as the showers of the previous week mostly held off and the water a positively tropical 16 degrees. With the event being held at the end of September sometimes the water can be as cold as 12 – 13 degrees – burrrrr.
There was a mix of tactics from the relay swimmers with some choosing just to do straight blocks each but other choosing to do shorter blocks but then get back in. We tend to find our pace is similar even over longer distances so elected to just split the swim in two. Manda, the other half of Team Mermaids said she was a bit hungover and therefore wanted to go first. I said that was fine but that the person who went first needed to do 56 lengths!
There was lovely atmosphere on poolside with everyone chatting while timing and counting lengths as well as eating some of Clare’s delicious brownies. The time passed quickly and soon it was time for me to get in. After seeing Manda’s swimming I started off at a very keen pace not wanting to let the side down. It was all going well for about 30 lengths but then I started to get cramp which meant I had to slow a bit. Overall we were faster than last year which we were pleased with.
The overall handicapped winners were skins 2 person team Charlie and Laura with a water time 2.53.15 – well done Charlie and Laura! Kat Perry finished off an amazing season, which included a channel crossing, by being the first solo swimmer to finish in a time of 3.03.30. Team Mermaids (us!) finished next on handicapping with a water time of 2.41.24. The first wetsuit soloists were Brian Daly and Rebecca Farrell with a water time of 3.06.32. Special mention also to the South London Allsorts who are still waiting for the channel call and used event for some swim practice and team bonding.
Massive thank you to swim capital Charles and to volunteer extraordinaire Nicky for organising everything and making it run so smoothly.
Until next year everyone!