Serpentine Biathlon cancelled for the second year running

Our annual run-swim event with the Serpentine Running Club fell victim to the blue-green algae bloom

No fixture for the second week running meant no biathlon for the second year running.

So here are some past memories and background.

The run-swim event was introduced in 1983 to develop relations between the swimming club and the recently established Serpentine Running Club

The run-swim event was introduced in 1983 to develop relations between the swimming club and the recently established Serpentine Running Club

Ready for the 2018 start, with Christo's Mastaba sculpture looming in the background.

The event was introduced to the club fixture list in 1983 to develop relations between the swimming club and the recently established running club.  A number of our swimmers were involved with the new running club, notably Alan Woodward and John Sextone, and a joint fixture was proposed at the club's AGM of 1983 by the then club captain Norman Saxby (himself a keen runner).  The event was an approximate 2.2 mile run and a 440 yard swim.  In 2007 the swim distance was increased to 880 yards to even-up the competition between the best of the runners and the best of the swimmers.  The plan for the cancelled 2020 and 2021 events was for a 660 yard (600m) swim, as the "evened-up" half mile swim was seeming to even-up a bit too far in the elite swimmers' favour.

Originally held during June, in 1989 the fixture was moved to September as the event clashed with many of the runners’ summer race schedules.

Jan Farmer has presented the Jan Farmer shield to the winning team since 2017

Jan Farmer has presented the Jan Farmer shield to the winning team since 2017

Up to the 2016 event there was no individual sponsor: an annual tankard being presented to the first male and first female competitors.  Prompted by the club's desire to avail more race sponsorship opportunities to members, Jan Farmer was approached as a suitable sponsor -  being a very active and popular member of both the running club and the swimming club.  The Jan Farmer shield was funded by both clubs and is presented to the winner of the club team event, commencing 2017.  The tankards are still presented to the first man and woman.

Alan Titmuss giving instructions at the start of the 2006 race

1990 Men's team winners - Swimming Club, Norman Jones, Peter Maugham and Andrew Fuller, with President Mike Olizar and Alan Woodward.

1990 Men's team winners -  Swimming Club, Norman Jones, Peter Maugham and Andrew Fuller, with President Mike Olizar and Alan Woodward.

Why "Biathlon"?

Concerning the name of the event, in 1983 mass participation multi-discipline events were very much in their infancy.  "Biathlon" seemed the most appropriate title at the time.  Nowadays we would probably have used the term "Duathlon", not that anyone is proposing a change just now.

2012 start. The swimming club-running club event is a low-key run round the lake followed by a refreshing, relaxing dip. Some take it seriously (notably the nominated team members); others just enjoy the scenery.

Jan is a farmer’s daughter, with a very appropriate surname.  She also very appropriately studied agriculture.  Other than athletics, and latterly swimming, she is passionate about birds -  a love shared with husband Paul, a retired agriculturalist.  They have both travelled all over the world “birding”.  (Please, no puns about Jan taking over the daily Serpentine Tweet feed!).

Jan worked for the Canadian High Commission in London as Trade Commissioner for agriculture and fisheries.  Now supposedly in retirement, she is still in demand by Canadian provincial governments and producers for advice on UK markets.

Jan is a longstanding (30 years plus) member of the Serpentine Running Club and has completed many road, and off road, ultra distance events, including the prestigious Comrades marathon, from Durban to Pietermarietzberg in South Africa.  She also captained the Serpentine RC vets track and field team for 20 years, focussing on throwing events.

1996, Jan with running club stalwarts Ros Young and Hilary Walker

Jan graduated to triathlon and was selected for the GB age group team, competing in World and European Championships.  She won bronze in the World Duathlon Championships in 2006 and silver medal in World  Championships in 2011.

Meningitis ended her running career in 2011 However, Jan had already joined the Serpentine SC and took inspiration from club members to focus on swimming.  A “nearly”’ English Channel relay followed, along with some successful Coniston swims. 

Jan’s other interests include singing, and many club members have attended concerts given by her choir.

When driving, Jan keeps up commentary on species of birds overhead. This can be disconcerting for passengers until you realise that she doesn’t need to focus on them - flight behaviour is enough for her to identify them!

(thank you Ros Young, Jan’s long term friend, for these snippets of information)

Though maybe no longer winning medals on dry land, Jan continues to pile up the silverware in the water

Though maybe no longer winning medals on dry land, Jan continues to pile up the silverware in the water

2021 Bridge to Bridge winner

2015 "Ladies of the Lake" Channel relay - Jan waiting for her slot.

2015

Just as it was getting dark a rope wound itself around the propeller shaft and the relay attempt had to be curtailed.

Training in Dover

Training in Dover

2015 Channel team - The Ladies of The Lake. Eliza Kaczynska-Nay, Nicola Sanderson, Mary Gilbert, Jan Famer, Jaana Tarma, Kirsty Neilson. Plus Lu Ward, not training that day.

Jan has not tried the Channel again, but has completed three 5.25 mile Coniston Water Chillswim events. The latest was earlier this month.

Jan has not tried the Channel again, but has completed three 5.25 mile  Coniston Water Chillswim events.  The latest was earlier this month.

2021 Coniston swim - Jan inspecting the start.

2021, Jan at the finish