2023 Swim Serpentine on course to set record for highest ever number of London Classics finishers
A record number of participants are predicted to clinch the iconic London Classics medal when Swim Serpentine returns to the sporting calendar on Saturday 16 September.
The London Classics is a unique three-event challenge from London Marathon Events which is completed when someone has finished the London Marathon, RideLondon-Essex 100, and the two-mile distance at Swim Serpentine.
More than 1,000 people are expected to collect a London Classics medal at this year’s Swim Serpentine, London’s famous open water swim in Hyde Park, which returns in 2023 after being postponed in 2022 due to the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
There is no time limit for taking on the London Classics and anyone who has successfully carried out the trio of events since their inception will receive a specially designed medal and enter the London Classics Hall of Fame.
Among the swimmers set to secure a prestigious London Classics medal at this year’s Swim Serpentine include model Shareefa Radford as well as a host of inspiring participants including a cancer survivor, a woman with water phobia, and people raising money for causes close to their hearts.
Read some of their stories below:
Shareefa Radford, 32, from London
Not having learnt to swim as a child due to economic barriers and being unable to find suitable swimming kit for her body and hair, Shareefa, a model from London, taught herself to swim at the age of 24 using an app. Having previously enjoyed the 500 metres at Swim Serpentine and having completed both the TCS London Marathon and Ford RideLondon-Essex 100, she will collect her London Classics at the two-mile Swim in September.
She said: “I always thought huge medals were only for Olympians, so when I found out the London Classics is something anyone can complete, I found it almost impossible to resist! Being a curvier woman from a non-athletic background means that I might be an unexpected candidate for the Classics medal, but I love taking on challenges like this to remind myself (and others) just how capable all bodies are of taking part in fitness challenges like this.”
Ali Collie, 48, from Maidstone, from Kent
Ali was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 28 whilst pregnant and gave birth to her son Dylan in 2003. In 2014, she had a preventative operation to remove her ovaries, only to discover both were cancerous so underwent further chemotherapy and surgeries. She now uses mass participation events to challenge herself and support her wellbeing.
She said: “Having been so ill on two separate occasions, I now try to regularly challenge myself physically and mentally. I’ve now run the London Marathon three times, completed the Ride-100 and will be swimming the Serpentine to raise vital funds for MacMillan and Cancer Research and complete my London Classics – having taken on all three events in 2023!”
Ruth Wilson, 38, from Durham
Ruth has set herself the challenge of raising £40,000 for Mind by the time she turns 40. One of her fundraising challenges is that, alongside her sister, she will be completing all three London Classics challenges in 2023 despite a fear of the water and overcoming an injury.
She said: “I can’t wait to complete the set with Swim Serpentine. The open water is a bit of a fear of mine, so it’s going to be a challenge. Especially following major surgery on my back in 2019, after which it wasn’t clear if I would walk again. So, it’s extra special that I’m back at full fitness and will complete the run, ride and swim all in one calendar year!”
Tracy Meharg, 51, from Merseyside
Tracy only started running in 2018, and by 2021 had completed three marathons and achieved her target PB at the 2021 London Marathon. She then wanted to set herself a new challenge and discovered the London Classics events, which she aimed to complete in 2023.
She said: “I decided to go for the London Classics as I knew the journey would be very hard but very rewarding. Now it’s just the Swim Serpentine left – which is going to be the hardest event for me. I’ve had three pool incidents which left me with severe water phobia and stopped me from being able to put my head underwater without panicking. But in January 2022 I started adult swimming lessons, began open water lessons, and undertook hypnotherapy. Now I can swim one mile in the pool and am excited to complete Swim Serpentine in September.”
Charles Stevens, 33, from Chipstead
Having completed the TCS London Marathon and registered for the Ford RideLondon-Essex 100, Charles then learnt about the London Classics. He sees the London Classics as a chance to prove he can do anything he sets his mind to and as an opportunity to raise money for the Princess Alice Hospice, which has helped his family four times.
He said: “I thought that it would be such an incredible feat to complete the London Classics. I've never participated in sports before and I'm not a particularly sporty person so I want to prove if you put your mind to something you can achieve it. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 10 and had only been running for a year before the Marathon but I managed to complete both. Now bring on September 16!”
Stephanie Anders, 50, from Oxfordshire
Stephanie successfully took on the TCS London Marathon for Leonard Cheshire at the age of 40, never having run much before. In 2022 she then completed the Ford RideLondon-Essex 100 having only started cycling during lockdown and decided to set her next goal as completing the Classics. She will take on Swim Serpentine for Thames Valley Air Ambulance.
She said: “This year I turn 50 and while I can swim, I’m not a regular swimmer. I’m also not a fan of open water and everything that lurks beneath it! But the chance to complete London Classics won me over and I’m excited to take on this third challenge and get the medal! I’ve never been the ‘sporty one’ and each of these events has been a challenge, but I’ve chosen to push myself. Whenever my friends ask me why, I ask why not?”