Mariam Saleh Binladen, a dentist from Saudi Arabia, has set a new record as the first woman to officially swim 101 miles of the source of the River Thames in the United Kingdom.
Swimming to inspire more women to participate in sport and to raise awareness of the plight of refugee Syrian orphans around the world, Mariam is just the third person and first woman in recent history to have successfully completed the 100+ mile open-water swimming feat. Most recently this included the British comedian and Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams, who finished the swim in 2011.
Mariam’s marathon endurance swim began at Folly Bridge near Oxford on June 3 and finished at Teddington Lock in London at 1.05 p.m. on June 12. The swim was completed over 10 days and navigated 32 locks and some of the South of England’s most iconic towns and villages. Known for its strong currents and eddies as well as high pollution levels, the Thames is one of the most challenging and dangerous open water swims.
Talking about her successful swim Mariam said: “I am thrilled and very proud to be the first woman to swim 101 miles of the Thames. I wanted to show that a young woman from Saudi Arabia can achieve a lifelong ambition, whilst at the same time raise awareness to bigger causes, particularly the plight of thousands of suffering Syrian orphan refugees. I also want to encourage more women from around the world to participate in sport and show them that anything is possible.
“I have had the most amazing support from my coach Fiona, my support crew and my family in the preparation for this challenge. I would also like to thank all the people that came out and encouraged me along the way over the last 10 days — it was a great boost to be cheered on particularly when I was feeling exhausted after several days in the water. It was this support and my belief that ‘I aim and therefore I am’ which is about beginning with the end in mind — that has got me to the finish line today.”
Mariam trained for nearly two years to build up to the swim with support from her swim coach Fiona Southwell and family members. On Aug. 27, 2015 Mariam swam the Hellespont open water swim in Turkey and was the first Saudi female to complete the race from Europe to Asia.
Mariam was greeted by members of her family at the finish line in Teddington along with a crowd of well-wishers. A film documentary of the swim will be broadcasted later in the year as part of the profile raising program for Mariam’s causes.