Last weekend (22/09/2018) Hannah (my wife) and I took part in an open water swimming event in London’s Hyde Park. The event was called Swim Serpentine, and it is organised by the same people who organise the London Marathon. As per the name, the event is run in one half of the Serpentine, and offers 800m, 1 mile and 2 mile options for competitors to take part in.
My wife has completed the London Marathon, and is after the London Classics medal, so being an ex-swimmer this was the next step! Hannah entered the 2 mile event, whereas I entered the 1 mile.
The London Classics finishers medal (photo courtesy of London Classics)
On the day I have to say the weather was miserable! It was raining fairly heavily all day, and the air temperature was the same if not lower than the water temp (17.2 when we were swimming). The event itself however I have to say was pretty well organised. The signage through the park to the event was plentiful, starting from the park edge. Once at the event village, there were big screens on both sides displaying the different waves, safety brief and start times. Changing, bag drop and entry was done via a 1-way system, leading to the start. There was quite a bit of congestion here, and all agreed that both the changing rooms and the bag drop areas need to be larger, as they were very crowded, and there was a substantial queue of people at bag drop just in costumes or wet suits. I felt sorry for those swimming in just costumes, it must have been very cold for them standing around!
The course as seen from the shore
However once past this point personally from then on the event was run well. In the start pens the briefing was easy to hear and see, even at the back in the areas marked for slower swimmers. The different areas depending on speed were well marked, with plenty of room. There was also a lifeguard manned plunge area for those who wished to acclimatise before starting. Post brief there was little delay in starting, which was via a sloped ramp into the lake. People were being released in blocks of 15-20 to give plenty of space at the start, which was great. There were plenty of volunteers and lifeguards at the start ramp as well, helping people enter the water safely. Being a chip timed event, it didn’t matter, as your time is recorded individually at the start and finish ramps by walking over a mat.
Once in the water on the swim, I found the route was well marked out with large yellow buoys regularly spaced marking the inside of the course, and red buoys on the outer edge. The turns at either end were marked by purple buoys. There were also lots of safety boats and kayakers out, which was good to see, and I expect re-assuring for the less experience swimmer. The marked lanes were nice a wide as well, giving plenty of room for civilised overtaking of other participants as needed. The course was a 1 mile loop, so for me it was just one lap before heading in to the exit ramp. There was a clearly marked exit ramp, again with lots of lifeguards on hand to haul you out of the water if your legs were a bit shaky!
Those doing the 2 mile had a second lap, which was well marked by an orange channel marker, with a kayaker manning the end to stop anyone doing the 1 mile accidentally doing a second lap!
Once out of the water everyone was checked out via timing chip for safety purposes, chips were removed, then it was hot tub time if you wanted, before collecting medals and getting changed. Hannah and I both found this part fairly relaxed, but my understanding was that those in the middle of waves coming out in larger groups had to queue for some time to collect medals and belongings.
Han and I with our respective medals post swim!
For those that are interested in race photos this was very well organised from what I have seen also. My wife paid for a photo package pre-race, which was £15 for all of the photos taken of her. All swimmers were supplied with a set of temporary tattoos to apply to hands and wetsuits as well if desired, and as a result Hannah got about a dozen good quality photos of both her swimming and at the start and finish.
Overall I would say it was a well run event, one we will be doing again next year! My only suggestion would be for hot showers in the changing rooms if it was possible, as on a colder day these would have been a welcome addition to the hot tubs.