Swim Serpentine 2 Miles Challenge: Thoughts from A Slow Swimmer

September sees me taking part in the Swim Serpentine for the first time and I have a few thoughts as a slow swimmer. Swim Serpentine counts towards the London Classics medal, as long as you do the 2 miles in one go. Like many others it would see, I had a friend convince me that it would be a good idea. She had looked at previous competitor’s times and said that we could definitely do it!

Swim Serpentine 2 Miles Challenge London

Slow Rubbish Swimmer

Since it became painful to run I have been alternating how I exercise more. This has seen an increase in swimming, particularly as this is less pressure on the body. When I say swim I use that term loosely. Teen who used to be a member of swimming club tells me that my legs are all wrong – that I need to work on my kick. Also I hate so much as my ears getting wet, never mind my eyes and nose. Therefore, I am more a head up slowly bobbing along kind of person.

Training for Swim Serpentine

Looking at the plans training for Swim Serpentine is pretty much like training for a marathon. They are broken down into intervals, cross training, speed, and endurance sessions. Pretty much taking up a lot of days over a lot of weeks – just like the marathon.

I am not really a pool swimmer and doing that many lengths I find really boring. Plus it is important to note that the miles are full and not swimmer’s miles too! But a lot of the time the river hasn’t been safe to swim in for one reason or another – so training has been very scatty. Mostly people need to train to practice sighting, but this won’t affect me as I am a heads-up bobber. Also pool timings have restricted me so I have been just swimming for half an hour at a time – which I only get half a mile achieved.

Swim the Whole Distance

Unlike a marathon though it is suggested that you make sure you train up to the whole distance before the race. It is also important to have completed an open water swim if all your training has taken place in the pool.

Early on with a couple of friends we swam the two miles in the river. It was so beautiful and we saw both a Heron and a Kingfisher. It took us 3 hours and 10 minutes. However, that was against the current for one direction so we are hoping it will be easier.

heron seen on river whilst wild swimming

I struggled with cramp and was really hungry. It wasn’t a planned long swim we just kept going further so are hoping it will be easier if we have eaten properly in the build-up. Plenty of salts will help with cramp apparently. Also I am wondering if there’s any way of fuelling on the day.

Plus as it was the end of June we did this we are also aware that the temperature could be very different. Personally I am hoping that I will find it easier as I hate overheating!

Familiarising myself with The Swim Serpentine

For me it is important to be as familiar as I can be with Swim Serpentine. Whilst in London we visited Hyde Park so I could get my bearings. Have to admit I could have cried when I saw the size of the Serpentine Lake! Obviously two miles is two miles but it is eye-wateringly huge!

Preparing What to Wear

Skins for Serpentine

Typically I swim in skins with just swim shoes. That means a swimming costume not naked for anyone wondering! There was an awful period when it turns out that to swim in skins the water had to be so warm otherwise wetsuits were compulsory. Thankfully this has been changed.

Tow Floats

Tow floats are a requirement for those swimming in skins and so I bought a new one. Turns out it has nowhere to store things in though. Not such a big problem for me as my family are coming, but I will probably just end up using my old one. May need to remove the trusty Duck though. Or just with the organisers whether he can come along!

Thermal Rash Vest

Keeping in mind that I could be in the water for over three hours though I am a little nervous. There’s no way I would go full on wetsuit (although the buoyancy apparently helps a lot) but do keep considering whether a thermal rash vest would be a good idea. Also would this reduce the likelihood of my costume rubbing around my armpits?

Swim Shoes, Goggle and Hats

I am definitely wearing my swim shoes and have discovered that this is okay. I am not sure whether I need some goggles. This would be good for stopping people in faster waves splashing my eyes when they overtake. Also if I got UV ones they would be useful if it is really sunny. But if it is miserable then I would have spent money on the wrong ones! Plus what if I worry about them popping off. Things don’t tend to like staying on my head as I swim.

Which brings me onto hats. I believe that you have to wear a Swim Serpentine swim hat. It will have the number/wave on it or something. Not been asked anything about it so imagine they are standard size. My hair is really thick and will most likely just pop off. If this is the case then I am assuming this rules out swimming with a warm hat on – but I guess I should pack one for afterwards. People have suggested bringing pins and a pen to write your number on your hands too.

Things to Know About Swim Serpentine

There is a great group on Facebook – Swim Serpentine Training and the people there are great. Not only have they shared their journeys but also answered lots of questions. Here are some things that I have learnt:

  • It is recommended to arrive an hour before your swim, there’s a good atmosphere and coffee available apparently if you get there early!
  • Each one mile of Swim Serpentine is a clockwise loop of the larger lower section of the Serpentine.
  • You enter and exit via ramps into the water.
  • It is marked out with large inflatable buoys.
  • There are kayakers pretty much every 100 metres to help out if needed. Just put your hand up if you need a kayak to rest. Leg cramp is common!
  • The Serpentine is 5.3m deep but you can touch the bottom in parts.
  • Slower swimmers are advised to go wide around the turning buoys.
  • Spectators are allowed.
  • Previously there have been hot tubs at the end.

Anything else to Know?

Have you swum the Serpentine? Is there anything else to know that may be helpful?

I am hoping to pop to Dishoom before our swim

3 thoughts on “Swim Serpentine 2 Miles Challenge: Thoughts from A Slow Swimmer”

  1. I had a cross harbour swim 1.5km, but your excellent summary does help me boost up my thoughts + confidence to try my luck. All the best to your next adventure!


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