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What exactly is a marathon swim?

May 21, 2013

Since MacySwim.com has been dark for over a year, I thought it may be good to start at the beginning. Many of you may not know or may have forgotten what a marathon swim is. Let’s see if I can make this entertaining.

Unlike a marathon run a marathon swim is not a set distance. There are some that believe anything over a 10k constitutes a marathon swim and this is the length that debuted in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Others believe that a marathon swim is really anything over a 25k. Either way you look at it that is a long time in the water. A 10k Olympic swimmer can complete their event in just over 2 hrs of straight racing. I think that is why a 10k is called a marathon swim because the time/effort exuded matches the time/effort for a runner to complete 26.2 miles. i.e. 1 mile swimming = 4 miles running.

To me, I’m fine with either definition. I get more passionate about how the swim is conducted. I typically follow standard English Channel Swimming rules. They are probably the most severe rules in marathon swimming. They state:

  1. Swimmers may wear ONE standard swimming costume. This means no wetsuits, no dry suits, no technical suits, etc. For women the suit cannot go over the arms or be past the hips. 
  2. Swimmers may wear one swim cap and one pair of goggles. The swimmer can wear as much grease as they choose. No headphones are allowed either.
  3. Swimmers start and end on dry land with no water behind them. 
  4. Once the swimmer starts, they cannot touch the boat or receive any other forward or flotation aid. (Note: The boat is the escort that you have in a swim. Typically you swim beside the boat during the swim.)

There are other types of open water swimming rules where swimmers wear wetsuits or perhaps do stage swims where they get out and rest on the boat. These are typically classified as adventure swims versus marathon swims. Since most of the events I’ve chosen require me to follow English Channel Swimming rules, I’ve used these rules even on swims that don’t have a governing body.

Pretty simple rules to remember when you think about it. They came about to have swimmers replicate as close as possible the conditions that Matthew Webb had when he made the first successful crossing of the English Channel in 1875. I’m thankful that it states standard swimming costume and not some wooly long john thing. If that was the case, you might as well just carry a sheep with you.

Welcome Baaa ck!

2 Responses to “What exactly is a marathon swim?”

  1. Sarah Schneiderman says:

    So great to hear from you. Just last night I was thinking, “I wonder what Michelle is up to. I haven’t heard anything in a long time.”

    Then there it was — your post about marathon swims.

    Hope all is well.

  2. Gary Macy says:

    Thanks, Michelle,

    I have to admit I was not completely clear on what the heck you were doing besides swimming a LONG way. Keep up the great work.

    Much love,
    Uncle Gary

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