Shrewsbury owes its very existence to the River Severn, the river is an integral part of the town and it is becoming cleaner every year as the arrival of otters illustrates and it’s great to see lots of people swimming in it again.
The decision to enter this race was not made lightly, Annabel and I decided that if we were going to do it we wanted to do well. An intensive mile a day training regime in the ten days leading up to the big day gave us every reason to be hopeful of a strong showing in this mile long swim through the centre of Shrewsbury – who were we kidding? One hundred and forty outdoor swimming enthusiasts leapt into the river at the Welsh Bridge, swam down to the Kingsland Toll Bridge, rounded an orange space hopper buoy and then headed back upstream to the Pengwern Boathouse. ONLY sixteen minutes and sixteen seconds later Les Church was the first man home, the incredible Sophie Whittingham (17 mins 29 seconds) was the first woman back, Caroline Saxon (19mins 55 seconds) and Andrew Lyle (18 mins 53 seconds) won prizes for the fastest swims without wet suits and Sian Conlon saw off twenty one others to win the 700m race. The age defying sixty-eight year old Bernard Wills, the chairman of the Shrewsbury Master Swimming Club and campaigner for the Quarry Pool in Shrewsbury, made it home in twenty one minutes but then he had been an Olympic swimmer.
You want to know how we got on – well I’ll tell you – I struggled home thirteen minutes behind the winner in 29mins 56 seconds putting me 103 out of 115 and Annabel, the only one tackling the long course who I saw doing breaststroke, gallantly battled home in a time of 38mins 40 secs to proudly finish in last place. We were both very proud of our achievements because this, as it turned out, was a gathering of pretty serious swimmers (but you don’t have to be one and you will be made very welcome even if you just want to take part). We will be back and we will do better.
Congratulations to all the organisers for a great event and thank you for the opportunity to present the prizes. See you next year.