Swimming 137 miles down the River Thames

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It has been over two months since I clambered down a ladder into a small river at Lechlade, setting of on a 137 mile swim down the River Thames, finishing 15 days later at Putney Bridge. The physical reminders and sore muscles have long since subsided, but the memories and emotions forged during countless days in the water will stay with me forever. It seems like a hazy mad hatter alice in wonderland dream and I can’t quite believe I even attempted it.

WHY?

I’ve been asked this numerous times. I undertook this trip as the thought of doing such a thing terrified the crap out of me. I wrote about my fears in a previous post here. I remember hearing about David Walliam’s inspirational Thames swim several years ago, and I was completely in awe the someone could swim that far, especially in the murky depths of the Thames. But subconsciously I think a seed had been sown and around 3 years later I decided to take on my own swim down the Thames. It was shortly after I had run the Pennine Way and I was looking for next year’s challenge. My right knee was in absolute pieces so the thought of doing a running challenge was out of the question. I’d been mulling over the idea of swimming a river from source to mouth for a while, so whilst writing a sponsorship email I decided in the space of about 5 minutes I would attempt to swim the Thames the following year. I then emailed 2 more people asking for advice, and once you’ve emailed or told 3 people or more, it becomes official.

I also undertook the swim with the hope of raising £5000 for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Helen & Douglas House. We ended up raising £3200 in the end, which I am really happy with. I chose Helen and Douglas house, as they are a local hospice that supports children with life shortening conditions. I chose The Cystic Fibrosis Trust as a family friend’s daughter has CF, and I know how hard the illness can be.

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Knowing that what you’re doing can potentially help someone with a life threatening disease made the harder days of the swim pale in comparison to what they have to go through on a daily basis.

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Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 15

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BLOG POST – DAY 15 – 27.13.2016

Started: 10:40
Ended: 13:27
Swim Time: 2hrs 15mins(ish)
Distance: 8.9km – 356 Lengths
Total: 206.25km – 8250 Lengths


Day 15 –  Kew Bridge to Putney Bridge

And that’s that!! We made it! Was carried by the tide and flew down the river today. Touched the bridge. 137 miles in 15 days. Feels good to be here and on dry land.

There’s so many people to thank, but first I need to do a massive shout out to Josh my kayaker and my Dad. Who I wouldn’t have been able to do this without. Thanks so much. Thanks to all the people who cheered us on and donated online and from the riverside.

Thanks to the sponsors of the trip who kindly sponsored food and kit. Shout outs to:

Meridian Foods for all the peanut butter a man could dream of.
Speedo UK for the wetsuit, cap and goggles
dryrobe For the amazing dryrobe
YB Tracking for free use of their tracking device
HIGH5 Sports Nutrition for the energy gels and bars and large discount
preventsportpain.com in Brackley for all the tubes of wetsuit lube by 2Toms UK
OverBoard – Waterproof Bags for the discount on their waterproof bags
b2B Graphics for the car signage

https://www.justgiving.com/teams/ThamesSwim2016

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Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 14

BLOG POST – DAY 14 – 26.13.2016

Started: 09:55
Ended: 16:00
Swim Time: 4hrs (ish)
Distance: 11.5km – 460 Lengths
Total: 197.35km – 7894 Lengths


Day 14 –  Kingston Bridge to Kew Bridge

8:08 AM – PENULTIMATE DAY! Kingston Bridge to Kew bridge today. Around 8.5 miles. Another beautiful morning.. this is a shot our the beautiful caravan we’ve been lent for the trip 🙂

4:45 PM – Day 14 done!! THAT FOREHEAD TAN!! I would say that’s worth a donation in itself.

Almost at £1200 online with around another £1000 from riverside donations! Which is amazing thank you so much. If you haven’t already please consider donating some pennies, pounds or notes towards Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Helen & Douglas House

Today i swam 11.5 km from Kingston Bridge to Kew Bridge. I’ve swam almost 200km now. Shorter day than usual and early finish. From Richmond the river was tidal and it carried me at the speed of my usual swimming and we flew by. Having a celebratory beer. Not far now. Was also joined by Fay who did a sterling job at collecting donations.

1 more day.

 

Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 13

BLOG POST – DAY 13 – 25.13.2016

Started: 10:15
Ended: 19:45
Swim Time: 6hrs 30mins
Distance: 16.5km – 660 Lengths
Total: 185.85km – 7434 Lengths


Day 13 –  Chertsey to Kingston Bridge

The river is getting properly built up now, with suburbs and city lining much of banks. We ended it Kingston and it feels like London now. We are so close I can almost taste the finish, that sweet sewagey Thames water finish. To be fair, I’ve been well impressed with the water quality so far, it is really clear. Also great to see so many people paddling and swimming.

Another long swimming day interjected with nice chats with people from pubs, boats and locks. Loads more donations and cheers of encouragement which is awesome. There’s been a few boats which we’ve seen numerous times… They overtake us and moor up or queue for a lock and we then over take them a few hours later. The support from the river has been phenomenal, thanks boaty people! Also, Josh thinks we got a donation from Jeremy Paxman… Could just be a look alike.

2 more days to go. Both slightly shorter at 7 miles a piece. Entering the tidal section of the Thames tomorrow which should be fun.

Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 12

BLOG POST – DAY 12 – 24.13.2016

Started: 9.45
Ended: 19.00
Swim Time: 6hrs 05mins
Distance: 15.3km – 612 Lengths
Total: 167.35km – 6694 Lengths


Day 12 –  Datchet to Chertsey

7:59 AM – Morning everyone! Datchet to Chertsey Lock / Bridge or Docket eddy.. let’s see how we get on. Another scorcher Also going through beautiful Staines.

If anyone is free over the next few days and they fancy helping it would be great to get some people fund raising on the river side. Let us know 🙂

7:55 PM – Day 12 . Can’t quite believe I’m here and still swimming. Actually feel good and each morning during the first 3-4 hrs its (relatively) blissful swimming, and I often find myself thinking I could do this forever. Haha, this soon changes.. Usually within the last hour it feels like I have flailing hotdog sausages for arms and I’m swimming through treacle, that’s flowing the opposite way. But, and other than general fatigue, my body feels good. One thing someone said to me was “enjoy it”, and I often think of this, especially during the final 30 minutes.

Lechlade feels like a lifetime ago. I’m edging my way closer to Putney.. We went over the 100 mile mark today! Will be finishing near to Teddington Lock tomorrow, and then tackling the tidal section of the Thames.

If all goes to plan I’ll arrive at Putney Bridge sometime on Saturday. We will plan the route later and give better timings if you fancy coming down and seeing me and Josh finish.

Massage, food, beer, sleep. That’s the agenda tonight.

Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 11

BLOG POST – DAY 11 – 23.13.2016

Started: 09:45
Finished: 19:15
Swimming Time: 6hrs 30mins
Daily Distance: 16km – 640 Lengths
Total Distance: 154.05km – 6162 Lengths


Day 11 –  Cookham to Datchet

9:02 AM – Morrrrnnnning! Day 11 today. Aiming to swim 16km / 10miles from The Ferry at Cookham to Datchet. The sun is out!! Looks like it’s gunna be a scorcher 🌞

21:19 PM – Day 11 done! Loong day! Lots of locks, and busy on the water today. Lots of little stops and nice chats with passers by and donations coming in. 2 guys who passed us by boat yesterday swam up to me us earlier on in the day which was a nice surprise.

It was a scorcher, but the water temp felt cooler like the last few days, but warmed up by early afternoon. Body seems to be getting used to swimming and I’ve found a good rhythm.

Just got back to the campsite, going to have a stir fry and then an early night I think.. and maybe a beer.

Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 10

BLOG POST – DAY 10 – 22.13.2016

Started: 09:45
Finished: 19:15
Swimming Time: 6hrs 15mins
Daily Distance: 16.8km – 672 Lengths
Total Distance: 138.05km – 5522 Lengths


Day 10 – Remenham to Cookham

(Written by my kayaker, Josh) Today’s finish line, the blue bridge at Cookham, which we crossed at 7:15 this evening, after 16.8km. We set out at 9:45 a.m. with the swimming time racking up to 6 hours and 15 minutes. Loads of traffic on the river today in the wake of the Rewind festival, which made for some very slow progress through the locks, but Chris plugged away at it and got the day done, which we celebrated with a hard-earned meal at The Ferry pub in Cookham.

Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 09

BLOG POST – DAY 09 – 21.13.2016

Started: 10:00
Finished: 18:55
Swimming Time: 6hrs 10(ish)mins
Daily Distance: 16km – 640 Lengths
Total Distance: 121.25km – 4850 Lengths


Day 09 – Just Past Caversham Bridge Remenham

 7:52 AM – Morning y’all. Aiming to swim 17.5km from just past Caversham bridge to Renemham today. Let’s do this!!
9:05 AM – Enroute to the river 🙂 if you’re in reading or Henley keep an eye out for a swimmer and kayaker 🏊 🚣 forehead tan is coming along nicely.
10:20 PM – Another longer day under the belt. Plodded it out, and swam through a beautiful section of the river. Loads of incredible houses and boats on this section of the river. Feeling good again today, and my pace seems to be back on track. I was joined by my mum, Catharine and my girlfriend who were awesome as cheering me on and getting some donations in.

Few firsts today.

– First cup of tea given to me and crew from a boat – awesome!
– First cake(lemon drizzle) given to me and crew from a boat – amazing!

Also loads of donations from the bank and from boats passing by. It means a huge amount and helps to keep me going, knowing that money is being raised for good causes.

Please consider donating using the links above, we have now raised £1200 which is awesome, but aiming to raise £5000.

Thanks everyone 🙂 

https://www.justgiving.com/teams/ThamesSwim2016

Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 08

BLOG POST – DAY 08 – 20.13.2016

Started: 09:30
Finished: 18:00
Swimming Time: 6hrs 15mins
Daily Distance: 16km
Total Distance: 105.25km


Day 08 – Goring Lock to Just Past Caversham Bridge

7.38 AM – Morning all! Goring lock to Caversham today, just outside Reading. Starting at 9.30 and finishing when we finish. Being joined by Luke on kayak today. Massive thanks to Dave for his help in the kayak the last few days. 🏊

22:03 AM – Managed to bash out 16km today. Felt good and strong and the body feels like it’s functioning again. It was a wet and windy day, and it was blowing the kayakers all over the place. Luke joined us today as kayaker no. 02. He had a bit of a wobble on when he got in and his first words went something along the lines of:

“It’s only a matter of time before I fall in”.

45 minutes later the inevitable happened – he fell in. Haha. He is the first kayaker to take a swim. Thanks for coming along though dude.

It’s quite a weird thing swimming for so long. Other than the breaks for food every 30 mins and a quick update with Josh, I’m submersed in my own little world. There’s not much to see really when your swimming, 3/4 of my time is spent face down in the water. The last few days I’ve been thinking about how I would describe the water colour. At the moment it’s much clearer and I haven’t come up for a name for its current state. I haven’t even come up with a name and I’ve been in it for 6 hours today, I don’t have a career in naming colours it seems. But before that it was proper brown and murky, I couldn’t see my hands. Dem ol river folk tol me they was puttin in an Archimedes screw up river, which were making it brown. Underwater it resembled a lovely golden shade of cow pat olive. These are the ramblings of a very tired person.

We picked up my girlfriend from Henley station this evenin, so nice to see her and have her around tomorrow. and she even cooked us all dinner 🙂 feeling ready for bed now.

And, we’ve made it over 100km!! Woohoo.

Swimming the Thames – Daily Diary Entry – Day 07

BLOG POST – DAY 07 – 19.13.2016

Started: 11:05
Finished: 16:15
Swimming Time: 4hrs
Daily Distance: 10km
Total Distance: 89.25km


Day 07 – Wallingford to Goring Lock

10:22 AM – Enroute to Wallingford. Feeling ok after last night’s sick episode. Got to bed early, woke up late and thought we would give today a go. Going to have another (relatively) easy day.
8:45 PM – After the sick episode yesterday I was actually relatively good all evening, didn’t feel quite right and wasn’t eating as much as usual, but wasn’t ill again.

With this in mind I went to bed early and didn’t set an alarm for the morning. I woke up refreshed and not ill, so decided to get in the water for a later start.

Physically I felt so much better today. Like I was in a new body. I think the rest and the massage last night worked wonders. It was the first rainy day, and the water was a little cooler.

My stroke rate was up and my pace was back to normal. Because of the late start we decided to have a shorter day and stop at Goring Lock.. the next suitable spot was 6km downstream and would take another 2.5 – 3 hours.

I was still struggling to eat the usual amount and I’m wondering whether I need to have larger variety of foods to eat, whilst in the water.

Overall a successful and positive day, which is always nice after such a tough one. We are a little behind schedule now, but will hopefully be able to get a 17km swim in tomorrow.