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Thousands inspired to swim the Serpentine in the late summer sun

Today’s Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine in Hyde Park’s famous Serpentine Lake has attracted more swimmers than ever before, watched by hundreds of spectators enjoying  the UK’s biggest open water swimming event.

Now in its fourth year, the event offers swimmers the opportunity to take on a variety of swim distances at the venue made famous by the London 2012 Olympic swimming and triathlon events.

People of all ages and abilities took on half-mile, one-mile, two-mile and 'Super Six' distances in the glorious late September sun. More than 500 swimmers also took part in a new charity wave donning colourful charity vests over their swimsuits and wetsuits.

Register your interest for the 2020 event now and make sure you don't miss out on a place in next year's open water swimming festival.

Shareefa Radford, model and social media influencer, swam in the first wave of the day, a half-mile swim, and loved every minute of the challenge.

“I only learnt to swim four years ago, when I was 24, so this event was really challenging for me,” said Radford after collecting her medal. “It was a bit daunting but it’s great to have finished it; I feel a massive sense of accomplishment.

“This is my first open water swimming event and I’d encourage everyone to give it a go. Challenges like this really help with self-esteem and mental wellbeing; the small things in life that I might worry about seem less challenging. If you take it one step at a time you’ll surprise yourself at what you can achieve.”

Model and mental health campaigner Jada Sezer completed the two-mile distance after taking up swimming just four months ago.

“I feel really proud to have finished the two-mile swim. I also feel like I learnt a lot in the water. I’d never swum in the Serpentine before so I adapted to being in open water and let it carry me.

“I swam as a teenager but I hadn’t swum for 15 years until four months ago. I started in the pool and tried to get my technique right. Once I was confident with my technique I started putting in more lengths.

“I wanted to enjoy every moment. Some people were powering through, but I took my time, enjoyed the amazing environment and tried not to compare myself to other people. If you breathe, relax and be in your own lane you will get to the end.

“One of the highlights today was the camaraderie. People helped each other out all the way round. Everyone’s here for their own reason, but we were also all in it together, encouraging each other to get through the challenge; it’s a lovely way to come together.”

More than 1,000 of the event’s participants are on track to take home a London Classics medal, which they’ll receive when they finish the two-mile swim to complete the iconic trio of events that make up the challenge: the London Marathon, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 and Swim Serpentine.

Chris Petersen was the first London Classics finisher of the day, taking just 50 minutes to complete his two-mile swim.

“It’s the first time I’ve done Swim Serpentine and I really enjoyed it – conditions were perfect,” he said. “It’s an amazing event, with so many people supporting each other; it was really fun.”

“If anyone is thinking of doing the London Classics, I’d recommend you leave your favourite event until last. Swimming is my favourite so I did the Virgin Money London Marathon first in 2016 and I completed the 100-mile ride earlier this year, which I really enjoyed. If you leave your favourite to last, you’ll finish with a big smile on your face.”

For people looking for an even bigger challenge than a two-mile swim, the Super Six event offers swimmers the opportunity to complete a total of six miles during the day.

Sarah Pritchard, who completed the one-mile distance at the event in 2018, is taking on the Super Six challenge for the first time.

“I got a bit jealous of the gold hat the Super Six swimmers wore last year so I decided to take on the challenge this year,” said Pritchard.

“I’m going to make the most of this amazing weather and take my time. I wanted a bit of a challenge so I thought it was a good opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone. It’s also a great excuse to explore this beautiful lake.

“The atmosphere is just amazing at this event. There’s a real sense of camaraderie; of everyone coming together to support each other, it’s a really positive day.”

In the festival zone, participants and their supporters enjoyed talks and film screenings celebrating inspirational characters and incredible adventures from the world of open water swimming.

Lindsey Cole, who swam the length of the River Thames dressed as a mermaid in November 2018 to highlight plastic pollution, completed a one-mile swim before speaking on the festival stage.

“It was really fun,” she said of the swim. “And so great to be able to complete a big loop in the Serpentine.

“The atmosphere was buzzing – the sun it was shining and everyone was smiling so was really lovely, with everyone encouraging each other and having fun.

Jason Ochoa, Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine Event Director, said: “This year’s event is the biggest and best yet and we’re delighted that so many swimmers and their supporters were able to enjoy the stunning Serpentine in the late summer sunshine.

“Swimming in the centre of London rewards participants with a completely different perspective on the capital; London’s skyline viewed from the lake is hugely inspiring.

“The atmosphere at the event is incredible too, with swimmers of all ages and abilities supporting each other and having fun together today.

“Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine just keeps getting bigger and better. We are already looking forward to welcoming even more swimmers to the 2020 edition of the event next September.”