10k in 10 days

I had a few ideas about how to complete the marathon swimming event but, in the end, it was just about making the time and doing it – in stages.

At the beginning of this year I’d never swum a stroke of front crawl but two local leisure centres came to the rescue and kindly arranged some lessons for me.

My front crawl is still a work in progress and I’ve been swimming regularly at Charlton Lido since April – trying to improve my technique and stamina in preparation for the triathlon that’s lurking in the Freyathlon calendar.

Balmy Charlton Lido
Balmy Charlton Lido

The outdoor pool at Charlton is heated to a balmy 25c and it’s quite something to see the mist rising from the water on the colder, early mornings. On a couple of my visits there’s only been two or three of us in the pool but that’s starting to change as the weather warms up. At the beginning of May, I took a week’s holiday from work to spend as much time as possible at the pool and get closer to the magical distance of 750m (the swim leg for a sprint distance triathlon).

Once I was able to swim 750-800m, using a combination of front crawl and breaststroke, I simplified my plans to complete the marathon swimming event and set a goal to swim 1000m a day for 10 days, starting on 1 June.

The programme

On the first day I drove to the pool, swam 1100m, then headed home for breakfast before travelling to NW London for a Heritage Crafts Association trustees meeting. The endorphins were fierce.

Endorphined up! First 1000m completed
Endorphined up! First 1000m completed

On day two I cycled to the pool, swam 1100m, then cycled to work in Welling. Apologies to my colleagues for my perky demeanour and mini-duathlon chat.

I managed 1400m on day three, then cycled to work in Abbey Wood, and 1050m on day four – before heading to Mountsfield Park for the modern pentathlon. After which I had an afternoon nap.

Day five involved a synchronised swimming rehearsal with the Dive-In Belles at Tooting Bec Lido and a lunch in NE London, and there was no way to fit a swim into the day. But the rehearsal went well and lunch was delicious.

After completing the mountain biking event at the VeloPark, I headed to SE London to plough up and down the pool for 1100m on day six. My legs were heavy and it was a tough session.

Flags at Charlton Lido
Flags at Charlton Lido

For day seven I got to the pool with enough time to crack through 1500m before taking a bus to a 10am work meeting in Woolwich. I slept well that night.

I managed two more mini-duathlons on days eight and nine – cycling to the pool, swimming 1000m and 1100m respectively, then cycling to work. Apologies to my colleagues for my near-constant eating and chirpy attitude.

Day 10 started at Tooting Bec Lido with a synchronised swimming rehearsal (our first practice in the pool) and finished with a glorious 1050m at Charlton Lido. If I’d remembered to take my purse I’d have treated myself to a celebratory lunch in the rooftop café.

10k done!
10k done!

Some stats

Between 1 and 10 June I swam 10,400m – including 200m for the modern pentathlon.

Between Sunday (day five) and Friday (day 10) I covered 96.06km – on foot, on bike, and in the pool – and I was active for 20.30 hours. Which doesn’t include the time I spent at the VeloPark or the distance covered on the VeloPark’s MTB trails and velodrome track.


What I learned about swimming every day

  • I prefer swimming first thing in the morning
  • I can cycle, swim, cycle – good brick training for a triathlon
  • You’ll sleep a lot
  • You’ll eat, and want to eat, a lot
  • Planning your food is really important – and it’s a great help if someone does this for you (thank you Trace!)
  • It’s worth packing your bag the evening before so there’s less chance of you changing your mind
  • You’ll start admiring other swimmers’ swimsuits and swim caps
  • You’ll have some great conversations with other swimmers
  • You’ll need more than one swimsuit

And I have a new obsession – my collection of swim wear and accessories is starting to rival my cycling attire collection.


Marathon swimming. 10k. 1-10 June 2016

Charlton Lido

Cost: Without membership, £5 for adults, £3 for children