The Lock to Lock course, set deep in the Oxfordshire countryside is typically British - a few rolling hills, farmland, woodland and all brought together with the river as the main feature of the race. If you were going to advertise the charming British countryside in late summer; Swimrun Lock to Lock does it perfectly.
As much as I love racing with my team mate in Swimrun races, entering Lock to Lock Swimrun as an individual offered something a little different - it was 100% down to me. The course was slightly shorter than those I was used to which meant racing a little differently. Instead of pacing myself over the distance, I could forget about things and just race as hard as I liked.
It was a cloudless sky, fairly firm under foot and the water temperature was a ‘balmy’ 16 degrees or so. With a 1.2k swim, 7k run, 1.6k swim, 320m ‘Dash’, 1k swim and finally a 6k run to finish, the event is slightly more weighted towards the swimmer. This is a refreshing change from the majority of Swimruns. That’s certainly not to say that the running is easy. There are some juicy hills to lift the heart rate and give the runners a chance to pull back lost time. It’s probably the perfect course in terms of manageability for the newcomer. But at the same time being long and hard enough for the more seasoned races if pushing things full gas!
The race itself all seemed to flow seamlessly, there were marshals where needed, signage was plentiful and there was ample time to immerse yourself in the beauty of your surroundings. Also being set along a river meant that you did not really have to worry too much about sighting and going wrong (which many may find reassuring compared to open water). At the finish the time keepers were all very helpful and it was wonderful to be greeted by bottomless cups of tea and squash and more cake than one could hope to eat - again it felt quintessentially British!
Being at the back end of summer gives all competitors plenty of time to prepare. For the novice, this can be a culmination of training and racing towards their first Swimrun. Equally, if you’ve raced your heart off all summer, it can be a great way to cash in on your fitness as you sign off the season. Either way some preparation is going to be key for an enjoyable swimrun race. One must prepare for the added load of swimming with shoes on with some swims with some sort of drag. Furthermore, if you intend to swim with hand paddles, they require a decent amount of strength endurance. Therefore, plenty of lengths with hand paddles in preparation will pay dividends come race day. Finally testing out kit for racing must all be done prior to race day. Make kit doesn’t chaff and fits properly plus any pull buoys don’t get in the way on the runs yet help you on the swims!
What I loved about this race was the informal nature. Whilst it felt natural and easy going, you knew full well it was being run in a safe and professional manner. For those looking to try their hand at Swimrun, this race offers the perfect spring board into the sport. I have raced Swimrun races all over Europe and it’s reassuring to know that there are such great locations a short drive away offering opportunities to immerse yourself in nature for a few sweaty hours.
Alan Scott is part of the Clapham Chasers Running & Triathlon Club. He has qualified and competed in numerous triathlons and Ironmans including the Ironman World Champs and has competed twice at the Otillo Swimrun World Champs with a highest finish of 5th place.