The Arun River Swim

Posted: June 26, 2016 in Swimming
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The Gathering

I’ve 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 Littlehampton and due to the tidal range and timing it can only be described as downhill.

I arrived a little bit earlier than I’d intended but I made some rough calculations and concluded that I only needed a four hour ticket in the pay and display car park. It’s always a tricky thing knowing how much to feed a parking machine when you are not sure how long you are going to be and you have no chance of coming back to make amends for any shortfall. The registration was in the harbour area across from a partially nice café. It seemed to be the done thing to pop in there to partake of some pre-race hydration and nutrition. I couldn’t resist the hot chocolate with extra cream and a flake, making it look more like an ice cream that a hot chocolate. I accompanied it with a very tasty Eccles Cake. Once the sustenance and chatting to people I knew had been done it was time to get to the serious business of putting on the wetsuit. The water, we were told, was 15 degrees, far too cold for mere mortals to bathe in without the protection of neoprene so wetsuits were obligatory. Once the rubber covered my legs it was a short walk to the bus that took us to the start.

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Ford Church

The start was by Ford Church; we all gathered in the car park and took care of the last minute details. I took the chance to visit the church whilst I was there. I doubt I’d visit it any other time and you never know when you need guidance from on high. After a short briefing we walked bare foot to the river, taking care to avoid things that dogs had left behind. We filtered into the warm and brackish water and made our way to the start line. It was then it became obvious that the water was flowing in the wrong direction. There were lumps of seaweed going upstream and we had to swim gently just to maintain our position on the line. I’d chosen a spot away from the fast ones. I had no desire to be caught in the melee of a furious swim start.

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We ignored this sign

The horn went and we were off. Suddenly there were bodies everywhere all determined to be in the little bit of space that I occupied. The current had slackened off, which was a relief. I didn’t fancy swimming against it all the way down the river. Plus I had my four hour parking to consider. I was hoping that the field would spread out a bit so that I could swim in clear water but that didn’t seem to happen. Whenever I looked round there were people about.

I know that I have an inability to swim in a straight line but I was amazed at the number of people who swam across me in the on the journey downstream. Normally if I felt someone behind I would stop kicking for a while so as not to kick them and if someone loomed up ahead I would try to go round them or avoid them. Mostly I was successful but there are some that I just couldn’t get away from.

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The finish line

The first real marker is the bridge at three kilometres. By the time I got there I could feel that the tide had turned and that I was being pulled downstream. Long relaxed strokes were taking me a very long way. It had nothing to do with my technique. Just beyond the bridge someone tried to swim over me. I wasn’t too happy about that as they grabbed my calf and I nearly came to a halt. It didn’t feel accidental. I did what I assume anyone would do in this situation. I kicked just a little faster and made sure that my heels made contact. That seemed to do the trick, just to make sure I put in a few minutes of a harder effort to get me clear of the over-swimmer.

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All along the water front

I love the last section of the swim with boats on one side and waterfront apartments on the other. It gives a real sense of swimming down a waterway. The end though was in sight. I could see the edge of the way and knew that just beyond was the slip way. I was feeling warm and comfortable and as if I could do the whole thing again. However unlike the people I got changed with I was not doing a channel relay, so instead of heading down the coast for another swim I was persuaded into a local pub to stuff my face with Fish and Chips. It was a good end to a nice swim.

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Whale and chips sir?

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