Marathon Swims

I’m writing this blog on my phone on the train back from London, so it probably won’t represent my finest work, but it’ll at least kill 10 or 15 minutes of the journey.

As mentioned in the last blog, I took part in the inaugural Marathon Swims 5km event at the Olympic Aquatics Centre today.
Here’s my three word review if you’re not inclined to read any further: Tougher than expected.

Still with me? Allow me to expand.

I came into this thing aiming for a time of 1.45 to 2 hours. Where I’d plucked this target from, given that I don’t ever count or time my lengths, I have no idea, but it sounded good so I went with it.

Beyond this, though, I knew that all I really needed to do was come in under 2.30, as going beyond this would mean not getting a time, and missing out on the all important medal.

I arrived in the capital yesterday afternoon for a tune-up in the pool of champions, deciding to swim 1km in order to multiply my time by five to produce an actual educated estimate as to my finish time.

The result was alarming to say the least.

I touched in 29 minutes. Multiply that by five, add in transition time, factor in fatigue… you do the maths.

Fanciful thoughts of a 1.45 finish now consigned to the scrapheap, I adjusted my ambition to simply get around and earn that medal.

And so, to race time this morning, and the excitement of event day at the Olympic pool. Having pledged to put aside any concerns arising from yesterday’s alarming final warm-up, I focused on simply enjoying the occasion.

The event was brilliantly organised, and really offered that grand sense of occasion I was looking for. The PA announcer chappy (whose voice I definitely recognised, but was unable to put a name to) announced each swimmer idividually, until finally it was my turn.

“From Birmingham, dressed all in green today, please welcome TOM PARKER!”

*SPLOSH*. In I went.

It wasn’t until I was on about length four of one hundred that I realised, amid all the anticipation, I’d forgotten to look at the clock as I began, so had no idea how I was doing for time… and I was very glad of this indeed. I figured I’d do better to get my head down, relax and enjoy it, rather than stress about timings.

So I plodded on. Each 50m length sapped a bit more energy, and it was bloody tough going. But I was in control, and that’s all that mattered.

Before I knew it, the first kilometre was done. The second seemed longer but still reasonably comfortable. Then came the halfway point, where the tiredness really seemed to set in, but the psychological effect of knowing I was over the hump spurred me on.

Taking time out for some water and an energy gel before the final kilometre, I was actually feeling reasonably good. In so much as I hadn’t yet passed away.

Then everything started to go wrong. First my foot began to cramp up. The 4.5km mark saw a quick, sharp, painful pull on my right hamstring, followed almost immediately afterwards by a similar sensation in my left calf.

Swimming now almost exclusively with my arms, predictably my biceps started to tighten uncomfortably.

Take it from me, attempting to swim with both arms and both legs refusing to function is not fun.

But I needed to get through the final ten lengths, so I got my head down and plowed on, driven by thoughts of family, the charities I’m supporting, and by promising myself a pizza and some beer tonight.

And so, finally, I made it across the finish line, where my medal was quickly hung around my neck. They didn’t seem to check my time at all, meaning that my fears of being denied one seemed fairly redundant.

As for my finishing time, a few backwards calculations lead me to believe it was around 2.20… but I’m not concerned about that.

This was, undoubtedly, the most intense physical challenge I’ve ever put myself through. A bit of a grandiose claim in comparison to feats achieved by others, but they may not have spent the vast majority of their adult lives eating too much and moving too little to the extent I did!

I’m massively proud of my accomplishment, and hope to return next year, when maybe I’ll have progressed enough to go for that 1.45 target? Or perhaps not!

One last thing – I put myself through this in order to raise funds for two great charities in the shape of LoveBrum and VICTA. Any donations at would be hugely appreciated.

You know they would. They really would.

Thank you.


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