In traditional fashion, I like to enter events on a whim, to enter things that sound cool but I am often grossly unprepared for.
The epitome of this was my first triathlon, Blenheim, in which I turned up on race day having never worn a wetsuit, never swum in open water, and never ridden a road bike. My entry to my first SwimRun half stump was another such event; a summer of grinding up hills on a vintage road bike had slightly curbed my love of cycling, and I was enjoying swimming at a local lake, so I thought “why not?”, despite knowing nothing about the sport.
I turned up on race morning filled with trepidation, having googled SwimRun the night before, and realised I had absolutely none of the suggested kit, and had no idea where I was going or how to transition. Luckily, I needn’t have worried, the Swim Oxford team countered all my concerns and luckily, for the half stump (with only one transition), a triathlon wetsuit, goggles and a pair of trainers was all I needed!
The sun started to come up as we waited on the riverbank. My next worry was now the water temperature, as I really feel the cold. This was quickly put to shame as the people around me stated that they swam in this river all through the winter! We jumped in, and all my fears faded away as I started to swim, meandering down the river as the mist rose up, old woodland on either side, spurred on by the rhythmical splashing behind me.
Aided by a slight current, the swim was over all too quickly, and I clambered out to find my transition bag laid out waiting for me. The run course was as beautiful as it was hilly, winding up and up through the ancient woods – and then enjoying a fast downhill, careening down slightly out of control, and leaping over logs and fallen branches. After reaching the transition point again, I realised that the finishing line was in fact halfway up the hills again!
Those last few hills felt hard, but finally the finish line was in sight at the brow of the hill, and there was one last push before being greeted by excited spectators, volunteers, finishers, and the surprising news that I had somehow finished as first female! The display of cakes at the line was a welcome site. After now having done a few Swim Oxford events, I can honestly say that the cakes afterwards, handed over with hot coffee and more congratulations, make anything we have done worth it. I loved the whole experience, and I couldn’t wait to do it again the next year, where the hills felt just as hard, but I managed to retain my crown.
This event really consolidated my love for open water swimming and trail running. I love the adventure, being surrounded by nature, the lack of contrived-ness that you find in other sports.
This year, after a chance meeting with another swim-runner in the pool, I decided to enter the 10km swim, despite never having swum further than 5km. Although I was so unprepared, I knew if I wanted to try the distance, then it would be my best bet to swim it with this club.
Race morning was overcast and chilly, but the views were beautiful, the river had a helpful flow, and there were supporting kayakers everywhere. The stops to walk around the locks were opportunities to eat as many jelly babies as possible, and the 3ish hours flew by. I loved every part of it.
These events have given me an opportunity to challenge myself, to test my limits, to not overthink it and just embrace the adventure. I can’t recommend these events enough. If you’re unsure, just jump in.
If you would like a swim run adventure, set in beautiful surroundings with a safety crew to assist, go for the Lock to Lock SwimRun next month.
You might feel like you have not trained as you much as you could then go for the the half stump, or extend your experience with the full stump, with either you will have a supportive group of volunteers, an epic location and amazing tea and cakes. Find out more and sign up at swimoxford.co.uk