FEATURES,  View from the Water

Marathon distance swimming tips

It’s deadline week again at Outdoor Swimmer HQ as we put the finishing touches to our September issue. I’m obviously biased, but having read through a good number of the proofs, I think it’s one of our best yet and I’m looking forward to sending it out into the world and sharing some brilliant swimming stories, which include:

  • Michele Surcouf conquers her fear of sharks on a swim trip to the Galapagos Islands
  • Alice Gartland Hit the Wall in Ireland (before swimming Lake Zurich)
  • Ella Foote joins Lewis Pugh on his epic length of the English Channel swim
  • Rowan Clarke discovers some wild swimming gems in the Peak District
  • Helen Davis outlines some strategies for dealing with event day nerves
  • Plus gear reviews, training sessions, event listings and much more.

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As soon as the issue has been sent to the printer, I’m heading up to the Lake District for a length of Windermere swim. This will be my fourth swim of 10km or more this summer, but I’m still slightly nervous!

While 10km is referred to as the marathon distance for swimming as a result of its inclusion in the Olympics since 2008, I’ve heard in some circles that a preferred definition of a marathon swim is one of 10 miles or longer, not 10km. Windermere meets this definition, just, at 10.5 miles (around 17km). I once swam its length without a wetsuit and ended up in hospital with hypothermia, so this time I will wear one. And rather than swimming solo, I’ll be swimming in a pod with five others, all swimming friends from Teddington Masters. We’re going to make a weekend of it and it should be a lot of fun, but there is the small matter of the swim, so here’s the advice I’m giving myself to help me enjoy it as much as possible.

Eat, sleep and rest

Ideally, I’d want to sleep eight hours a night in the days leading up to the swim although that will be a challenge with our deadline! I will do one more training session before Sunday, but keep it light, and I will try to eat healthily, although I think I can allow myself a bit more chocolate than usual.

Stay mobile and stretch

Having a job that involves a lot of time sitting at a computer means I can forget to move. I also frequently find myself sitting with bad posture. I have made a note to get up once per hour to move around, and also to add in some extra stretching and mobility exercises over the next few days.

Make a check list and pack early

I’m bound to forget something, but at least making a list and packing early minimises that risk and also reduces stress – it’s good to feel relaxed and under control as you approach a big swim.

Read the instructions

I’ve done this, honest!

Prepare my food and drink in advance

I don’t want to be hunting Windermere for bananas and energy drink at 7am on a Sunday morning.

Put my wetsuit on carefully

I don’t want any last-minute damage to deal with. I also want to make sure the wetsuit is on properly to minimise discomfort while I swim.

Be liberal with the Vaseline

I know it’s supposed to damage the neoprene but on long swims I find it works better than other anti-chafing products. I will also put a tub in the support boat.

Start steady

As this is a pod swim, my pace will be determined by the group, but I’m certainly not going to be racing off the front.

Just keep swimming

Mostly swimming feels great but there are always spots on long swims when it gets really tough and taking a ride on a boat looks super tempting. Those are the times to call on your “just keep swimming” mantra.


Make sure your post-swim celebrations include lots of chocolate and cake.

Swim wild and free

Simon Griffiths

Founder and publisher, Outdoor Swimmer

Top image: Swimming Windermere end to end in 2014

This week’s photo in our newsletter is of reader Andy Comstive enjoying a sunset dip on the Llyn Peninsula, north Wales. Photo by Andy’s son Leon, age 12.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.