By Penguin masters swimmer, Jennifer Gambrell.
Last weekend, I joined 800 others to swim the Henley Thames Marathon. I swam the ‘half marathon’ distance, which covered 5.5km from Hurley to the Marlow Suspension Bridge. There was also a 10k swim option, which started closer to Henley and then joined in with the half distance route.
This was my first open water swim. I signed up in the middle of lockdown as something to look forward to and motivate me to get back in the pool once we were able. The river setting was good for a beginner as sighting was straightforward, there were minimal wakes and currents, and the multiple start-waves created generous spacing between swimmers.
The views while swimming were lovely. We passed by gorgeous residential areas, a grassy, tree-lined towpath, and a church garden where wedding photos were taking place. Spectators could walk the majority of the route, which was a lot of fun. Boat traffic was minimal, and the race had organized plenty of staff in kayaks to keep us safe and to one side of the river. The water temperature was around 18 degrees – most swimmers were in wetsuits, as the organizers required, though they did have a limited number of non-wetsuit slots. I’m far too acclimated to warm, indoor pools, so it was the wetsuit for me!
At the end of the race, I made sure to drink a can of Coke, which many fellow Penguins recommended to me as the ultimate cure for any river bacteria I might have come in contact with. This turned out to be sound advice. Now, back to the pool!