Come hell or high water: the 101st Liffey Swim  


Swim Ireland have confirmed that the 101st Liffey Swim will take place on Saturday the 23rd of October this year. 

The new course will start at the Old Customs House and finish at the 3 Arena. The women’s race is set to start at 12:30 and the men’s race will start at 13:45, both races will be 1650 metres. 

Last years race was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and there has been a lot of uncertainty on whether the race would go ahead this year.

 The Swim usually takes place at the end of August. 

“By the time the Liffey Swim was scheduled we were heading back into lockdown. We have a range of ages and numerous front-line workers so while there was disappointment last year everyone understood. We did manage to get one race done, the Dun Laoghaire Harbour race which is our other big race.” a representative from Leinster Open Sea told the Liberty. 

The representative admitted there is a similarity with the Manhattan swim “but the Liffey Swim runs through the heart of the capital. We have had maybe 20 or more overseas competitors in recent years. The popularity of the race has grown over the years”

The River Liffey as seen from O’Connell Bridge (Photo by Isabel Ni Challarain)

The Liffey Swim was established by Bernard Fagan in 1920 and only 27 men took part that year. It wasn’t until 1991 that women were allowed compete and swim for glory. 

Each swimmer is handicapped and before the race you have to submit the time you think you’ll complete it in. The slowest people go first and the fastest people go last. The idea is that everyone should finish at the same time.  

“For women and girls with body issues it’s a great thing because we are all standing around in our togs and you are meeting people from all walks of life and all shapes and sizes. It was a lovely experience.”, said Paula Delaney, competitor in the 100th Liffey Swim in 2019. 

Delaney completed her first sea swim at eight years old and then she “took a thirty-year break” before returning to it. To qualify for the hundredth memorial swim Delaney joined the Meath’s Masters swim club and completed twelve qualifying swims around Dublin.  

Normally, around 150 to 200 women compete in the Swim however the numbers were increased in 2019 so that more people could apply. 363 men and 252 women completed the 100th swim. 

“At all the swims there is a real camaraderie and there is a real fun factor,” said Delaney. 

Delaney also made sure to drink a full fat coca cola which is meant to help clean out the bacteria in your gut after the swim and “just to make double sure we also had a good shot of whiskey as well”. 

The Liffey Swim is carried out at high tide to lessen the pollutants in the water and swimmers aren’t allowed to wear wetsuits or anything that could give them extra buoyancy. Molly Malone is sung before the race starts and you have to be a member of a swim club to take part in the swim. 

“You’re not really Dublin unless you do it,” said Delaney with a laugh.