By Clinton

I’ve been thinking about entering a swim run event for a while; I’ve never really been a keen cyclist. And I thought a multi sport event alternating between swimming and running might play to my strengths.

The Hampstead Pondathon (or Duathlon) with 4 swims and 4 runs seemed like a great way to try out the format to see if I liked it. Especially without the cost of a full swim run and without the marathon distance I’d have to complete. There was also a lot of peer pressure from Hampstead park-runners who were planning on doing the Duathlon.

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On race day I queued for registration looking at the swimmers in the lido doing laps, they all looked pretty cold! Barely a wetsut to be seen though which was encouraging since I’d decided not to wear one. After registering there was a bit of a wait, but there were lots of people to chat to so the time flew by.

The first wave set off about 15 minutes late in a frantic blue-white splash of hands and feet. There were no lanes, and it was with slight apprehension I watched as the first swimmers reached the other side, turned and had to swim back through the wall of slower swimmers.

I was in the third wave so I waited until two lots of swimmers had finished the three-lap swim before jumping in myself. It felt really cold waiting for the countdown, but it wasn’t long before we were off.

First length was great I was out in front of my wave and reached the turn quickly. After the tumble I had to slow in order to dodge the swimmers still completing their first length.

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I picked up my trainers from where I’d tucked them before the swim, under a fence then started running. I honestly found the transition from swimming to running quite difficult. It was only 180m in the lido and I felt like I sprinted it, but didn’t have time to get properly warmed up before starting the first run. I felt drained and tired but my legs were cold. The first run segment was also uphill which didn’t help at all.

I’d read in the pre-race information that dives were allowed, but jumping in was not. This didn’t make any sense to me, surely diving was more dangerous? I hadn’t decided what I was going to do until I reached the jetty of the men’s pond. Everyone was diving so I felt compelled to follow headfirst just like all the other nutters. It had to be done. Afterwards I found out in a previous year someone had pencil dived feet first and cut their feet, so shallow diving was preferred.

I immediately received a face full of opaque water, couldn’t see a thing underwater! But it was deep enough that there were no reeds of plants to get tangled in. I hadn’t worn a swim hat and my hair was falling right over my goggles so I had a difficult time sighting, thankfully there were some feet kicking just ahead that I was able to follow around the pond.

After the second swim 400m, it was a quick jog to the ladies pond for a shorter swim, this section really went by quickly, I felt disoriented trying to force my wet feet into unyielding trainers. They fit fine with dry feet!

Before I knew it I had started on the longest run 2km, uphill on a rough track to the highest point of the day, then wound down to the mixed pond. This was the smallest swim of all and felt like less than 50m.

I was really enjoying myself by now, my legs were warm and I felt like each swim was a refreshing change from running. I was overtaking people, on the runs and the swims.

The mixed Pond was the 4th swim and as I clambered out on the ladders, I realised I’d almost finished.

The route finished off downhill then circled round parliament hill athletics track to run back along the final 100m straight to the finish line.

Finish Time: 37mins.

Position: 21st! Not bad for a debut.

I’d recommend this event to anyone. Lots of fun and a great way to see all the heath has to offer.

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