This was the third time I’ve done the Coniston swim - and I’ll be signing up with Colin Hill at Chill Swim do it again next year. It’s an iconic event here in the north that rivals the southern offerings such as the Dart 10 k and the Henley Thames Marathon. The swim starts at the southern end of Coniston Water in the Lake District and finishes at its most northerly point. It’s 5.25 miles. I like it because it’s superbly organised swim and draws a range of swimming abilities. And then there’s the camaraderie.
|Hoathwaite early race day|
|The campsite view|
Swimmers are organised into waves based on a self-assessment of swimming speed. There were six waves, from superfast to slow head-up breast stroke. This year there were more than 750 participants.
Colin Hill stamps his personality on all aspects of the swim. He’s there at registration, at the start for all the waves and to help you out of the water at the end. Finishers are garlanded with a medal rather than just handed their trophy. Colin provides training videos and advice for swimmers working up to the end-to-end swim.
I signed up months before it took place. (I’m like that.) It was still possible to register one week before the event. It’s not the cheapest swim, costing £90-105 depending upon when you register. But I think it’s well worth it. The water safety is fantastic and the goody bags are very nice. This year we got fun Arena bags, perfect for carrying soggy wetsuits. The Chill swim swimming hats are large, silicone and very bright. Then there’s the impressive finishers’ medal.
|Lime green goody bags|
This is a good swim for skins swimmers as wetsuits are not compulsory and it’s possible to change your mind on the day. Tow floats are compulsory. These make navigation very easy as you can see the swirl of orange and pink tow floats ahead of you as you swim. (A sight denied the leaders!)
|The best quality swim hats|
Registration is in the Jon Ruskin school in Coniston itself and this is the meeting point for the swim. Competitors are bussed to the start. It’s a long drive and quite worrying to think the only way back is swimming up the lake. The start is well organised with swimmers starting in half hourly waves. The slowest waves get off first at 8:20 The fasties don’t leave until 11:40 The swim is chip-timed and once we are off we cross the lake and swim up hugging the western shore until we reach the other end. The course has mile markers. There are four feed stations and these are on boats moored in the lake. This means there’s a buoy or a marker every half mile. I found this good mentally.
I managed the swim in just under 3 hours so was very pleased. My gorgeous medal was placed around my neck as I emerged from the lake – I like that, it makes it seem much more important that just being handed a goody bag.
|Almost tropical water this year|
The conditions for this year’s swim were excellent. It was a clear day without too much wind. The breeze did pick up a bit towards the end, causing a bit of chop. But I think it was a following wind giving us a bit of a push. (I may be wrong about this!). The scenery is so beautiful with Old Man Coniston (mountain) to our left as we swam.
We usually camp at Hoathwaite Campsite over the weekend as the proceedings start early with buses to the start at around 7:30.am. Registration opens the evening before. That’s where you pick up your goody bag, hat, timing chip and number. Hoathwaite is a beautiful campsite with basic facilities, a toilet block in a portacabin and two showers. There’s also a little shop for essentials. It’s walking distance to Coniston village and there are a couple of nice pubs in Torver and a shop and delicatessen – just a five-minute walk away. As this is in school holidays it can be a bit busy but it is a peaceful and relaxing site on the shores of Lake Coniston.
I’m ready to sign up for next year!
|The usual elegant exit. Job done.|
|Old man Coniston - the hill, not the bloke|