Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Event Review : Swimathon

At the beginning of the year I was struggling to complete six lengths of front crawl without getting really puffed out. On Saturday I took part in Swimathon and completed 1.5km of front crawl in 38 minutes.

Of course I didn't just jump from six to sixty lengths just like that. I have been taking some lessons at my local Council-run pool and even psyched myself up enough to attend a trial session with the local Tri Club (all be it the day before swimathon). I've had three different teachers and learnt loads, although there's still a long way to go. But more on that another time.

Swimathon took place between Friday 17th and Sunday 19th April in pools up and down the country as a fundraiser event for Marie Curie. The people behind swimathon twitter account were doing a wonderful job of responding to mentions, getting involved in conversations, encouraging, retweeting and generally singing the praises of all involved. So over the course of Friday and Saturday I got quite excited about it all. Unfortunately, the organisation I experienced was somewhat lacking.

My session wasn't until 5pm on Saturday, at the pool where I have my lessons. In the email correspondence prior to the event we were advised to arrive half an hour before your start time so at 4:30pm I duly arrived at the pool reception and asked what the arrangements were. "Swimathon? I think that's over" said the guy behind the desk. On stating I had been given a 5pm time he revised his answer to admit that yes ok maybe it was going on after the kids pool party had finished. I took a seat and waited. Thankfully a few other swimathon-ers arrived and we all sat twiddling our thumbs for a while.

The kids session wound up and the lanes were set out. A group of adults hovered nervously poolside as the lifeguard announced that we could all get in the pool now. What? Huh? But what about checking in and swim hats and lap counters? It seemed there was regular adult swimming as well as swimathon and the life guards knew nothing about it. Eventually a lovely lady in a purple t-shirt with a clipboard arrived and handed out swim caps to those of us who didn't have our own (I was wearing my Team Bear cap so no official cap for me), ordered the lifeguards to clear a lane for us and explained how it would work.
There were eight of us in the session, identified by different coloured swim caps, set off at 10 second intervals. It turned out that we all had a similar pace and we had plenty of space so it made for quite a relaxing swim. I just concentrated on controlling my breathing and putting into practice the things I'd been taught. I very quickly lost count of my lengths but lady-in-purple was keeping track of us all and was happy to give us updates if we asked. I made it 26 lengths and had a short pause... almost half way! Then suddenly I was up to 40-something. Another pause. Two lengths to go! I'd done it!

I clambered out, feeling a bit trembly with exhilaration, and got my rough time (no stopwatch). Lady-in-purple was all smiles and congratulations, she could see it meant a lot to me, and told me to pick up my medal from reception on the way out. I was thrilled.

Sure enough there was a medal waiting for me at reception although it happened to have 5k on it. It seemed those were the only medals they had, which I found surprising seeing as they must have known how many people they had doing each distance and have been sent the right number of medals. I just hope that they had enough to give to people who really did swim 5k. I also found out that the first people to finish had to wait while it was acknowledged that medals even existed!
Hiding the 5k written on the medal...
So although the swimathon event as a whole is a fantastic idea, a great fundraiser and a wonderful goal event for people of all levels, the particular session I attended was rather poorly organised and it spoilt the occasion a little. I would enter the event again in a heartbeat although probably at a different pool. If the staff had been properly briefed and the organisation a little slicker it would have been an even better event.

Even if I don't feel I properly earned the particular medal I was given, I'm still really chuffed that I completed my challenge even if I've no idea how my pace rates in the scheme of things. I'd like to give a special mention to Rach who was super-supportive and encouraged me to take this on in the first place. Thank you! Maybe next year I'll really earn a 5k medal.

Did you take part in swimathon? What distance did you do? How was your experience at your pool? What other swimming challenges are coming up in your calendars?


  1. Congratulations. That organisation does seem crappy and the under-reaction of the staff must have taken the wind out your sails a bit, it would do the same for me!

    1. Thanks. Yeah it wasn't the best and I've fed back on the official survey, but I'm glad it appears to be an anomaly. Will definitely do it again and I think that's the test.

  2. Congratulations that's a great time for 1500m. Well done you!

    1. Thanks! I really had no idea if it was or not. I could well be a swimming convert :)

  3. Oh no, what a shame that it was badly organised, hope it didn't ruin the experience for you. You did great- congratulations!

    1. Once I was swimming I could forget about the other stuff and it's not put me off swimming so all's well that ends well. Thanks!