Winter Fitness And Swimming The Serpentine I Oxford Open Learning


    Winter Fitness And Swimming The Serpentine

    In the winter months, I love to have a physical challenge to prepare for – usually, this is a 10k run, or a half marathon. It’s tough, yes, crawling out of bed in the dark depths of a January morning, and hitting the pavements, roads and lanes close to where I live. But… it’s worth it. After the fun and festivities of Christmas, it is fantastic to have something to aim for – and the buzz that physical activity provides is hard to beat.

    It isn’t just the new year that brings about such interests, though. In fact, they happen all year round. However, there are some well-known events that have been going for many years. One of these started – wait for it – in 1864 and apart from 2020, when it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has taken place every year. The Mathematicians amongst you will be able to easily work out that means it has been taking place for over 150 years!

    The Peter Pan Cup

    The event I am referring to is the Christmas Day Peter Pan Swimming Cup in London. It takes place in the Serpentine (not just for geese!), a famous lake in Hyde Park. Famously, it requires participants to swim 100 yards (just over 90 metres) through its winter waters. That’s not far, really, but far enough, I’d well imagine, when it may be bitterly cold and you’re outdoors!

    You may be wondering as to why the race is named after Peter Pan? Well, J.M.Barrie, the author who wrote the stories about the boy who never grew up, donated the first physical race cup in 1903, and it also being the year Peter Pan debuted on the London stage… the name stuck. To this day, the original cup remains the one presented to the race winner. Amazingly, it is also likely the oldest continuously-swum race in the world.

    This historic race could be one you’ll wish to add to your something-to your “bucket list”! It’s not easy to take part in, though – you have to qualify first, which means being a member of the local Serpentine Swimming Club. The list of those who can take part is published the week before Christmas. Although obviously a challenge, it isn’t just for young people. Over the years, runners in their 80s have taken part.

    A Winter Running Resolution

    Coming back to running, one of its core benefits is the simple fact that it can be done anywhere with minimum equipment. Okay, so it might be pouring with rain, but you can still run! If it’s icy, it might be a bit tricky, but you just have to choose a place that is safe under foot. It’s no wonder that running is popular – it likely evolved over 4 million years ago and early humans, who had to hunt for food, probably developed their involvement in the sport for this reason.

    So, if your new year’s resolution is one aiming to burn off those extra calories consumed over the festive season, grab your running shoes and hit the road!

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