Waveney River Swim 2019

Tuesday 09 July 2019

When Mel put on the Waveney River Swim for the first time in June 2018, I made my usual excuses and gave it a wide berth. Nothing new about that. When Mel first started organising her 100 x 100s event, I would typically come along for 50, but explain that doing 100 was all a bit unnecessary.

Mel is very persuasive though and, having convinced me to stay in for the full 100 x 100s this year, I figured maybe the river swim wouldn’t be so bad. I’d even planned to do it without a wetsuit, but James Adcock rightly suggested otherwise and, also reminded me that I needed to buy myself a towfloat or Mel wouldn’t let me swim.

So at least I turned up on the day with all the right gear, family in tow and Jackie not remotely convinced of the wisdom of the whole endeavour. In her defence it wouldn’t have been the first time I’d pulled out of a big swim at the last minute, just ask Sophie Liddament.

No backing out this time though, I got on the coach and started the journey from Beccles North Quay to Waveney River Centre. The coach ride was a bit sobering when 20 minutes in it dawned on me that we had to swim the whole distance back.

River Waveney Swim Map

I’d been training regularly all year though and knew I’d have enough in the tank if I took it reasonably sensibly. Needless to say – that didn’t happen. After the start settled down I found myself in a group of four, figured that we must be either at or near the front, and tucked in with them till the first feed stop.

The feed stops were on paddleboards and there was a selection of juice, marshmallows, jelly babies and flapjacks on offer. Reading the reviews, it seems some people struggled to swim and eat flapjack at the same time. I had no such issues – but perhaps I’d done a bit more of the right kind of training than them!

Halfway between the first and second feed stations things got a bit easier as we started catching up the swimmers from the earlier waves. In the lake I often struggle to swim straight because my contact lenses get out of position and the buoy is never quite where I expect it to be. No such problem in the river. It’s straight, I can see the sides (even if it’s a bit blurry) and I can also see the fluorescent tow floats of the swimmers in front.

From that point on it was basically a 5K game of Pac-Man. I stretched out, went for it, and didn’t look back once. I couldn’t be 100% sure I was in front, but I knew for sure that no one had come past me. The edges of the river gradually morphed into concrete moorings and the long-anticipated bridge finally came into view.

When I reached the top of the ladder at Beccles North Quay I was greeted by Mel herself. Did she look pleased to see me? No, not really. She looked completely and utterly shell-shocked and didn’t even try to hide it. Her exact words were: “Rob, I’m so surprised, you’re the first one in!”. At that moment Jackie also appeared at the exit with the kids: “Oh, we didn’t expect you to be here so soon, the kids are over at the park”. Can’t blame them, I’d surprised myself.

River Waveney Swim Complete

All in all, it was a great event, a great day out and a fantastic advert for Open Water Swimming. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. You can do it as a relay team if you don’t fancy doing the whole distance yourself. There’s a bar-b- q at the finish and no will judge you for the number of burgers you feel the need to eat. You’ve earned it.

Rob Hammond
City of Norwich Masters Squad


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