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Community / Public space

CityMetric Advent 14: London's most masochistic Christmas tradition

At 9am on Christmas day, most of us are either still in bed, looking forward to lunch, and, at a stretch, considering a short walk (much) later in the day. For a small group of foolhardy Londoners, however, 9am is the starting whistle  for a very cold, very short swimming race in the middle of Hyde Park.

The race involves contestants swimming 100 yards down the river outside the Serpentine Swimming Club. Some years, it’s so cold contestants have to break several inches of ice before the race can go ahead. We feel cold just looking at it:

The club’s website sternly notes that the competition is open to club members only, though if you’re up early enough, “spectators are welcome”.

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The race has taken place every year on Christmas Day since the 1860s. J.M. Barrie actually bequeathed the race’s trophy to the club, which is why it’s now known as the Peter Pan Cup. Here it is, along with the other valuable prizes awarded at the 2008 race: 

Is a shot at such an assortment worth missing a lie-in and Christmas TV for? The jury’s still out.

All images: Serpentine Swimming Club. 

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