I was lucky enough to have snagged a spot in Henley Swim’s Thames Marathon on 14 of August 2022. It was a cloudless, gorgeous sunrise as I pulled into Marlow for the race packet pick-up and coach transfer from the event village to the start.
There were over 600 swimmers – including me – participating in the full marathon distance of 13km, and about 200 participating in the half distance of 5.5km which I swam last year.
Wetsuits were, thanks to the heat wave, made optional, but I stayed in mine for buoyancy and sun protection more than anything else!
The swim stretched along a beautiful part of the Thames from Henley to Marlow. I certainly wasn’t bored while swimming: there were gorgeous homes, grazing livestock, people walking along the river, and houseboats to keep me entertained. With three locks to cross on foot (with amazingly stocked fuel stations at each one!), the swim flew by. I said to some cows as I paddled along, “This might be the best way to spend a warm Sunday in August.”
Spectators were able to join at the final lock, about 1,800m from the finish, and walk alongside the river the rest of the way. It was so festive and a great moral boost.
The finish line was upbeat and full of great food options and the ever-important medal and t-shirt.
For anyone curious about the swim, both distances sell out early – I booked my spot last year in January. The first wave starts around 7am, so you will need to spend the night in Marlow the night before if you are relying on public transport to get you there.
I did most of my training in the pool mixed in with open water sessions at West Reservoir Centre. My goal was to swim at least the marathon distance in total each week, and this made the actual swim more than doable.
I swam to raise money for Swim Tayka, a charity that holds learn-to-swim and water awareness lessons in disadvantaged communities around the world.
My results: 4 hours, 6 minutes, including about 30 minutes eating Haribo at various fuel stations. I was 163/615 overall, and 50/262 in the female category.