Swimming the Thames

17:26 Tuesday 30th August 2011
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY BURROWS: A couple of years ago he swam the Channel for Sport Relief. Now the comedian David Walliams is to tackle a 140-mile swim along the Thames from Gloucestershire to Big Ben in London. He starts next Monday. Earlier on I spoke to Michael Worthington. He’s from the Outdoor Swimming Society, and I asked him what kind of challenge David Walliams has set himself. (TAPE)
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: It’s a big challenge, there’s no two ways about it. It’s a long way to swim, 140 miles. It’s eight days of just getting up every morning and swimming. I imagine he’s doing six, seven, eight hours a day. And the hard bit is going to be just keeping on going.
ANDY BURROWS: It just takes a lot of self-motivation, does it?
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: He’ll need to be very fit. I’m sure he’s been training very hard up until now to do it. He starts on 5th, so he’s got another week, hasn’t he, to probably have a rest, I would imagine. next week? But yes, the challenge is going to be just obviously going to be keeping on going. He’s swum the Channel, he’s an incredibly strong swimmer.
ANDY BURROWS: Will he wear some kind of wet-suit, while he’s in the water? I seem to remember that he didn’t when he crossed the Channel, not f rom memory anyway.
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: There are rules to swimming the Channel. If you want your cross-Channel swim to be recognised by the cross-Channel swimming authority, then you have to comply with the rules, and one of the rules is you have to do it in swimming trunks. And that is a non-negotiable rule. It makes it even harder, because the cold is a big problem.
ANDY BURROWS: So I don’t know if it’s the same with this challenge, but how cold ..
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: I’d imagine that swimming down the river, I’m almost certain he’ll wear a wetsuit.
ANDY BURROWS: How cold is it in the Thames, most of the time?
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: It’ll be about 17, probably 17 degrees at the moment is my guess. So it’s not cold, but it’s cold after six hours of being in it. You’ll feel cold.
ANDY BURROWS: And what are conditions like in the Thames? Because we think of it as pretty grotty most of the time.
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON:  That’s a common misconception actually, that it’s grotty. It’s a wonderful clean river, lovely water. It’s cleaner than it’s been for a very long time. All the reports are that it’s amazingly clean. The salmon have returned back to the river.
ANDY BURROWS: And it’s quite busy as well, isn’t it? It’s a major shipping lane after all.
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: Well it’s the leisure boat industry really. There’s a lot of leisure boats, on the lower Thames anyway. Where he starts in Lechlade there are boats, but there are very few. Once he gets down into Windsor and on into London then it’ll get busier and busier, definitely.
ANDY BURROWS: What would he eat?
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: Oh goodness. I’ve no idea. I’d imagine he will ..
ANDY BURROWS: You’d have to refuel as you’re going along.
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: I imagine that he will have a pretty carbohydrate heavy breakfast. And then he’ll have various energy bars and these isotonic drinks, as he goes along. Probably he’ll stop every hour maybe, every hour and a half, and hold onto the side of the boat, and have a drink. Maybe you’re not allowed to hold onto the side of the boat, but .. in the Channel you’re not allowed to.
ANDY BURROWS: If you’re not allowed to, what do you do in those moments? Swim backstroke, or something like that?
MICHAEL WORTHINGTON: Oh you just tread water. Just tread water and have a drink and carry on.(LIVE)
ANDY BURROWS: Michael Worthington that was, from the Outdoor Swimming Society, He makes it sound so easy, 140 miles, over a few days, along the Thames. How hard can it be?