is or was (a marathon swimmer)

mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member

on holiday in Mexico with lots of thinking time. it feels like forever since I fitted into this category and was wondering how long can you feasibly go between long swims to still use MS as a self descriptive term.

whilst I was happy with 10 miles as a training session at 2S4L last weekend I am feeling a little like a fraud. the chances are aug or sept will be the first opportunity to challenge myself to an open water swim of maybe 15 miles.

I should try to locate the definition of a marathon swim again ?

so I a swimmer or a swammer and what are you ?



  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Yes, you're a marathon swimmer.


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • I haven't run a marathon since '12 but I would still consider myself a marathoner. Personally, it is not important what others call you, but what you call yourself.

    Good luck!

    PS - I will be a marathon swimmer once I finish the Kingdom swim in July. 'Till then I am just a wannabe swimmer.

    Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average.

  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member

    (MPFMark) Robbo, you've done other continuous swims that would more than allow you to be described as a marathon swimmer. But in the case of the 2S4L (which some posters maybe havent appreciated) you get out and dried between each mile. So I am thinking the purists on here will be screaming "2S4L isnt a marathon swim." As organisers we never claimed it is/was a marathon swim, but certainly a brutal swimming challenge when taken on as a solo (which you have done in days of you're anyway!)

    By your logic, would you walk up to Freda and suggest her little girl was not a marathon swimmer :-)

    I'd go have another cocktail and think of the temperature difference for us peasants back in Uk - enjoy your trip!

  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member

    "days of yore" in previous post!

  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member

    We need to institute a title like the U.S. Chess Federation does for "Life Master." A Life Master is someone who, if memory serves me, achieves an Elo rating of 2200 (a "Master") for 300 or more tournament chess games. It is kept for life regardless of subsequent rating, activity, etc.

    So, maybe you can call yourself a "Life Marathon Swimmer" or similar. (?)



    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member

    thanks for that. JB so long as I like my teeth I won't be asking Freda that one. though you Ali and the Kev etc are in a different league. I think one of the biggies EC NC Cat. etc should qualify you as life status.

    cocktails waiting !

  • gregocgregoc Charter Member

    Here is my personal take on this; having done a marathon swim in the past, I can say that I was a marathon swimmer. In the near future, I hope that I will be a marathon swimmer. Only while I am swimming 10K or more in open-water do I consider that I am a marathon swimmer. The time in between marathon swims, whether it is a week or years, I try to be everything else.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Reviving this thread due to recent events.

    Just today on a social media platform I was called "probably the greatest marathon swimming poser, ever."1 That got me thinking about this question I asked three years ago: What is the definition of a marathon swimmer?

    If I've done a 10k swim, am I a marathon swimmer?

    If I've swum farther than 10k, am I a marathon swimmer?

    If I've pioneered a new crossing longer than 10k, am I a marathon swimmer?

    Do I have to swim a 10k or farther every year to be considered a marathon swimmer? When does that end?

    If I swim a marathon or farther every other year, am I then a marathon swimmer?

    If I swim a marathon every year from ages 40 to 50, am I a marathon swimmer when I'm 60?

    I know runners who are marathoners. I never question if they are marathoners if they've only done 1 or 2 or 10 marathons. Even one (running) marathon to me sounds like hell. If you run the Leadville 100 only once in your life, are you an ultramarathoner? I'd say hell yes, but as @Oncearunner said above, maybe it should only matter to yourself. Right?

    1Let me be perfectly clear. I didn't come here and tell you this to get a bunch of supportive emails or posts from this wonderful community. I've gotten some messages on that other platform from awesome marathon swimmers telling me I'm not a poser. While I appreciate the sentiment, I don't need it. The person that said the above, while an incredible marathon swimmer whose resume I am in awe of, means very little to me. I don't need their respect or esteem.


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MASenior Member
    edited September 2017

    have you completed a 10K or longer swim? I think that makes you a marathon swimmer.

    kind of like the two wicked slow marathons I 'ran' made me a marathoner, even though I'm pretty sure I'll never try that stupidity ever again.

    (if you want to spiral down into insanity, look at the "am I really an Ironman if I didn't do a branded race" craziness floating around in the tri world)

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaSenior Member

    How many marathon swims did Cpt. Webb have to do after the first EC in order to hang onto his title as a marathon swimmer? I realize there was probably no such definition in his time period, and my question is not meant to be taken seriously.
    @IronMike, your contribution to this community reaches much farther than just adding swimming notches to your belt. I would hope that your detractor is doing even a small fraction of what you have given to the world of open water swimming, and not just criticizing you based on his or her own personal glories.
    Most of us are the community. Some of us build the community. And a very very few lead it. Well done!

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    edited September 2017

    Thanks all, but again see my 1 above. ;)

    Seriously, can you do one really long swim, say 10 miles, in your 40's, then when you're in your 50's can you still say you're a marathon swimmer?

    Is it a matter of degrees? If @ssthomas Sarah's only swim ever was her 80-miler, can she forever and ever claim she's a marathon swimmer? (I'd say yes.) Or does she (we? I? you?) have to recharge the "I'm a marathon swimmer" circuits every few years, frequency dependent upon how long (miles? hours?) the most recent marathon swim was?

    Is it a matter of audience? I can tell you that my family, love them that I do, are too easily impressed. The first time I swam a mile non-stop they were impressed. To them, I'm a marathon swimmer simply because I swim for hours, plural, and they don't/can't. But to you all, the community I love so much, the swims I've done are meager (and that's ok). The swims you've done are incredible, awe-inspiring, monumental. I could see easily how I could not be considered a marathon swimmer if I didn't do a long swim at least once a year. Or if the longest I've ever swum remains forever and ever to be 10 miles or 6+ hours. And that would be alright, because (channeling @OnceaRunner), it only matters to me.

    Is it a matter of placing, speed, time? If you've done iconic swims in your 20s and won one or more of them, can you then retire but still call yourself a marathon swimmer years later? Should your tombstone 70 years later include the description marathon swimmer?

    Is it a matter of ability? If you can at any point get in the water and swim 10K according to the spirit and rules of marathon swimming (and you've actually already done it at least once), are you a marathon swimmer?

    Is it a matter of the present? Are you always a former marathon swimmer until you are in the water actually swimming one (@gregoc)? Are pool swimmers not swimmers except when they're actually swimming? Marathoners aren't marathoners except when they're running one? Triathletes are only triathletes when they're doing all three sports, in a particular order, with two transitions?

    What if you get injured? Say you did a multitude of incredible swims in your 20's, but then got in a terrible accident, and can't swim marathons anymore. Are you still a marathon swimmer in your 40's?

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaSenior Member

    Perhaps a swim is like a trophy, something that lasts forever because you did it. Carl Lewis won gold medals in times that would not get him a bronze today, but he is still a gold medalist. I think that once history is written, it is permanent.

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member

    Are we overthinking this, perhaps? Interesting question, and one which we could debate endlessly.... but once you've done a swim, marathon or otherwise, it's done and nobody can remove that achievement from your CV, however long it is since the event. It's permissable to retire. There may be Oceans 7 and triple crowners who have retired from the long stuff, but I don't think anybody would seek to rescind their entitlement to style themselves as such. Personally, I think you're all phenomenal and will remain so, whether swimming, supporting or offering wisdom. Cheers! :D

  • phodgeszohophodgeszoho UKSenior Member

    Definitely overthinking things...

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Certainly seems like overthinking, but when one swimmer calls another swimmer a poser (the greatest, in fact), maybe it is worth overthinking it.

    ...more DNFs than finishes out of the easiest swim (Manhattan Island) that is designed for slower swimmers to get around

    ...likes to portray himself as an expert, which he isn't

    ...talks a big talk like he's been there, however, he's quit most of the swims he's tried.
    He's a sideshow act that nobody take seriously. out of the water and in a boat during a race because he couldn't hack it

    These are all the things this person said about me. I think at the core of it is this swimmer doesn't like that I call myself a marathon swimmer and, gasp, title my blog thus. Sorry if I'm overthinking it. I could see how some may think that. (Was it overthinking when we asked this question?) Please ignore my posts if my question is not of interest to you. I won't be offended. ;)

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber
    edited September 2017

    IronMike said: out of the easiest swim (Manhattan Island) that is designed for slower swimmers to get around

    I actually found this comment to be the most offensive. I know several very accomplished marathon swimmers who have a DNF at MIMS/20 Bridges. No swim of 28.5 miles is easy, no matter how fast or slow you are and no matter what the currents are doing.

    One thing I love about this community is that we embrace each other and celebrate the successes and failures. It's not about speed or distance- it's about trying and doing. People who can't embrace that mentality need to take a hike. I don't mind discussion or disagreements as our sport grows and changes- but personal attacks are out of line. It actually makes me furious that someone would say that to you in a public setting. And from what I saw, it was 100% unprovoked.

    My little sister just swam her first 10k a week ago. It took her 4 hours and 45 minutes. She barely made the 5 hour course cut off time. In my eyes, she's a marathon swimmer. And she'll always be a marathon swimmer. I'm proud of her. It takes guts and courage to do what we do, no matter where we're at in our personal swimming journeys.

    Keep your head up, Mike. Haters are gonna hate.

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member

    IronMike said:
    Certainly seems like overthinking, but when one swimmer calls another swimmer a poser (the greatest, in fact), maybe it is worth overthinking it.

    ...more DNFs than finishes out of the easiest swim (Manhattan Island) that is designed for slower swimmers to get around

    ...likes to portray himself as an expert, which he isn't

    ...talks a big talk like he's been there, however, he's quit most of the swims he's tried.
    He's a sideshow act that nobody take seriously. out of the water and in a boat during a race because he couldn't hack it

    These are all the things this person said about me. I think at the core of it is this swimmer doesn't like that I call myself a marathon swimmer and, gasp, title my blog thus. Sorry if I'm overthinking it. I could see how some may think that. (Was it overthinking when we asked this question?) Please ignore my posts if my question is not of interest to you. I won't be offended. ;)

    @IronMike I would hope this person isn't a friend of yours. How very unpleasant. It's certainly not overthinking to ask the question.....but you are out there, trying new swims and achieving. Many DNFs are still marathon swims, whether or not they're complete. It takes huge guts to get in for the next one, too. You are and always will be a marathon swimmer.

  • JustSwimJustSwim Senior Member

    Marilyn Bell hasn't done a marathon swim in a few years, but she still is, and will always be, a marathon swimmer.

  • emkhowleyemkhowley Boston, MACharter Member

    I ran a marathon in 1998. It took me just over 5 and a half hours. I am still super proud of that achievement because it was hard and running doesn't come easily to me, but I would never, ever consider myself a "marathon runner." But I did do one once. And I don't think I would fault someone who called herself a marathon runner after a similar performance because I subscribe to the idea that identity and how we choose to label and address ourselves should be our own affair.

    Since that marathon run in Vienna nearly 20 years ago, I've done a few marathon swims. And I'm quite comfortable in my declaration of self as a marathon swimmer. If I were to ever stop swimming completely and walk away, maybe I would find a different way to define myself then. But for now, "marathon swimmer" is an identity I'm proud to apply to myself.

    I'm sorry to read of the unkind Internet interaction you had, @IronMike. I'm with @ssthomas on this -- haters gonna hate. You do you.


    Stop me if you've heard this one...
    A grasshopper walks into a bar...

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    phodgeszoho said:
    Definitely overthinking things...

    Yep. Think of it this way. To your wife you are awesome, except when you are an idiot. To your kids you are an idiot except when you are awesome. To the rest, it just doesn't really matter. You can call yourself the Princess of Wales for all I care...

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    There are so may things to be said about the deeply flawed post you reference. Much has already been said in this forum, and very well said. Because at the base, as you point out, this forum is shared by kind, supportive people who understand the fundamental concept of sportsmanship.

    Do you really have more DNFs than finishes? That is amazing! It may not have been your goal, but what an accomplishment. To my way of thinking, A DNF is either due to carelessness (like my Hague 10K last year turning into a 7.5) or just not the day for finishing despite doing your absolute best that day. Either DNF is a learning experience, and a very useful training session. And yes, even with a good spin, it can be hard to swallow, so giving it another try is challenging.

    I read your blog about the 20 Bridges this past summer. I loved it. At the time, I was amazed that you could be so positive and sporting, while it was so fresh. I was still thinking about my “7.5K” debacle. It made more sense to me after actually finishing that 10K last month, since it was very close, and as I worked toward the cutoff, I knew I could be looking at another DNF- but I also knew I had swum hard, done by absolute best, stayed focused, and could live with a DNF. I’m sure there are more in my future, because I’m not fast. Maybe someday.

    Getting out of the water and in a boat during a race? Oh, please. You made a hard choice for the right reasons. I think that given the distance you traveled, the fact that you were willing to jump ahead and finish was GREAT. You got the chance to swim in special waters under cool bridges. It was an adventure!! Not every swim is a race. What were your miles before and after the boat ride? Was there something else you wanted to do that day? So often, the only way to swim in these venues is to take a chance on doing an event. You made the most of yours. You didn't let it rattle you for the finish.

    As for not being taken seriously? I’m thinking that is more than a bit of the pot calling the kettle black. Mike, I knew you before you got into swimming, and I’ve seen how you have interacted with people in this forum since I became aware of the forum in the past few years. You have learned a lot about swimming (sorry I didn’t get to help with that!), and you share with the best of intentions. More importantly, you aren’t building yourself up, you are building others up. That is huge.

    This is a Marathon Swimming forum. My first marathon swim was in 1999 when I swam 8 miles from NY to Vermont. At the time, I had the idea that a marathon swim had to be 10 miles, not 10K. I was apparently an official marathon swimmer before I even realized it! But whenever anyone swam whatever distance, in this group, I feel like we are a team.

    The sour pickle who posted a list of why you aren’t really a marathon swimmer? Clueless.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Thanks @Bridget, I appreciate it and I also wish I'd known about this great sport back when we were living in the same city!

    But to answer your question, if you look at my 10K or longer solo swim starts, yes, I've DNF'd more than I finished:

    Swim for the Potomac 10K (lower back pain, and only 5 minutes left for the last 1250m lap)

    Swim Ocean City 9 miles (incredibly under-trained for salt water and cold!)

    Issyk Kul crossing attempt #1, ~14k (combo of 13.5C water, altitude, and inability to pee)

    20 Bridges (I think everyone knows what happened to me here).

    The ones I managed to finish include:

    Dart 10k

    Swim the Suck 10 miles (only a month after my Potomac fail, so very proud of this one)

    Issyk Kul crossing attempt #2, ~14k (water was 18-19C...oh what a difference!)

    So on that count, this person is correct. But if you look at all my solo open water swim starts (21), I "only" DNF'd 4. As you say, certainly not my goal. Never is. But I think not too bad for an adult-onset swimmer whose first open water swim was one mile in 2010.


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Niek said:
    That person forgot:

    ... 'utilizes child labour'

    To be clear, I only utilize child labor when it involves my own children. The courts support me in this. ;)


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    IronMike said:

    Niek said:
    That person forgot:

    ... 'utilizes child labour'

    To be clear, I only utilize child labor when it involves my own children. The courts support me in this. ;)

    Although my "child" was 24, I was so pleased he could paddle for me. He seemed to really be pleased to be part of things. :-) (He was good motivation-- although my swim was 28:06, I was in labor with him longer. Like the swim, the second half was a bit more challenging than the first.) My 10 year old is learning to kayak.

    As to the DNFs, remember-- I wasn't questioning the accuracy of the fact that you may have DNFed more than you finished- I was celebrating the fact that you keep going. :-D

    For now, I'm off to the beach to get a quick mile in before work-- maybe two, if I hurry, but I do need to allow for warm up before getting back in the car. Driving with hard shivers isn't good.

  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    And so yesterday I was doing a nice leisurely pool swim, doing 500 repeats focusing on my stroke technique. There was a guy a couple lanes over who was kind of zipping along doing 100's. At some point he and I were stopped at the wall and he said, "Sir, did you used to be a swimmer?" I laughed and said that I still was a swimmer, which he thought was pretty funny.

    He said that he noticed that my stroke was pretty smooth and it didn't look like I was working all that hard and yet I was almost keeping up with him. (Generous) I said that I was more into long distance swimming and so I was trying to make my stroke as economical as possible. He said that he was just starting to get into open water and long distance swimming and was very excited about it. I told him I was glad to hear that a young guy like him was into long distance swimming because it seemed like there weren't too many young people going that route. (He said he was 17.) He thought it was pretty cool that I was a long distance swimmer and said that he imagined that it was a lot easier with regard to injuries. I agreed with him and said that I'm 61 and I haven't had a swimming related injury in years now.

    Then he said, "Man, I want to be like you when I get old!" Oh gosh, the "Sir" was sort of OK, because that happens to me in grocery stores and such. But now I'm "that old guy"... Yes, I know it was a sincere compliment and it was taken as such. But it is quite funny how perspective changes as we swim through life. I am now the "old guy who used to be a swimmer".

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    LOL! I remember taking a lifeguard test when I was 35 and a teenager telling me "you're pretty fast, for an old person...uh, sorry!" That girl is in her 30s now...

    I'd agree that you have a smooth, efficient-looking stroke, since I had a minute to watch down at Colman. ; )


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • brunobruno Barcelona (Spain)Senior Member

    I don't like tags (neither being tagged, nor tagging others or myself). So I'd rather say "you did a marathon swim". Which takes me to the point: you may not finish a race or a challenge: say a 4-way crossing of EC, or a 2-way North Channel, or Ibiza-Spain's mainland; yes, you DNFed, but you swam 70K!!!

    The same applies to an "average" marathon swim: say you aim for a 25K, and you quit or are pulled out after 21K: you just swam one marathon swim, then another marathon swim, then 1000 m cool down... Who cares what others will say?

    Even our "average set" (not to mention any amazing "animal set") should makes us proud, compared to most of the amateur swimmers in the pool. And regarding this, when I need a laugh I always remember this picture I saw from 2swim4life event:


  • edited September 2017

    Deleted post

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    Mike is talking about comments I made on Facebook.

    You were commenting on the USMS new rules and said that if you can't make the distance you shouldn't enter as well as some comments on training. I said that you were the pot calling the kettle black due to your history of not finishing swims and failing to put in the hours training. It's great that you love the sport, however, I don't consider you an expert.

    My heros are swimmers who are at the back of the pack. Laura Collette took almost twice as long as me to finish Tampa Bay once upon a time. She has a HUGE brass pair to hang tough for that long. She walks softly and carries a big stick. She doesn't boast to the world about an upcoming swim. She does the training, shows up, and slays the course. Every time.

    I mentioned to you in this forum a few years back that you should spend more time training instead of promoting your upcoming swims on social media. Talking up your swims only to get out within an hour made you look silly, and I felt bad for you.

    When you lived here in the DC area you swam with the Masters team I coach for. I recall you getting out of a workout early and later saying that our hour long Saturday pool swims weren't worth your time. (BTW, Saturdays are now 90 minutes and most people get 5K in.). I offered to paddle for you in the Potomac on several occasions, which you politely declined. Later that summer you got out of the Potomac swim at National Harbor.

    I also standby my comment on your Manhattan swim. You posted on Facebook that your swim would be an "assisted swim". I had to correct you that it's a DNF/DQ. It diminishes the accomplishments of those who got all the way around without any help. (I have no issue with you getting back in to keep going.). Historically speaking, MIMS has the highest success rate of any escorted swim. I swam in 9 USS 25K Nationals. Several swimmers bailed out of each one I was part of and on two occasions hot water led to my demise. I've done over 30 20K+ swims and Manhattan (2 swims) has by far been the easiest of them.

    It's bugged me for a while that you talk a big game when in reality you have so much to learn.

    I realize my opinion is unpopular in the epoch of everyone getting a trophy and having to always be nice. This post will unleash a lynch mob of angry replies. I'm fine with that. However, before you unload on me; consider my experience and pedigree. My opinions are based on my time as a swimmer and a coach. 25+ years on deck and in the (open) water. Hundreds of miles of racing all over the world and thousands more in training.

    I shall now don my asbestos Speedo.............Let er rip.

  • gregocgregoc Charter Member

    WTF? I love marathon swimming because everyone is supportive of others and typically very modest of their own accomplishments. I guess there are always a few outliers, I just wish they would keep it to themselves or find another sport.

  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member

    Swim drama! With the cast of characters and personalities combined with the gorgeous backdrop I can't believe a reality tv show hasn't been made about us. Swim Happy People !

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    edited September 2017

    At the suggestion of @WarmWater , I've deleted my response to Chris.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • This should be settled off-line please guys.

  • phodgeszohophodgeszoho UKSenior Member

    IronMike said:
    Certainly seems like overthinking, but when one swimmer calls another swimmer a poser (the greatest, in fact), maybe it is worth overthinking it.

    In the context of the original question regarding the expiry date on the label "marathon swimmer" - yes I think people overthink these things.

    To clarify my opinion (which is all this is - an opionion) I feel a lot of issues come from people trying to label or quantify both themselves and others.

    I have completed a few swims and also failed a few. Does that make me a "marathon swimmer" or a "fraud"?

    Probably a mixture of both. Who knows? Who cares? :-/

    In regards to your current issue it seems that you swim and you choose to be active in sharing your experiences.

    That's great. Keep doing it.

    I know it's a bit hippy dippy advice but ignore the labels, especially the negative ones.

    Good luck with your next swim.


    evmoIronMikethelittlemerwookieSolo[Deleted User]gregocKatieBun
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