Arun River Swim

Posted: June 19, 2015 in Swimming
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Public nudity in Littlehampton

Milling about at the start waiting for the bus

The Arun is a very fast flowing river. Really fast. This swim starts at slack water and continues as the tide goes out. It will always be a fast swim. It may be possible to float down the river faster than my normal swim speed. It’s about 4km from Ford to Littlehampton and I was in no doubt that I would be covering it very quickly.

It all starts with the registration at the RLNI followed by a leisurely hot chocolate in the Harbour lights café. Here there is a chance to catch up with old friends and to be surprised on meeting club mates who had not mentioned that they were doing the event. Eventually we get herded onto buses and taken to Ford, ominously passing Ford prison. After a lot of dedicated milling about and nervous chatter whilst waiting for the next bus load to arrive we headed off to the river. It was a pleasant stroll through a few fields hampered by being clad in neoprene.

I should know the water would taste salty but it always comes as a surprise. Rivers are not meant to be salty, that’s the preserve of the sea. The water was a lovely turquoise green colour, and clear, this too is a bit of a shock after the murky water that I’ve been swimming in lately. I could see my feet, not that they are an attraction or anything, but I could see them.

Once all the swimmers were in the water and roughly sorted in speed order we were off. The start was a little bit like being in a washing machine. There was white water everywhere, flailing arms and legs all around and a general sense of urgency. Bodies bumped into bodies as we all headed for the first bend. Slowly the chaos of the start died down and normality returned. Now was the time to deploy “The Strategy”.

My plan was simple, keep the strokes long and smooth and try to stay near the middle of the channel where the water would be fastest. There is no point in not taking full advantage of the fast running water. As the meters rushed by I wondered at my ability to swim into people. Quite often there would be a stretch of seemingly clear water and I would unerringly find someone to bump into. I found it really annoying as I really didn’t want to swim over people. I’m sure it can all be explained by physics or ineptness.

The first bridge appears at one kilometer to go. I looked up, not really expecting to see it and there it was, looming overhead. A quick glance at my watch confirmed my suspicion. The bridge had been moved up stream as there was no way that I could be swimming that fast. Alternatively the slightly delayed start meant that the river was in full flow, speeding us on like hapless rubber ducks.

Just after the someone was determined to swim into me. I was convinced that it was them and not me as they seemed to be pushing me towards the bank. The first time it happened I put it down to the ”special attraction” of swimmers in open water and moved slightly towards the bank. Then it happened again, and again, this time our arms interlocked. I was getting closer and closer to the river bank. This was not me, this was them. The next time I got an elbow in the goggle. That hurts, a lot. I’m not having that. I was time for revenge. I threw the slow and steady away and deployed the splashy and choppy stroke instead. My irritator fell away behind in the wash of my wake. It was a trivial thing but it made me happy. Almost as happy as passing a few swimmers wearing the white “I’m the fastest” swim caps.

All this and energy bars

Fit and highly trained athletes waiting to embark on an epic high speed down stream swim

The next bridge is at 400 meters to go. At this point I knew it was nearly over, a shame really as I was just getting used to the speed of the river. To go beyond the finish would result in being washed out to sea, so on balance it was probably best to get out.

I finished in a ridiculously fast time, as did nearly everyone else (including someone with their legs tied together and one arm behind their back). I could claim a personal best but there was rather a lot of assistance from the flow that would render that claim pointless

  1. […] swum the Arun River Swim a number of times before but it keeps dragging me back for more. It’s a 3.8km swim from Ford to […]


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