A tale of three swimathons

Back in January I (Manda) had what I thought at the time was an amazing idea (these things so often start this way…).  After doing the swimathon in 2016 at 30 weeks pregnant I asked myself what could I do it make it harder this year?  I know I thought let’s do the swimathon multiple times on one day and let’s also drag Katie along to share the pain!  For some reason Katie also thought this was a good idea and we started to look at logistics.  We originally discussed swimming in four sessions on the same day but we couldn’t find sessions that worked so we settled on attempting the 5km distance three times on the same day.  This is the tale of how our swims went.


Swimathon 1: Thornton Heath

Time: 06:30

Thornton Heath swimathon was meant to start at 6:30 so per the official swimathon email we turned up 30 minutes beforehand to find the centre didn’t open until 6:30. After some knocking on the door, shouting “SWIM-A-THON” through the glass doors and Katie doing some arm swinging action to represent swimming (I think?), the receptionist let us in. 6:30 came and along with the entire over 60s population of SE London, we made our way to poolside to discover there were only 3 of us doing it and we had one lane for us.  Things were a bit disorganised and we were allowed to wear our Team Mermaids hats rather than the official swimathon hat.  We were told we could start and Derrek sped off, whilst we casually dipped our toes in the water to discover it felt like a bath.  Admittedly my 10 month old baby is in training for UK Cold Water Swimming Championships 2019 and therefore, I might do his bath a bit too cold BUT the water was warmer than his bath! We had planned to do 5k straight for the first one, just to get it over and done with but after each 1k Katie wisely stopped to allow us a quick sup of nuun each.

Lane buddies: Derrek

Swim time: 1:19

Water Temp: at least 31

Hat Colour: Team Mermaids


Tooting Bec Lido

It was a glorious day on Friday so Katie suggested a dip at the lido and it didn’t disappoint. We only did 200 yards but it was lush! One of the regulars suggested we did more than 2 lengths but we furiously clinged on to our excuse of having to swim another 10k, whilst we hauled ourselves out of the pool.


Lane buddies: SLSC members and a duck

Swim time: 3 minutes

Water Temp: 12

Hat Colour: Team Mermaids


Swimathon 2: Pancras Leisure

Time: 15:00

This is a relatively new pool, which Katie loves because of the purple wall they have in the pool area.  We again arrived 30 minutes pre our swim start and slowly got ready.  Once on poolside we spoke to our lane buddies and tried to suss each other out.  The other lady in the lane had a garmin 920 XT, a gel and a nice swimming costume… she must be good!  I straight out asked the guy what time he was hoping to do and he said 1:16/1:17 so I said he should lead, whilst Katie gave him dagger eyes.  He kindly said that if we wanted to pass him just to tap his feet, but I explained we had already done 1 * 5km and had another one to go so we would either welcome the drafting (or extra drafting in my case!) or be taking it steady a long way behind him as 1:19 was more what we were aiming for.  Katie was made to leave 5 seconds after him and there was 5 seconds between me and Katie.  The first 100 I turned in 1:23.. WTAF!  I was trying to bridge the gap to Katie and unknown to me Katie was trying to bridge the gap to the man, which would have been great if the dude could have paced.  He managed to overtake us twice, first time being after 600m and second 1800m and then didn’t again… that’s all you need to know about his pacing!  After the 1:23 I decided to let Katie do what she wanted to do and I was just going to accept my fate and just plod as I didn’t want to suffer for this crazy pace later on.  She did settle down but it was still punchy hence the rather swift time we posted.


Lane buddies: Fast man with no passing and lady with pretty costume

Swim time: 1:15

Water Temp: 27 ish

Hat Colour: Pink (Katie), Black (Manda)


Swimathon 3: Balham

Time: 18:00

We picked Balham for the final swim due to (a) proximity to our houses and (b) because this is where Katie always used to do the swimathon when she was a kid.

I went home to feed my baby pre final swimathon.  I also minced around a bit at home as I thought it didn’t start until 18:30 and therefore, needed to be there AROUND 6.  17:55 I rocked up at Balham leisure centre, had a chat to Dennis and Max, who were just leaving after having seen Katie and then walked towards leisure centre.  At this point, still thinking I had 30 minutes until swim start time, I realised I had left my pre swim nutrition of a crème egg in my car, so went back!!  When I finally got to leisure centre reception, whilst shoving a crème egg in my mouth, I saw Katie and others on poolside ready to go.  Uh Oh!

I ran to poolside and dumped all my stuff there.  Fortunately everyone was super relaxed about the start time, which would have annoyed me normally, but actually was to my benefit this time.

After the excitement of St. Pancras and with no one to race we settled back in to our normal plodding pace with a couple of stops for Lucozade.  Katie even forced me to go in front for 2km which I was not happy about.

After 4100m, we had a final drink of water and then with a chant of “so near, BUT YET SO FAR” Katie pushed off and 900m later we were done.


Lane buddies: NO ONE 😀

Swim time: 1:19

Water Temp: 28 ish

Hat Colour: Black (Katie), White (Manda)


Thanks to all the leisure centre staff who counted our laps today (even if we didn’t always agree with your counting!), dealt with us rocking up early, rocking up late and generally just being enthusiastic about the event.

Well done to everyone else who completed the 2017 swimathon especially to honorary mermaids Laura and Josie!


Now what to do for 2018?



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!

Swimathon – the 2016 edition

Over the last few years Team Mermaids have participated in the Swimathon and it is now starting to feel like the opening event of the season.  While it can often be several more weeks before we actually race again it feels good (if somewhat scary) after a winter full of interval training to get in the pool and swim continuously for 5km.

As we did in 2015 we decided to swim on Friday night at Chelsea Sports Centre just off the Kings Road.  This proved to be a good choice again.  The session was nice and quiet and Kate, Manda and I (Katie) ended up having a lane to ourselves.  The staff at Chelsea are also lovely and remembered us from last year, which meant we got extra snacks at the end.

This year Sports Relief were trying to drum up a bit of competitive spirit before the event and allocated everyone a team colour.  The idea was that the teams would compete for who raised the most money, who had the most supporters and other things.  I was #teamgreenswim, Manda was #teamyellowswim and Kate was #teamwhiteswim.  Our teams were then meant to correspond to the colour of our hats on the day of the event.  Unfortunately this year the hats were TINY.  I could barely fit is over two-thirds of my hair and even then I looked like Shrek with my ears popping out the side.  I therefore had to wear my own #teammermaids hat!


When I swum in 2015 baby Max was just 10 weeks old and it took all the effort I had to drag myself through the 5km finish in 1.26.11.  Manda however zipped past me every 500m to speed home in 1.16.28.

In 2016, however, our situations were sort of reversed with Manda due to have her baby in 10 weeks’ time and me FINALLY back to where I was before having Max.  Strangely we almost reversed times as well with Manda finishing in 1.25.38 and me finishing in 1.16.43.  Team Mermaids always queens of pacing (self-titled) even if it is copying each other’s pace!


Kate also swum a PB of 1.26 – well done Kate!  On stopping the lane counter insisted that she had another 6 lengths to go despite us all being sure that Kate had finished (in Garmin swim we trust).


Well done to everyone who swam over the weekend, especially to Josie and Emily who completed 5k for the first time and to Laura who swam the 2.5k event.  Team Mermaids are proud of you!


Winter Challenge update – half way! 31/12

The 31st December not only marked the end of 2015 but also the end of the first three months of the Team Mermaids 2015/16 winter challenge. We have just another four months left to complete the challenge.

Our challenge this year is to swim the distance of the ten longest rivers in the UK. The total distance is 2,347km. So after the three month point how is it going? Well in short not very well! To be on course to complete the challenge we would need to have completed 1,046km by 31 December 2015 and we have currently swum 539km between us. A massive 507k behind! Brian is currently leading the way with 107k swum, which makes him just 55k short of having swum the River Nene on his own. Katie is in second place having swum 103k.

So far we have swum the length of the River Nene and River Spey and are half way along the River Clyde.


So what are our plans to speed progress along?!

  • Eat more cake so we feel guilted into swimming more (although this has not been that successful in the past)
  • Tell Brian that Manda and I are beating him – he will then increase his swimming
  • The Team Mermaids pool crawl is making a return on 7th February – so we can make sure the others do more swimming!
  • We are attending the SwimForTri training weekend in April – that should be a few ks in the bag!
  • Swimathon – Kate, Manda and I are all booked in to do the Swimathon on 18th March.

Oh dear! I am thinking this might become with Winter Challenge 2016/17 as well!

Cross training for swimmers – the benefits of Pilates

“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, in 30 you’ll have a whole new body” Joseph Pilates

As mermaids get let’s say slightly older they are less able to swim every day and cross training – building fitness in different ways – becomes even more important.

One of our favourite forms of training outside the pool is Pilates.  The concept of Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in Germany in the early 20th century.   Pilates is based on six principles: concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.  Classes generally include a series of stretching and strengthening exercises focusing on developing the deep core muscles.  This strengthens the whole body and helps to prevent injuries – essential for making it though the long open water swimming season.

“In swimming, speed comes directly from the core,” says Dana Torres, “so Pilates helps immensely!”

Apart from the core strength you get that helps the swimming it also helps you understands minute movements of your body and how great an impact they have and how you can control them.  This sounds familiar because in swimming, where technique is so important and you can find yourself debating the positioning of the thumb on entry into the water, it is paramount to make tiny adjustments to your stroke that will have a significant impact, so understanding this out of the water can only aid these adjustments in the water.

Whereas at Team mermaids we TRY to breathe bilaterally as much as we can, we often resort to one sided breathing.  This can lead to misalignment and a strong and weak side, which in turn can and has led to issues for us.  Pilates helps ensure that you are giving time and strength to your weak side.  Additionally, we know how much the body loves to resort to the easy option and use 1 muscle instead multiple (specifically of concern for swimming with the complex shoulder taking so much of a battering), pilates allows you the time to build those muscles that have “switched off”

There are two main types of Pilates classes; reformer and mat.  Reformer Pilates involves undertaking the exercise on a bed type machine, which increases the resistance and stretching elements of the exercise.

Our favourite place for reformer classes is Frame in Shoreditch.  Classes are good value (£16) whereas classes at other studios can be £20 – £25.


We have both done reformer Pilates from about three years now and when I was going to at least one class a week I really noticed the different in terms of my core strength which in turn helped my swimming.

My (Katie) favourite teacher is Rhos.  He really really pushes you in classes and his no nonsense attitude is always amusing.  Manda loves Sara whose classes are often more rehab focused and great if you are recovering from an injury.  Maisie is also great for pregnancy Pilates classes.  Our friend Kimberly was doing her classes up until about 6 weeks before she popped.

Frame have just opened a new studio in Kings Cross which we are going to have to check out.

We are both more experienced at reformer Pilates but while I have been off on maternity leave I have been doing mum and baby mat Pilates classes with Katie Francesca in Balham.


Not only does she have a fantastic name but she runs great classes.  The classes are really challenging and you always feel like you have had a great workout.  Katie explains different levels for the exercise though so you can exercise at the right level for you.  Katie always has a fun 80s playlist as well!

I have really enjoyed the classes and they have been great for building up my core strength again after having had the baby.  They are going to be the thing is miss most about maternity leave!

If you are looking for something to do outside of the pool then we would definitely recommend giving Pilates a try.


Update 2017

I (Manda) continued using Pilates pre and post natal to complement my swimming and ensure I stayed fit and strong for carrying a growing baby bump, giving birth and for all the challenges post birth.  I actually did a class the Wednesday before giving birth on the Saturday and I had been booked in to do the Saturday class but I was somewhat busy giving birth so had to miss it!

Pre Natal

Whilst pregnant I did a physio (Madia) led pilates class at ReCentre in Balham.  The class was a slow class with only a few people so that you could ensure you were doing all the mat based moves correctly.

I enjoyed the small class nature and it was on a Saturday morning so could fit in pre swimming.

To complement the above class I did a class once a week with Katie from Katie’s pilates (see above).  I got so much satisfaction from this class as it was HARD and would often end up in a proper sweat.  The 2 classes whereas, both are pilates, they were so different and I really liked how they balanced each other out.

I also did Yoga at Yogahaven on a Sunday morning led by Toni.  It was a great class and I always left feeling mentally better about the challenges ahead than when I arrived.

Post Natal

ReCentre do a post natal class on Sunday but I was busy at the lido on Sunday’s over the summer.

Instead I attended Katie’s both buggylates and mum and pilates.  Being outside doing buggylates was amazing for someone who prefers to be outside and seeing weekly improvements made the classes all the more sweeter.

Now I am back at work I don’t have a chance to do pilates and boy does my body know it – I hope to find a Katie’s class than works with my family’s schedule as like we said above you need to compliment the swimming with the strength work.

Swimathon 2015 – I never thought that swimming 5k could be so hard!

Back in January I (Katie) blogged about my experiences of swimming the Swimathon over the past 25 years from my first swim aged 10 to taking part last year as part of my hen weekend. I also mentioned that I was expecting a baby at the end of January and Swimathon 2015 was going to be my first serious swim since having the baby.

This was my first baby and I was very unprepared for how tough it was going to be getting back in the water and how slooooow I was going to be compared to ‘normal’. After the obligatory six weeks I was ready to start training. I started slowly just doing 1km at a time but by the time the Swimathon came round the longest swim I had done was 3.5k a long way short of the 5k Swimathon. I owe tones of thanks to my husband Dennis and my Mum Liz for parenting /babysitting for me while I swam.

Team mermaids with the mini merman
Team mermaids with the mini merman
Max wishing mummy good luck
Max wishing mummy good luck

It was therefore with quite a bit of trepidation that I turned up with Manda to Chelsea Manor Swimming Pool on the evening of Friday 17th of April. Chelsea was the perfect place swim for us. The pool is lovely with lots of historical features including a mural of 1920s Chelseaites. The session was pretty quite and Manda and I had a lane to ourselves which was amazing. The staff were lovely and friendly especially Kirsty who was organising the event. Neither of us had ever swim there so it was also another swim for the Winter Pool Challenge!!

This was definitely one of the toughest swims I have done but I made it through – even doing a bonus 100m through my awful counting. Manda finished in a fantastic time of 1.16.30 – well done Manda! I finished in a respectable 1.26.11 which given how tough I have been finding swimming I was pleased with.

Katie finishing the swimathon
Katie finishing the swimathon
The medal!
The medal!

Roll on 2016!!!

2.5km training sets

**UPDATED 25/02/17**

These ~2.5km sets are ideal if you are training for the 2.5km individual swimathon.  Even if you aren’t they are good bases for any training especially if you are normally just a “plodder”.

We have a page for 3k sets in a 30m pool.  If you are training in a 25m pool then you can do these sets and they will then come to 2500m.  Check them out here: 3K / 30m

Also see 3k sets (come on it is only an extra 500m.. you can do it!)

and maybe even 4k?!

or 5+k set?


Set 1

Warm up:

4*100m.  1L free, 1L pull, 1L catchup,1L kick.  20 Seconds rest between each 100m

200m Alternating even lengths breathing every 2, odd lengths breathing every 3.


Take 20 seconds rest between each interval  and swim all at 75% (apart from where says otherwise).  The first 50m should be the same as the last one.







10*50m @ 80%.  30 seconds rest between each 50m.







Swim down: 250m easy free/backstroke. Thinking about perfect stroke.

Total distance: 2400m

Set 2

Warm up:

100m free

75m pull

50m clenched fist up,full stroke back

25m kick

X 2

8*25m build.  Start off length slow and then build to sprint by end of length.


400m @ 70%

2*200m 30 seconds rest between @ 75%

4*100m 20 seconds rest between @ 80%

8*50m 15 seconds rest between @ 85%


swim down: 200m easy

Total distance: 2500m


200m free

200m fingertrail

200m alternating clenching fists up and fingers wide on down

100m doggy paddle

Main set:

5*400m with 1 min rest between interval

1) @ EASY thinking about good technique

2) @ MODERATE increase enough whilst maintaining technique

3) @ HARD full out..GO FOR IT

4) @ MODERATE.  Maintain technique whilst fatiguing

5) @ EASY concentrating on technique

Swim down: 200m.. anything BUT front crawl.

Total: 2900m


100m free

100m drill of choice

100m pull

100m kick

8*25 build (start length off slow but by end of length you are sprinting) with 20 seconds rest between each length.

Main set:

5*100m @ 75% 20 Seconds rest (SR)

100m easy

5*100m @ 75% 15 SR

100m easy

5*100m @ 75% 10 SR

Swim down: 200m easy.  Thinking about technique.

Total: 2500m


This set is in lengths.  Depending on pool length this set can range from 2350m (25m pool) and 4700m (50m)


10L DRILL (pausing at end of each length if needed)

6L alternating 1L kick 1L pull


10L PULL @ STEADY (75%)

10L 2 HARD, 1 KICK, 1 EASY, 2H, 1 KICK, 1 EASY, 2 HARD

5*2L 10SR 1 60%,2 70% 3 75% 4 80%, 5 85%


10L 2E, 2M, 2H, 2E, 2M




25m -> 2350m

30m -> 2820m

33.3m -> 3130m

50m -> 4700m


200 swim
100 pull
100 swim
100 catch up
200 8*25m/4*50m build over the length.  15 SR
15 SR rest between each swim.  1 min after each block
50 Pull
100 @60%
50 kick
100 @70%
50 Finger trail
100 @80%
50 Pull
200 @60%
50 kick
200 @70%
50 Finger trail
200 @80%
50 Pull
100 @60%
50 kick
100 @70%
50 Finger trail
100 @80%
150 swim down


250 SWIM


200 SWIM


150 SWIM






300 EASY, MOD, HARD * 4






TOTAL: 2500m


400m swim

200m drill.  Can breakdown into 8*25m or 4*50m etc

200m alt pull / kick

400m @ 70% 30 SR

200m @ 80% 30 SR

400m @ 70% 30 SR

200m @ 80% 30 SR

400m @ 70% 30 SR

200m swim down.  Not freestyle.

TOTAL: 2600M


300 swim

200 pull

200 catch up

4*150 50 E, 50 M, 50 H 20 SR

6*100 1st 100 Easy, 2nd 100 medium, 3rd 100 hard.  Repeat again.  15 SR




Total: 2500m

SET 10

100 swim

50 pull

100 swim

50 kick

100 swim

50 pull

100 swim

50 kick

100 pull @ 75%

100 swim @ 85%

100 swim @ 60%

200 pull @ 75%

200 swim @ 85%

200 swim @ 60%

300 pull @ 75%

300 swim @ 85%

300 swim @ 60%

400 swim down

total: 2500m

SET 11

150 swim

100 pull

50 kick

X 3 to get you to 900m


100 HARD


200 PULL

4*100 HARD with decreasing rest between. 1) 20 sr, 2) 15 sr, 3) 10sr

200 PULL


100 HARD



Total: 2500m



My 25 years of the Swimathon

Regular swimmers in the UK will not have failed to miss all the advertising at their local pool for the 2015 Swimathon. This has made me think back on the times I have taken part in the Swimathon over the last nearly 25 years.

The Swimathon is a swimming challenge which absolutely everyone who loves swimming can take part in. Distances range from 1.5km to 5km and you can complete as a team or an individual. The Swimathon raises money for some great charities. It doesn’t matter how much you can raise – all donations are welcome.

I first took part in the Swimathon when I was 10 years old at Balham Leisure Centre. I don’t remember this but my mum said I had a really bad cold and was really not well enough to swim 5km. However, I was determined I was going to do it and when I have set my mind to something there is really not a lot of stopping me. I managed to make it through and completed in around 2h and 45mins.

I did the Swimathon each year after that at Balham until I was 16. Highlights included the year that Neil Pearson of drop the 1990s cult show Drop the Dead Donkey fame started us off. My fastest time for the event was 1h and 12m in 1996.

Katie's sister Clare and Neil Pearson at the swimathon in c.1995
Katie’s sister Clare and Neil Pearson at the swimathon in c.1995

After I went to University I didn’t do the Swimathon for a number of years until Kate persuaded me to join her at London Fields Lido for the event in 2011. London Fields is a great pool for the Swimathon as it is a heated outdoor 50m pool. The day was lovely and sunny and my mum, uber Team Mermaids supporter cycled over from SW London to watch. The event was somewhat chaotic in its organisation and it was with a sinking heart that I saw the competitor in front of me get in and start swimming breaststroke (you are meant to be sorted into lanes of people of similar speed). One of the advantages of a 50m pool over a 25m pool though is that you only have to try and pass slower swimmers half as often!

Kate and Katie at the start of the 2013 swimathon at London Fields Lido
Kate and Katie at the start of the 2011 Swimathon at London Fields Lido

I finished in 01:19:30 (slightly ashamed that my 16 year old self was so much faster) and Kate finished in 01:31:00.

Katie at the end of the 2013 swimathon at London Fields Lido
Katie at the end of the 2011 swimathon at London Fields Lido

I didn’t manage to swim in 2012 as I was at a friend’s hen do the weekend of the Swimathon but Kate and Manda both made it back to London Fields for the event. Manda finished in 01:21:00 and Kate finished in 01:30:00 (1 min faster well done Kate!)

Manda and I decided we wanted to try and swim at a good and quiet time in 2013. We therefore decided to swim at Putney Leisure Centre on a Friday evening. Our rationale was only swimming losers like us would want to give up their Friday night to do the Swimathon. In this respect we were right and there were people of similar speeds in our lane making it much easier to just keep going. In all other respects though the night was a disaster! About 2.5km in Manda hit her hand on a metal hook sticking out of the pool badly bruising it and she had to get out. After having cycled about 20 miles that day I kept on getting really awful cramp in my calves and kept on having to stop to stretch. The life guard kept on asking me if I wanted to get out. No way! Mermaids never quit! I finally trailed in in 01:23:44. My 16 year old self is becoming increasingly ashamed of me!

After our 2013 experience we decided to give 2014 a miss. Plus the weekend of the Swimathon was also the weekend schedule for my hen weekend! My amazing friend Alison though knows me too well and after a 3am night of drinking she had entered us into the Swimathon on Sunday morning at the London Olympic Pool no less! Knowing we wouldn’t be up to much Alison had only entered us into the 1.5k team event rather than the full 5k individual event. Swimming in the Olympic Pool was such a fantastic experience thinking you were swimming in the same pool as all the greats from London 2012. To cap the day off we got to get our picture taken with British Olympic legend Duncan Goodhew who won Gold in the 100m Breaststroke at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games!

London 2012 Olympic Pool for the 2014 Swimathon
London 2012 Olympic Pool for the 2014 Swimathon
Us with Duncan!
Us with Duncan!

So that brings us up to date! Looking forward to 2015….I am due to have my first baby at the end of January 2015 so I am hoping to be back in sufficient shape to swim this year on the weekend of 17 – 19 April although I’m sure not in a time my 16 year old self would be impressed with!

For those of you who are keen details of the 2015 Swimathon are below.