SLSC 110 Lengths Challenge 2017

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!


Midsummer Relay 2017

Every year SLSC put on public events over the summer at Tooting Bec Lido.  We have previously taken part in their aquathlon series but this year as I (Manda) am not fully back running yet, I thought it would be nice to take part in the Mid-Summer Relay.

The event takes place at 8pm on the Wednesday of the week of the summer solstice, so once the public have left the lido (which was a hard task on the hottest and sunniest day of the year) 40 teams get ready to battle.  There were teams there from all different swimming clubs and organisations including the Serpies, Spencer, and the MET police.

The format is 4 people who each swim 4*1 length and teams must have at least one male and one female so we roped Brian and Tricky into our team.

We listened to the briefing and I promised to try not to mess up (especially after my recent relay disasters at the Cold Water Championships and then more recently at a SLSC head up breaststroke relay where I pushed off under the water which was firmly against the rules!).

Ready, steady, go!

Katie was off on leg one and she had pretty much clear water for her first length.  That was where the clear water ended, as for the next 15 lengths you sprinted your way through the water hoping you weren’t about to be taken out by an oncoming swimmer, which I did witness a couple of times.

4*1L sounded easy, but actually sprinting 400 yards was proper hard work and we definitely earned our post-race pool-side included-in-the-price falafel and positively-tropical prosecco*.

It was lovely to see so many other swim clubs and swimmers taking part and enjoying the lido.

There was some controversy with the results as we were in the wrong age category and therefore missed out on our podium spot. However, we will be back next year to regain the third place that was rightfully ours (and drink more prosecco!).


* achieved by mixing warm prosecco and mango baby puree

A Mermaid’s Christmas Wish List 2016

Last year we had a great response to our wish list so we thought we would do another one for 2016… It is also serves as a massive hint to our husbands!

Day 1 – Stocking Fillers/Gift wrapping

The perfect wrapping paper for any swimmer’s gifts is Nancy Farmer’s.  Beautifully constructed swimmers give the illusion of snowflakes to give us “swimflakes”.  She is also doing caps in various colours in the design.  All can be found on her Etsy shop.

I (Manda) already have this lego mermaid key-ring.  It is perfect for finding your keys when they are lost at the bottom of your swimming bag. or/

Snacks boxes for those all important post swimming snacks…aka CAKE


Day 2 – Accessories

A bit like superman with his superman gear on underneath his suit, every mermaid should ensure you have these ready for any spontaneous mermaid adventures.


Bobble hats are essential winter swimming attire, but these Early Bird Swimmers trucker hats make a perfect summer lido companion whatever time of day you are swimming.


Day 3 – Mugs 

The mug can make or break how good a tea tastes and these are particularly excellent ones to consume a warm beverage from.

“Coffee makes me swim faster”…obviously.  As do sharks but we don’t want them in our mugs thanks.


Whether you’ve been there done that or aspiring, this is a great mug for open water swimming fans.


Day 4 – Lido loving

Lou Taylor has a lovely collection of lido items ranging from jewellery to art to gift cards.

Help support Tynemouth Outdoor Pool through purchasing some of their merchandise including this lovely tea towel.


The lido in Bristol looks amazing but we haven’t been able to go visit yet, instead we will have to make do with asking for these lush products to use in the Tooting Bec Lido changing room.


Once again support a community lido by purchasing some of their goods.  Everyone needs more mugs in their life.


Day 5 – Apparel 

We love this t shirt for the merman in your life from Don’t Feed The Bears.


and for us mermaids this Selkie t shirt is a post swim must.

The lovely people at Selkie have given us a discount code.  Use MERM1216 at checkout for 10% off between now and the end of November!  We are very excited to have our very own discount code.

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For those more formal occasions these gorgeous shorts are in the sale.


and just in case there was any doubt


Day 6 – Books

I (Manda) love these wild swimming books.  They are great Christmas presents to inspire some family members/friends to come join you on some swimming adventures.  Currently you can also get 20% off using discount code: H20


Oh how we loved Mr Michael Phelps at Rio.  This book includes Rio 2016 so putting it on the Christmas List is a must.


If like us you always want to fit in a lido/pool visit when you travel or dream of a lido version of the pool crawl, then helping to get this book funded is the key.  A guide to all UK open air pools sounds amazing.



Day 7 – House and Home

Helen has got some other amazing swimming related pieces but alas they are all sold out so snap these beakers up whilst you can.


Nancy’s wrapping paper has already featured but we love this calendar as well.  It even includes the beautiful Coniston swim picture she did.


There is also SLSC’S Tooting Bec Lido calendar for sale here:


Maybe more suitable for the smaller mermaids in your life but you can also get this print on a range of other goods including phone cases and LEGGINGS.


Day 8 – Costumes

There was once a TYR mermaid costume.  It seems to be the thing of urban myths, but alas we have found a replacement.  They do it in different backs and a 2 piece.. go forth and Mermaid.



You’ll need these before Christmas so maybe more of a early christmas present to yourself rather than a wish.  Needless to say Katie wouldn’t be caught wearing any of these!! Me (Manda) – totally!


We asked Brian to send us a some trunks for the Merman out there.  He sent a rather sensible pair but we know really he wants these for Christmas:


Day 9 – Jewellery

For the Mermaids:



and for those Merman some swimming cufflinks.

Yes these are bikes but they do swimming ones just no decent photo! check it out on link above.

Day 10 – Art

If you have been lucky enough to be at Tooting Bec Lido recently you would have seen Rachel Miller’s art work on the hoarding at the deep end.  She has done 2 lovely swimming related illustrations that can be purchased here:

and some other bits we like:





Day 11 – Equipment

I (Katie) reaaaaaaaaaallllllllllyyyyyyyyyyy want one of these for Christmas but clearly I have not been that good as Santa says my budget this year is only £50 (quietly sob).


Now we are winter swimmers, we need some serious neoprene to ensure we can carry on.  Swim The Lakes are really friendly and have a great range of goods to suit everyone.  If you aren’t sure what you need then drop them a line.

Day 12 – Holidays

We love a good holiday but Gelato, Pizza, Lasagne, Prosecco and Swimming = perfect Team Mermaids holiday.


The next WANT is another swimquest in Norway.  This one sounds absolutely magical if slightly chilly (but its ok as we’ve asked for thermal gloves and booties)


Merry Christmas from Team Mermaids!

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All out swim at Pells Pool

I (Manda) have swum in Pells Pool in Lewes for the last 2 years and this year it didn’t look like I was going to get my annual dip in but then Paul Bates of Big Rick’s swim team and massive supporter of Macmillan Cancer care posted something about the ‘all out swim’ taking place there. This event started at Tooting Bec Lido but is now held at Pells Pool, Sanford park lido and Brockwell lido. You can typically do a distance of either 2km or 5km and they can be done as relays. Signed up I headed down to Lewes on Sunday morning with Miles and Dom.

The sun was shining and with Coniston in my arms I knew I was capable. I was sharing my wonderfully wide lane with 3 other swimmers. One had put his estimated time for 5k at 60 minutes but he protested he wasn’t a future Olympian and I should go first.

Slowly but calmly the metres ticked away. I spent the first 30 minutes berating myself for setting my watch to 46m when I realised 2 lengths in that that was 50 yards, which would have been a lot easier on the brain!

I got to half way and with a small cap adjustment I ploughed on to bring myself home. After just under 1 hour 20 minutes of swimming I was done. But I love this pool, the sun was shining and it was a wide lane.. So maybe a few extra lengths wouldn’t hurt. I did 4 extra before Dom gave me the ‘look’. Aka ‘your child needs feeding so get out the bleeding pool’!

It was a great event for a brilliant charity and definitely one I will be keen to do again.

Thanks to all the volunteers so for being so wonderful and Pells pool for being so beautiful!

SLSC 1 mile race – July 2016

So something like this wouldn’t normally warrant a blog but sometimes the smallest achievements are worth the biggest noise. The SLSC 1 mile Sunday morning race! Every Sunday (even in winter), SLSC hold a Sunday morning race over a range of distances from 1 width to the longest race 1 mile. Team Mermaids try and attend the 1 mile race each year so not even having recently had a baby was going to put me off.

When I (Manda) plus my gang (husband and baby) arrived at the lido, Brian and Katie had already been there for an hour and half doing some last minute ‘cramming’ for this year’s Thames marathon next weekend. As I told them both this would never have happened on coach Manda’s watch!

After clearing the lido we all marched to the deep end of the lido and lined up in speed order for the 1 mile swim. I suggested that I would swim around 32 minutes on the basis of how I had been swimming the last couple of weeks since being signed off to swim, so ended up in the middle of the SLSC line up. There were notable absences due to Ride 100 and summer holidays but it was still a large crowd.

After swimming to the black marker on pool side for where the mile officially starts we were soon set off. Unfortunately for the man standing next to me waiting for the start, the black marker wasn’t sufficiently in the shallow end for me to stand flat footed, so I was on tip toes just to keep breathing.  Once we were set off there was nothing for me to push off to get going … Apart from the man’s belly. So after ‘go’ I spent the first 10 seconds apologising. Sorry Katie and Brian but team mermaids may never be welcome at a club race again!

After 17 and a bit lengths of, I can only assume, perfect pacing if not perfect speed I arrived home in a respectable 30:10. If only I hadn’t have kicked the man in the belly it could have been sub 30! I was really pleased considering I have only been back swimming for 2 weeks and have also had a throat infection to deal with in that time.


Katie and Brian naturally stormed home together in a time of 26:30. Katie was slightly (read very) mortified that she was beaten by an eleven year old!

Hopefully I will get a chance to race in the 1000yds race next Sunday whilst the rest of the team and friends tackle 15,310 yards at Thames Marathon. Good luck!

Great North Swim 10k 2016

Fiona did the Great North swim in Windermere this year and seeing as we have never done the ‘North’ event of the Great Swim series we asked her to write us a guest blog.

ps cheery bakewell cocktails… Yum or Yuk?

I’m writing this from the heavenly super king size bed in our guest house in Windermere. Whippet and I have just had northern fish and chips (the best kind) after a surprisingly successful 10k Great North Swim. It wasn’t looking good on any front…

My training-in-earnest started later than usual this year after the shocking and heart breaking loss of my Dad in March, but I gradually eased myself back in, spurred on by wanting to keep his water baby genes alive, and a comment by Manda that “swimming is therapeutic”, which I have found it is, in a meditational way. I find that the sensory deprivation of swimming is a welcome relief from the exhausting sensory overload of everyday life. I also resolved to stop pressuring myself to train a certain number of times a week, to stop feeling guilty if I didn’t train, and to stop beating myself up if I was knackered after work and couldn’t face a hellish public lane. As soon as I removed that pressure, and allowed myself to just work and go home during the week, the tug of war instantly stopped, and I found myself wanting to swim – it was no longer a chore. Pushing and pressure are not effective motivational tools for me. Indeed, the same applies to my OU studies. So I’ve more or less been doing one or two masters sessions a week, and one or two lido sessions a week, maybe only once swimming more than three times in a single week. I think I have finally found what works for me. It’s only taken me seven seasons of open water swimming to figure that out, so don’t ever accuse me of being slow on the uptake!

The other worry about Windermere was the temperature. I thought that it could be between 13c and 16c, so I was preparing for 13c and hoping for 16c. My first lido dip of the season, also later than usual because of the chilly spring weather, was 10c in early May. Head up breaststroke skins. No point faffing with a wetsuit if I can’t get my face in, or stay in long enough to make it worth the faff. Later on, I managed a two mile skins job at 16c, but I was still behind on the sorts of distances I wanted to be covering in the lido.

My final worry was injury. I’ve had sore elbows for a year and a half now, and the odd shoulder twinge. I’ve spent a small fortune on physio, osteo, sports massage and Dan (Bullock; should be obvious to most people reading this, innit) to try to give myself the best chances of long term swimming health.

The last few days leading up to the swim weren’t too hot either. I had a nightmarish alcohol incident the previous Thursday, and a dreadful stomach on Wednesday when we drove up here, and this morning. I was psyching myself up for a DNF.

In the end then, my training fears were unfounded, my temperature fears were almost reversed when I feared I would suffer heatstroke in the day or two leading up to the swim (I’m a fragile petal, and since when was the Lake District subtropical?) and the lake was a staggering 21c on the day, my injury fears dissolved when I hit the increased volume, and I smashed my 10k time (Dorney in May 2010; 04:06) by over half an hour to bag myself a 03:35:48. Three thirty-five forty-eight!!! How the hell did that happen?! What am I capable of? Whippet rushed over to me with a glass of fizz and I sat on the grass in my swimming costume semi speechless. I’d only hoped to make the four hour cut off, and that was before taking into account all of the above adverse events.


In conclusion, I think this was a confidence boosting training swim for Henley to Marlow in August, which I “accidentally” signed up for after a couple of my special homemade cherry Bakewell cocktails.


The pregnancy swim diary

Being pregnant presented some interesting challenges to my (Manda) swimming training, however, I was able to continue to swim right until 40 weeks.  This was all made possible by lots of lovely people, mainly Katie, who continued to swim with me despite my speed and endurance not being what it once was.  It also helped that I had goals (swimathon/winter river challenge/staying fit for labour!) that kept me focused.

I honestly believe that swimming is the best sport for pregnancy.. You don’t need to do as much as me but it should be encouraged to swim throughout pregnancy.

Here is what I got up to swimming wise whilst pregnant.

Weeks 1-4
Most people don’t realise they are pregnant by this point so it is business as usual.

Weeks 5-8
I swam a 10k in the lido in 13 degrees at this point. 😉 so evidently still BAU!


I did struggle one week due to a feeling that I was ripping my stomach muscles every time I pushed off the wall. Not sure what it was but after 2500m I got out. I decided to get back in 2 days later and just be less aggressive on the turns and I was fine.

Week 8-12
I’m getting slower.. Well maybe not slower but I’m fatiguing a lot quicker and for a long distance swimmer being able to handle 200m easier than 1600m is a bitter pill to swallow. Apart from that I’m still thoroughly enjoying my swimming and being around friends.

Week 12-16
I had to go to Hong Kong for 1 of the weeks and only managed one short swim there and I decided to go to the pool when the entire over 65 population of Hong Kong seemed to be there! This meant avoiding breaststrokers who seemed to be hell bent on swimming in the middle of the lane and kicking me. After that there was no swimming for nearly 3 weeks due to a combination of jet lag and a cough. I couldn’t take anything for it so just had to wait it out. Sorry to anyone who had the pleasure of miserable Manda during the time. I made my return for the 12 days of Christmas set and managed the 4K fine apart from the joys of now needing a toilet break mid swim. I’m also having to be a bit more selective on what costume to wear.


Week 16-20
No Christmas sea dip for me. Brian tried to suggest the baby needs to get used to the cold water asap and I totally agree but it was more the risk of getting sick again that stopped me.

I am still doing the sets I write, I have just stopped trying to do anything that is over 80% effort and anything that involves less breathing than normal.. Maybe I should stop including anything over 80% in my sets but then how would I inflict pain on Katie and the others?! I am also finding that I am not fatiguing as I was at the beginning so maybe that was just a first trimester thing.

Week 20-24
Over half way and perfect timing for a 10 minute time trial with Swim for Tri to see how much speed I’ve lost. Admittedly there was some tactical drafting going on (thanks Simon and Katie in the later stages) but I did 700m and as I can’t swim at max effort I was pleasantly pleased with that. Previous best was 725m.

I am still doing 4km for my weekend swim. The idea is to keep up this distance on the weekends for as long as possible, especially as I need to swim 5k for the swimathon.

Week 24-28
I have admitted defeat and invested in some size 36”(which is 2 sizes up from my usual size) swimming costumes.  The maternity ones are just fugly and don’t look like they have been designed with swimmers who actually want to swim frontcrawl so my plan is 36” for now.

It is only one month to go until Swimathon so I am still doing a long swim of 4km or longer a week to ensure I can cope with the 5k distance.  We even managed a cheeky 50*100m down at Charlton one weekend in preparation for Katie and Brian doing 100*100m in April. I plan to go along but probably not do the full 100..although.. No I won’t..I promise!!!

I also managed to demonstrate in week 26 how 1) I had lost my sense of balance 2) I am not designed to be on land by falling off a pavement when 100m from the entrance to the swimming pool.  My knees took the brunt but a week later I was back in the water…just ALOT slower for the week off (or maybe it was all the food I ate in Italy whilst I wasn’t able to swim!)

Week 28 – 32
I have admitted defeat part II.  I have a 2 piece.  I’m baffling the swimmers of London.  Female, pregnant, 2 piece, fast lane -> SAY WHAT?!? Although after my week out of the water following “pavement gate”, I probably don’t belong in the fast lane anymore.  sob sob sob.

Swimathon! I did it.  5k in 1:25.  My hope was under 1:30 but that was including me taking rests as needed, so I was chuffed!  I only took one break for about 45 seconds at 3km.  I even managed to get a shout out from Duncan Goodhew on twitter.



Week 32-36
No swimathon to train for but still have 3 weeks of the Winter River Challenge to go so still trying to get the 9641m a week done which means a 4k swim once a week.  There were 2 weeks where I didn’t make the weekly goal distance because I had to get out the water at Charlton 1.5k into a 4k swim as I was suffering badly from acid…oh the joys of being pregnant.  The following week I missed the target due to a combination of taking it easy for once and our Tuesday night session being cancelled.

Week 36-40
The winter river challenge is over!  I am still swimming.  On my last day of work we went for a dip at Kings Cross Pond Club but my already taut skin couldn’t take the cold water and felt like it was on the verge of ripping.  So I got out pretty quickly… ok VERY quickly!!  Very bizarre sensation.  Hoping the lido warms up (and I find my lido pass!) so I can get back in.

Photo: @ledavies

I went for a swim at Hampton on my own, whilst the others were busy training for the jubilee 10k in the lido and was pleased to report that I was the fastest person in the pool (..just!).

Week 40+

This is where the diary ends… And after a few weeks ordered rest I will be back training for Coniston 2016, which could be my biggest challenge to date.  Watch this space.

Special thanks to Swim For Tri, RG Active and #thisgirlcan for keeping me swimming and Katie and Simon for not kicking me out of the fast lane!

10 signs that you 💜 Open water swimming too much

1. You think that wearing and applying copious amounts of lube in public is perfectly acceptable.
2. You happily know what the acronyms CSPF, OSS, DYST mean but have no clue when people use FOMO, FWIW and IRL.
3. You buy clothes based on a criteria of 1) Will it keep you warm 2) will it be easy to put on when wet.
4. You’ve started to think Crocs are ok.
5. You consider going back to bed after open water swimming without having a shower.
6. The smell of wetsuit reminds you of summer.
7. You have to continuously cut your nails short for fear of ripping your very expensive wetsuit.
8. You wouldn’t get up at 5.30am to go to work EVER but it seems like a normal time to get up on the weekend for swimming adventures.
9. You order bodyglide in bulk.
10. You start every sentence with ‘this one time down at the lake/lido/Dover…’.

Thanks to usual gang for their ideas!

A Mermaid’s Christmas wish list

The festive season is fast upon us and if any mermaids are looking for ideas of what to ask Santa for, we have done some research for you!

Gift ideas get more expensive as the days of Christmas progress!

First day of Christmas:

A nice little stocking filler that brightens up any outfit, bag or hat.

“I’d rather be a Mermaid” badge

“Support your local lido” patch


or if badges aren’t your thing what about temporary tattoos.  I (Manda) think these are so cute and could easily be worn where only seen when swimming.. but then that would be waste!

Mermaids tattoo

Vintage swimmer tattoo


Second day of Christmas:

Now at Team Mermaids, despite our love of water, we are not all that keen on washing up but this tea towel is so cute we couldn’t resist.

Bathing beauties tea towel


Post cold swim every mermaid needs a cup of tea and this tea pot makes every cup of tea taste better.. we hope!

Swimmer Teapot


Third day of Christmas:

How about a bit of swimspiration, whether be pool based:

Dara Torres: Age is just a number – Dara’s tale of making a coming back and competing at the Olympic Games aged 42 just two years after having had a baby.

Or open water based:

Lynn Cox: Swimming to Antarctica – Lynn’s extraordinary story of her cold water swimming adventures culminating in her swim across the Bering Strait at the high of the cold war.

Both of these ladies are Team Mermaid’s heroines and their books are a fantastic read. (Reviews here)

Fourth day of Christmas:

It’s winter time so that means any excuse to wear a Pivo hat (The hats knitted by our friend Paul “Pivo” Tannahill) but because not everyone can get their hands on the exclusive Pivo hat here is an alternative



A Team Mermaids swim cap is a must! Contact us if you want one (cost = small donation to charity of Team mermaids choice)


Fifth day of Christmas:

It has to be the Team googles – Zoggs predator Flexes.  You can never have too many pairs.  Team Mermaids have never been able to justify the cost of these special light reactive pair (which go from clear to tinted depending on the level of sunlight) but it is Christmas after all!

ZOGGS predator flex reactors


Sixth day of Christmas:

No Christmas stocking is complete without a new costume.  I (Manda) am not sure I could pull this off… I mean who can but what a costume:

Pizza costume


If you are looking for something a bit more classic (i.e. something that wouldn’t cause Katie to disown Manda) choose something like this:

Speedo costume


If we were to compromise on our tastes in costumes we might end up with something like this:

Urban kitty costume


For our Mermen readers how about these? (Chosen by Brian)

Top Bloke trunks


Seventh day of Christmas:

Mermaids need to keep wrapped up warm when they are not in the water and what could be more perfect that this scarf with swimmers on!

Silk swimmer scarf


Eighth day of Christmas:

Sticking with accessories and out of the water clothing, Early Bird swimmers do some really nice gear and these tanks and t-shirts are perfect for swimmers.

Female tank

Male t-shirt


Also check out these t-shirts from lost lanes which are a fun alternative.

Mean girls mermaid t-shirt

I’m really a mermaid t-shirt


Or if you are a little sadistic you might fancy this skirt.

Jellyfish skirt


Ninth day of Christmas

Mermaids need plenty of bags to carry their stuff around.  If yours is looking a bit scruffy these are the perfect replacement.

Vintage swimmer tote


Vintage beach tote


This is our favourite rucksack for lugging our kit around.  Manda, Katie and Kate all have this one in different colours!

Speedo Rucksack

Tenth day of Christmas:

For those winter days when you want to reminisce about amazing summery lido those memories along with these gorgeous prints:

Lido time print


Brockwell Lido print


or if you fancy something a little bit more “motivational mermaid” like then here is our fav:

“Always be a Mermaid” print


Eleventh day of Christmas:

Team mermaids have been lusting after a Blue Seventy Sleeveless Helix.  Hopefully Santa is feeling generous..

Sleeveless Helix


Twelfth day of Chrtistmas:

After our trip to Slovenia with Strel there was a lot of chat about this trip.  Unfortunately due to various reasons none of us have made it out to the US for the trip.  One day!

Lake Powell with Strel Swimming


Swimtrek used to do a trip to Finland, which sounded amazing but sadly they stopped before any of us (apart from Suz) made it on the trip.  I (Manda) recently found this company who offer trips in Finland so something that I definitely want to do in the future.

Swimming Holiday Finland


Let us know if you have any other Christmas ideas..until then Happy Holidays!

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!) 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.