Event Review: Ham Swimrun by Embrace Adventures - 2024

This short swimrun is idea for beginners or more experienced swimrunners looking for some race-day practice, says Lucy Young.

Jude and Paul's swim run, held at the Thames Young Mariners lake in Ham, near Richmond, proved to be a fun start to Sunday. This event is one of three races that make up the 'South East Swim Run Series' (the Quay Lake event in Mytchett was in May but there's still time to enter Longside Lake on the 8th September in Egham). Jude and Paul's company is 'Embrace Adventures' and that is exactly what they do but they are also fully committed to supporting and encouraging newcomers into the sport they love. Their enthusiasm is infectious and, although there were prizes up for grabs for 'podium finishers', the main focus of this event was taking part and having fun.

There were two distances on offer but both options are really just a 'splash and dash' in the world of swimrun. A single lap of the course was 2.5km, split into 2 swims and 2 runs, or you could go round again to complete 5km. The balance of swimming to running is unusually even, so this event favours swimmers, but the swimming and the running sections are all straightforward, making this the perfect entry-level event whether you identify as a runner or a swimmer!

That said, it is great fun, even for more experienced competitors, and you can still race it hard if you want to. The frequent transitions in this event give opportunity to practise and hone your technique and it's also a brilliant opportunity to test out new kit in a race setting, without worrying that a kit failure is going to mean a miserable slog to the finish.

The in-water start proved to be very civilised. I'm not always keen on these starts as I often get cold in the water, but we didn't hang around for long and it meant that we got the chance to get our bearings from the water with Paul pointing out the 'exit flag' flag we were aiming for. Sadly, the cargo net swim exit was out of action this year, so our first exit was simply a run up a concrete slope but there was a swan to avoid plus Canada geese leading the way up the steps to so that kept up alert. After a short loop around a round-a-bout, we then had a 'jetty jump' back into the lake for the longer of the swim sections. It was quite a drop into the water, with a risk of losing your goggles and only 2 people can jump at a time. With that limitation in mind, my race partner and had decided to hit the first swim hard to avoid the crowd so we were already breathless at this point.


The next swim, which took us to the other end of the lake and around two turn buoys, gave us a chance to find our rhythm and enjoy the scene before exiting up another slope and embarking on the longer of the runs. This section took us out of the Young Mariners’ site, onto the Thames towpath and across Ham Lands back to the main entrance. The running was flat and the sudden heatwave meant it was dusty and dry but Jude and Paul managed to insert a 'wild scramble' through the scrub to add to the fun and the sense of adventure. Look out for the bemused dog walkers as you emerge through the trees wearing your swim hat and wetsuit. In a way, this event probably livened up their Sunday morning too!

The 5K course is simply another full loop but, retracing your steps rather than finding your way, means you can really push yourself if you want to. Sometimes it is fun to find your limit, either as a solo competitor or in a team but if you just want to enjoy the scene and the moment, that is fine too. There are no cut-off times and there's no judgement in this event, just camaraderie.

If you are half tempted to try swimrun, I really recommend this event. You could even up the challenge in Longside Lake as there is a 10K distance on offer (as well as 2.5K and 5K). Jude and Paul are brilliant at what they do, their experience and their enthusiasm shine through and they make you feel safe and welcomed into the world of swim run. I came away from this event feeling energised and smiling. I felt like I'd earned my 'recovery' coffee and cake by the river afterwards, but the sprint distance meant I still had plenty of energy to enjoy the rest of the day. With the sun shining on us, it actually did feel like the best way to start Sunday.

Find out more: https://embraceadventures.eventrac.co.uk/o/embrace-adventures-800