After little over an hour with relatives on Christmas Eve and it was time for an early night – I had to be up at 3.50am to eat and set off for my triathlon on Christmas Day.
After my usual intake of porridge, nuts, seeds and home-made marmalade, it was off to Hampton open air swimming pool, some 30 miles away. This was to be one of the weirdest experiences ever.
On the roads it wasn’t until I was on the M25 that I saw another moving car. And arriving at the pool I was early and not a soul in sight. That was to change very soon as the pool’s usual users arrived for their ‘traditional’ Christmas Day swim. There was soon a throng waiting in zero degree temperature waiting to get into the pool.
I had to book a half hour slot as Christmas Day is apparently its busiest day of the year! Lane swimmers therefore arrive very early as after 8am around 1,500 people pile in.
As the doors opened two minutes before my 6.15am slot, it was a rapid change and dash across icy concrete floors and into the warm pool. I chose the fast lane and looked to see how many people were using it but the mist from the water meant I could only see a third of the way up the 36m pool. As I jumped in five people quickly emerged through the mist and I knew I was going to be occasionally overtaken by these very good swimmers.
As I was five minutes late changing and figuring out lockers I knew I would go over my time allocation and, after stopping occasionally to give way, I sneaked three minutes into the next slot. It was then back to the changing rooms where the next batch of swimmers was rushing to get in and the first lot drying off.
With so much equipment for swimming, cycling and running inside the very small lockers, it was a battle to find space. But the banter was entertaining and I was advised on the best cycle route to take in Richmond Park.
I am sure many London cyclists would not have heeded so many red lights when there was no-one else in sight but as a Buckinghamshire resident I was completely law-abiding, however, that did not help with the rapidly freezing hands and feet.
I found Richmond Park and was amazed at the number of cyclists and runners who were already there. As I cycled around the perimeter, the deer were close enough to the road to touch and did not flinch as I passed by.
Then there was a testing steep incline that got my heart rate going and suddenly I could thankfully feel my hands again as the blood returned to my extremities. One more circuit around the park and the return journey to Hampton Pool to complete 40km.
As I arrived, the throng of people crossing the road from nearby houses and getting out of cars stacking up a long way out of the car park was staggering. Some were simply wearing dressing gowns as they sought their Christmas Day dip.
I returned the bicycle to the car and removed a couple of layers as I set off for the run. My legs were heavy and still the biting cold did not make it easy but a 10km run through Twickenham and back ensured I completed another Olympic-distance triathlon on behalf of the UK Police Memorial.
Before heading back to enjoy my Christmas Day, I paid tribute to the officers and staff who died on December 25, and thought about their families as they must find it a very difficult day of the year.
1842 – Special Constable William Tilsley – Parish of Spernall, Warwickshire
1877 – Police Constable William Batley – West Riding of Yorkshire Constabulary
1892 – Detective Constable Patrick Sinnott – Dublin Metropolitan Police
1919 – Police Constable Thomas Rowland – Metropolitan Police
1943 – War Reserve Constable Stephen Cox – Birmingham City Police
1952 – Police Constable Ronald Saunders – Metropolitan Police
1961 – Sergeant Frederick Carleton – Royal Ulster Constabulary, GC
1966 – Police Constable John Loudon – Metropolitan Police
1968 – Police Constable John MacLurg – Argyllshire Constabulary
1981 – Police Constable David Kelly – Royal Ulster Constabulary, GC
1989 – Police Constable Paul Breen – Metropolitan Police
Please support my efforts to build a fitting tribute to these officers and give their families somewhere they can go to peacefully remember and reflect.
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