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Definition of "marathon swim"
CREATED: 06/12/13 by IronMike REPLIES: 8
IronMike's ravatar IronMike    JOINED: 6/11/13    POSTS: 48
Definition of marathon swim
POSTED: 6/12/13 9:46 AM

I'd like to clearly define the term marathon swim as I've had some folks already ask me to define it.

According to FINA, a marathon swim is a 10K swim conducted in open water. This was based on a comparison of similarly fit runners and swimmers finishing at around the same time. In other words, elite marathon runners finish in the 2:05-2:10 range. Elite marathon swimmers finish a 10K swim at the 1:50-2:00 range. (10K swim sounds better than 11K swim!) Simple, right?

Not so fast. If you ask marathon swimmers, you'll get different answers. Some don't think marathon distances are reached until the swim is at least 25K. Others stick to the FINA definition.

Whenever someone asks me "What's a marathon swim?" I answer "10K or farther." Then if they ask, I tell them the rules.

Rules. Most marathon swimmers stick to English Channel rules. This means the swimmer can wear one suit made of textile materials, not to extend below the knees or above the navel (for men) or past the shoulders (for women). Goggles and swim cap (not neoprene as that is heat retaining) complete the ensemble (although most organizations also allow ear plugs and nose clips). That's it. Bottom line is you cannot wear anything that aids buoyancy and/or heat retention.

BTW: Channel grease is not heat retaining, no matter how much you put on. It is useful, however, against chaffing, which is what marathoners use it for.

And finally, the swimmer may not rest on or purposefully touch the support boat/kayak. There have been times when a kayak and swimmer have bumped, and that's ok. But no resting, no getting on the boat and restarting (that's called a failed channel attempt and/or an "aided or assisted swim" if the swimmer then does finish the distance), nothing like that.

You against nature. That's why I love marathon swimming!

Cheers to all,

IronMike's ravatar IronMike    JOINED: 6/11/13    POSTS: 48
RE: Definition of "marathon swim"
POSTED: 9/03/13 3:57 PM

(Bumping this up due to the recent news from Diana Nyad.)

With respect to the extraordinary feat that Ms Nyad accomplished this past weekend, let me define a few other terms.

Adventure swim: Usually a long distance swim not under EC rules. Like Martin Strel's crazy Amazon River swim (Big River Man). He wore a wetsuit and fins, so not a marathon swim. Plus, as his swim went many days, it is also a...

Staged swim: Say you want to swim down a river, and you know it'll take many days. How about swimming it in stages? A guy did this down the Thames in the UK some years ago. Another guy is doing (or is still in the planning stages) a staged swim across the Atlantic. (He marks his location on GPS at the end of the day, gets on the boat and sleeps/rests, then next day starts from the same location.)

There is some wiggle in these definitions. For instance, if you follow EC rules during a staged swim AND swim more than 10K each day, then you're doing a series of marathon swims. There was a guy some years ago who swam the length of Tunisia, under EC-rules. He swam well over 10K each day. So he did a staged swim of a series of marathon swims. And I think there's a guy doing the same thing now the length of the UK.

So, much respect to Ms Nyad on her amazing adventure swim. I only hope I've got the mojo to go straight for 53 hours when I'm 64 years old!

mosered's ravatar mosered    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 2217
RE: Definition of "marathon swim"
POSTED: 9/06/13 4:36 PM

If you make it across the Chesapeake, even tho the Bay Swim is "only" 4.4 miles, in my book that's at least as hard as running a marathon, or riding say 200K, and qualifies as a "marathon" swim, especially given the time constraints & the current factor.

IronMike's ravatar IronMike    JOINED: 6/11/13    POSTS: 48
RE: Definition of "marathon swim"
POSTED: 9/06/13 5:54 PM


Definitely something to be proud of! 4.4 miles is nothing to sneeze at in any conditions.

But still not a marathon swim. But it is more than a half-marathon (5K). ;)

HappyRunner's ravatar HappyRunner    JOINED: 1/15/11    POSTS: 281
POSTED: 9/07/13 10:21 AM

This is pretty interesting stuff. Sad to hear the controversy and questions raised in the last few days about the legitimacy of Nyad's swim. Odd that she would not have an independant verification person to observe.

HappyRunner's ravatar HappyRunner    JOINED: 1/15/11    POSTS: 281
RE: Definition of "marathon swim"
POSTED: 9/07/13 10:22 AM

Really hate double posts.

IronMike's ravatar IronMike    JOINED: 6/11/13    POSTS: 48
RE: Definition of "marathon swim"
POSTED: 9/19/13 8:17 PM

@HappyRunner, I agree. What DN did was incredible. Her swim will go down as one of the greatest assisted swims ever. 53 hours vertical is absolutely incredible, no doubt about it.

If she had had two independent observers on the swim, observers known to the marathon swimming community (like all other marathon swimmers do on channel crossings), most of the questioning and controversy would have been rendered moot.

HappyRunner's ravatar HappyRunner    JOINED: 1/15/11    POSTS: 281
RE: Definition of "marathon swim"
POSTED: 9/19/13 8:45 PM

A friend asked me this question today -- I'm not at all tight with the marathon swim community so I had no answer, but maybe you do: "Is there any reason whatsoever (save the obvious) that DN would not have at least one independent observer?"

IronMike's ravatar IronMike    JOINED: 6/11/13    POSTS: 48
RE: Definition of "marathon swim"
POSTED: 9/20/13 8:41 AM

@HappyRunner, I don't have an answer for you. On her 4th attempt, she had a well-known observer on-board, Steven Munatones. He's well known and his credentials are impeccable. But even during that attempt, DN and her team never told anyone that she got on the boat during a storm (appropriate, in my book) for many hours (20? trying to remember). It was only after a video came out that she and her team admitted. Meanwhile, all her press kept talking about her swimming non-stop for 40, 50 hours, when in fact, she took a little break in the middle.

For this attempt, Munatones was again on tap, but when the weather and conditions were good for her to swim, he was on a plane to Japan (I think to observe another Tsugaru Channel attempt).

Question I and many marathoners have is: Why was Steve the only observer scheduled to observe her swim? We don't have an answer to that yet. For a swim that was planned to take ~70 hours to complete, she should (and probably did) have had two observers scheduled, but so far all she is telling us is that Steve was planned but couldn't. Her team had to scramble to get her the two observers that she got, neither of them known to anyone except people in Key West.

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