Henley Swim Festival – Event Review

Henley on Thames is famous for a few reasons, one is the Regatta but the other is definitely the swimming. The most famous being the Henley Classic a 2.1km upstream swim where swimmers arrive in the dark, walk to the start as the sunrises and the first wave are led by torch carriers. The Thames Marathon a 14km event is also hosted at Henley as well as Club to Pub a 1.5km evening swim from Henley Rowing Club to the Angel on the Bridge where the medal doubles up as a bottle opener which is good as you also receive a beer.

Event & Price: The event I took part in last weekend was the Henley Swim Festival. An event with multiple 1 mile swims, a 4×1 mile challenge, 1/2 mile, 200m (for the kids) and a skins vs suits 1×2 mile, all downstream you will be glad to know. I decided on the 4×1 mile challenge which cost me £70 which I thought was good value for money considering the mile started from £31 (early bird prices). Parking in advance was £5 until the 30th June and then £10 on the day. I thought that was a little naughty and that you should be able to add the parking until midnight the day before and just show an electronic ticket and save some paper, it was also cash only for parking which is something I often don’t have on me.

Registration: I got to the event about 8:15 (it was recommended to be there 90 mins before your event so I was late) and although there was a queue to register it went down pretty quickly.

4 Mile Challenge: The 4×1 mile swim times were waves 1,3,4 & 6. The timings between wave 1 & 3 and wave 4 & 6 were pretty tight as with the mile events you had to walk down to the start 45mins before race time. So if you did roughly a 30 min swim you had 15mins before setting off to the start line again. This meant some of the swims were pretty much back to back and because I have never done an event where you stop start and the addition of them being tightly squeezed together I wasn’t 100% about nutrition. One thing that would have really helped is a nutrition plan for race day especially for the 4 mile. The swim itself was lovely, a bit of a scramble at the beginning as per any open water race but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a straight line swim so not too much spotting to do and I managed to get myself to the side which meant I didn’t have anyone to one side of me which always helps with the breathing. There were huge buoys to mark the half way point and plenty of other markers along the river to help you count down the mile.

Nutrition: I had porridge in the morning with added extras and some electrolyte drink. Between my 1st and 2nd swim I had fluids, a gel and half an energy bar. Between the 2nd and 3rd I had more fluid and the rest of the bar and between the 3rd and 4th another energy gel, fluid and a half bar. I have no idea if that was right but I did what I could and didn’t have a lot of time to eat anything properly and let my food go down. On general I felt I had enough energy for the day.

The Festival: It was clear they had an aim to be sustainable which is something I am passionate about. They were only handing out 1 bottle of water per swimmer so participants were encouraged to bring reusable bottles and coffee cups. They also didn’t hand out goody bags as these can be fairly wasteful so instead they had a sampling table which I decided I didn’t need so I didn’t take anything. There were pizza stands, ice cream vans, multiple retailers for your swimming needs and live music. The weather wasn’t as sunny as I was hoping but there was an area for people to swim if they wanted and plenty of benches or grass to have picnics. There were female and male changing room tents, toilets and bag drop for the swimmers. There was also the option to hire wetsuits for the event from 2xu.

Although the 4 milers got a lovely gold swim cap in a better material than the 1 milers, I would say I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get a different medal to the mile swimmers however I say this but do I do it for a medal really? No. However there were some complaints from in the ladies changing room about the medal?

Verdict? All in all I would do the event again and make sure I got early bird prices and pay for parking up front. The registration is already open for next year. Otherwise I wouldn’t change anything about the event bar brighter weather for friends and family!

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