What is marathon swimming?

loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
edited March 2012 in Beginner Questions
A marathon swim is a continuous swim of at least 10km, using only a textile swimsuit, non-neoprene cap, goggles, and grease. This distance was chosen for its equivalence in time-to-completion to a 26.2-mile marathon run. Alternative definitions suggest a minimum distance of 10 miles or 20km.

The basic rules of marathon swimming have stood for nearly 140 years:

  • Nothing may be used or worn that aids speed, buoyancy, heat retention, or endurance (e.g., wetsuits, neoprene caps, gloves, paddles, fins, etc.).
  • No physical contact with support craft or personnel during the swim.
  • The swimmer must start and finish on dry land. When safely accessible dry land is not available, a rock or sheer cliff face with no seawater beyond will suffice.

loneswimmer.com

[Deleted User][Deleted User]

Comments

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited January 2017
    A couple exceptions/variants to these rules include:
    • Cook Strait: 10-minute shark break.
    • NYC Swim: no jammers, lightning break
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    Another exception is the Farallons which allow the use of neoprene caps.
    [Deleted User]

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    I'm gonna go with "10km or farther" for my definition of marathon swim. Until I complete Swim the Suck, then I'll say "10 miles or more..." :)
    [Deleted User]

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    3 days later and I still can't stop thinking about the concept of a "10 minute shark break" for the Cook Straits. It's not that I don't understand getting out....it's the getting back in that I can't get my head around. There are some limits to my marathon swimming - some physical, some financial, but mostly wildlife-based...I wonder if I still count as a marathon swimmer if I'm a big old scaredy-cat?
    [Deleted User]
  • jenschumacherjenschumacher Los Angeles, CAMember
    So, since a marathon swim is 10K+, would what many of us are doing be considered ultra-marathon swimming? (Example: ultra-marathon running is anything greater than 26.2 miles) If so, at what distance would the term 'ultra' be used? I propose 25K+. Thoughts?
    Carly[Deleted User]
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited June 2015
    Perhaps there should also be a term for a swim that is longer than a marathon run - i.e., swims longer than 26.2 miles. I'm half joking, but it's pretty incredible that people are capable of such things. (MIMS probably wouldn't qualify because of the current assist).
  • I think marathon has been used for a lot of the 25k+ swims for a long time, so it might need to be a bit higher than that.
    The rule about nothing worn that aids speed would seem to be in conflict with the claims of many of the sponsors of our sport. After all, a poly is faster than a wool suit, and an aqua blade is faster than a poly, and a fastskin 2 is faster than an aquablade. Is the rule about producing more speed or slowing down less?
  • For what its worth why call any part of it a marathon? The term is firmly rooted in running events and claims its history from the same discipline. Why not choose a more applicable system that will allow for any swim over 10 k?
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    Fatboyswim makes a good point.

    1 Mile Sprint
    5K Competition
    10K Challenge
    10 Mile Marine Mammal
    25K Aquaman
    21 Mile Classic Channel
    >21 Mile Crazies Only

    Or something like that.
    Carly
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    Or, to steal from the tri-folks: 10K=Olympic distance!

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    Olympic for 10k really makes sense. Not sure about the Aquaman, as after all, he was a pretty boring superhero. ;) We have the complications that Catalina Cook & Gibraltar are still classic channels but shorter than 21 miles, which is why I (personally) think a Channel swimmer is a Channel swimmer, regardless.

    loneswimmer.com

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    And Aquaman is sometimes used for run/swim duathlons here.

    How about:
    1 mile = Sprint
    5K = half-marathon (that's what the Cypriots, Greeks, Bulgarians and Ukrainians called it when I went to a race on Cyprus last year)
    10K = Olympic-distance and/or marathon
    ~20K = double-marathon (??)
    25K+ = ultramarathon

    The international association of ultrarunners has 50K and 100K championships. The 100K world record holders are running it in 6:13 (men) and 6:33 (women). A 100K is about 2.4 times a marathon, so I think for a 25K+ swim it would be fitting to call it an ultramarathon.

    I don't think we need a separate term for a channel crossing. You cross a channel, you're a channel crosser, plain and simple.

    Granted, all suggestions above are from a guy who's done no farther than an Olympic-distance swim. Yet. ;)

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    That Marathon/Double/Ultra pattern is how I explain it to a lot of people. I mix with a lot of triathletes and runners/ultrarunners and I find that's the easiest way to get them to understand what it is endurance swimmers are doing. Although it'd be nice if we had our own terminology, from a marketing of the sport perspective unique terms are kinda meaningless if only we know what they are.
  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member
    I'm happy with marathon swimming no further needed other than maybe ultra for the Lisa's of this world
    Those that matter know anyway
    Just don't dare use the pathetic term 'wild swimming' that really grips me
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    edited February 2014
    @Mpfmark & I want to start a campaign to have wild swimming wiped from the media. Our slogan is "Wild Swimming my Arse".

    Someone said to me yesterday that the reason the 10k exists is to give people a solid goal if they don't want to go for a Channel.
    mpfmark

    loneswimmer.com

  • jenschumacherjenschumacher Los Angeles, CAMember
    What is wild swimming? I'd never heard of it until this thread. Is it just swimming in one's birthday suit?
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    edited March 2012
    The British & irish media are using it a lot to describe open water swimming, in reality faffing about in streams and tidal pools. It derives from this book http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=wild+swimming&x=0&y=0. It's appearing in the Sunday newspaper supplements, TV programs appearing about it, and all the "trendy people" are doing it. Ugh. It's like a really bad marketing campaign. You can even buy a wild swimming log book!

    loneswimmer.com

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    edited March 2012
    Wild swimming is a large part of the Outdoor Swimming Society in the UK. They organize the Dart 10K among other swims.

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    I don't think it's fair to knock wild swimming. For sure, it's not marathon swimming, and it's not really my thing, but lots of people really enjoy it. It gets people out of the pool and into the open water, and from small beginnings, who knows where people will end up.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    edited March 2012
    It's the branding and aspirational nature of what seems to be a media-driven bandwagon that I dislike, I obviously have nothing against people swimming. Robson Green in Speedoes etc.

    Edit: Karen, I'm not that bothered, just that to me it looks like branding and commodification of a normal pursuit.

    loneswimmer.com

  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    Over 40 years ago I went wild swimming for the first time. I used to call it swimming alone in the ocean a long way from shore. I always thought "wilderness swimming" better described the experience.
  • MunatonesMunatones Charter Member
    I always enjoy the opportunity to hear Kate Rew of the Outdoor Swimming Society describe the pleasures of (wild) swimming in bodies of open water. Like Donal Buckley and Evan Morrison, I believe she is talented and has colorfully and passionately captured the essence of swimming in the open water through books and programs. Although she does not specifically address marathon swimming, her encouragement and indeed branding of an activity have helped spurred others (even if it just includes me!) to join those who have been enjoying the open water for years.

    Steven Munatones
    www.worldopenwaterswimmingassociation.com
    Huntington Beach, California, U.S.A.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited February 2014
    (Interesting thread from the archives...)

    I love @KarenT's definition of marathon swimming, expressed in the Spirit of Marathon Swimming thread:

    the leisure activity of swimming a long way slowly in open water according to tradition-oriented rules.

    I've been working on a "working definition" of marathon swimming for the MSF homepage. As you can see it is inspired by @KarenT's phrasing, but I don't necessarily want to exclude non-leisure (competitive) forms of marathon swimming.

    Comments on the following?

    MARATHON SWIMMING:

    To swim a long way, and for a long time,
    in an open body of water,
    according to standardized rules and conduct.
  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    Thanks, @evmo. I've since revised the definition in the book draft to: "swimming a long way slowly under a particular set of traditionally-oriented rules as a committed amateur". I think that the term "leisure" is a distraction because it suggests "leisurely"; the new definition opens it up to (non-professional) competitive marathon swimming as well as completion-oriented solo swimming. I still think of the professional circuit as a very different creature, but maybe I should just get rid of the "committed amateur" part to simplify things.
  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    Just for info, I've posted on my blog an extract from my book draft where I set out a working definition of marathon swimming aimed at those unfamiliar with the sport. @evmo does it much more pithily, but it is against the sociologists' code to use only 22 words when you could use several hundred (and in my defence, it also contains some necessary background that most non-swimmers won't know)...

    http://thelongswim.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/what-is-marathon-swimming.html

    Any comments / suggestions gratefully received.
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    @KarenT, I sent you an email with some comments/suggestions.

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    @IronMike has just been promoted to chief proof-reader. Thanks for the input - really helpful.
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    edited July 2014
    Do we have a thread (yet) like this but on the topic of "What is the definition of a marathon swimmer"?

    My search function is acting wonky, and I don't want to start a new thread if there is one out there already. If you find it, please PM me a link to it.

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • edited July 2014
    KarenT February 24
    Charter Member
    @IronMike has just been promoted to chief proof-reader.
    .
    .
    .
    IronMike July 24
    Charter Member
    To we have a thread (yet) like this...
    {emph mine}
    .
    .
    .
    That right there, that's... that's Irony, Mike. :ar!
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    edited July 2014
    I don't know what you're talking about, @Dredpiraterobts. :P

    Granted, these threads are not journalism, cf. my comment in: http://www.marathonswimmers.org/forum/discussion/674/8-bridges-2014#Item_64

    ;)

    Just here troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries...

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited July 2014
    IronMike wrote:
    Do we have a thread (yet) like this but on the topic of "What is the definition of a marathon swimmer"?
    Well, for what it's worth, there is Section 2 ("Definitions") from the Rules of Marathon Swimming:

    Marathon Swim
    A nonstop open-water swim, undertaken according to standardized rules, and requiring at least several hours of sustained effort to complete. Ten kilometers without significant assistance from currents is the minimum distance considered to be a marathon swim.

    There's also this thread @Jamie started, which has some useful suggestions:

    http://marathonswimmers.org/forum/discussion/785/one-sentence-what-is-marathon-swimming
  • miklcctmiklcct Kowloon, Hong KongMem​ber

    Before I get to this forum, what I thought of "marathon swimming" is a swimming race of 10 km - more than 10 km is ultra-marathon, and 5 km is half-marathon, no matter if it is wetsuit legal or not (the elite "marathon swimming" championships are wetsuit-legal if the water temperature is less than 20°C, and won't be held if the temperature is less than 16°C). Therefore, I consider anyone as a marathon swimmer if (s)he has completed a race of at least 10 km.

    I prefer to call the purest form of the sport that the rules of this website describe, as "channel swimming", which is a point-to-point swim with absolutely no assistance.

  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member

    @miklcct - i would like to comment...on its a 'race'. i never think of what i do as racing another person. it's me swimming my best. i'm never going to win , place or show...and that's true for most of us. Its an event or a solo attempt or a big swim with great friends....but a race, never. its one of things i love about this little weird world we inhabit. we train hard to swim in waters that inspire and support us, to test ourselves by going, longer, colder, harder, and faster than we did yeterday. i think the spirit was well captured by a. malinak in a haiku:

    To the victor
    “Fame, money, and girls
    are what it’s all about,” said
    no swimmer ever.

    if you haven't already done so i recommend you explore the world of marathon swimming blogs...immerse yourself in the romance of what we do, its not just about the numbers.

    kejoyceIronMikeMLambyKatieBunevmoCopelj26DanSimonellithelittlemerwookie
  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member
    edited February 14

    Completely in accord with you, @j9swim . I once did an event where the prize giving took place when lots of us were still in the water. Not only that, but the "official" photographer disappeared and the last 10 - 15 finishers were effectively ignored. I still finished that swim and was delighed that I did. Prizes and photos actually didn't matter a jot but it did seem to indicate that those of us who were slow didn't merit any acknowledgement. I only did it for me.... but I won't do it again because I don't agree with that attitude. Don't feel sorry for me because I'm slow, world. I'll find my own swim next time. :D ;)

    j9swimevmoCopelj26MLambyDanSimonellithelittlemerwookie
  • @KatieBun said:
    Completely in accord with you, @j9swim . I once did an event where the prize giving took place when lots of us were still in the water. Not only that, but the "official" photographer disappeared and the last 10 - 15 finishers were effectively ignored. I still finished that swim and was delighed that I did. Prizes and photos actually didn't matter a jot but it did seem to indicate that those of us who were slow didn't matter. I only did it for me.... but I won't do it again because I don't agree with that attitude. Don't feel sorry for me because I'm slow, world. I'll find my own swim next time. :D ;)

    I have had that happen w/ running events, too. If you're gonna have an "official photographer" have that person stay to the end. Because.....those last few people have worked just as (if not possibly more) hard as the front of the packers.
    On the other hand...I've only ever bought official photos once...... I don't feel the need to memorialize looking like death warmed over. lol

    JSwimKatieBunMLambyDanSimonelli
  • @KatieBun said:
    Completely in accord with you, @j9swim . I once did an event where the prize giving took place when lots of us were still in the water. Not only that, but the "official" photographer disappeared and the last 10 - 15 finishers were effectively ignored. I still finished that swim and was delighed that I did. Prizes and photos actually didn't matter a jot but it did seem to indicate that those of us who were slow didn't merit any acknowledgement. I only did it for me.... but I won't do it again because I don't agree with that attitude. Don't feel sorry for me because I'm slow, world. I'll find my own swim next time. :D ;)

    Not to beat a dead horse, but that is one thing I loved about Key West. The organizers and many of the already finished swimmers (myself included) were there all the way until the very last -person finished.... all applauding and the organizers putting the medal on their neck as they exited the water almost five hours after the first finishers. It was VERY cool.

    Kate_AlexanderDanSimonelli
  • @MLamby said:

    @KatieBun said:
    Completely in accord with you, @j9swim . I once did an event where the prize giving took place when lots of us were still in the water. Not only that, but the "official" photographer disappeared and the last 10 - 15 finishers were effectively ignored. I still finished that swim and was delighed that I did. Prizes and photos actually didn't matter a jot but it did seem to indicate that those of us who were slow didn't merit any acknowledgement. I only did it for me.... but I won't do it again because I don't agree with that attitude. Don't feel sorry for me because I'm slow, world. I'll find my own swim next time. :D ;)

    Not to beat a dead horse, but that is one thing I loved about Key West. The organizers and many of the already finished swimmers (myself included) were there all the way until the very last -person finished.... all applauding and the organizers putting the medal on their neck as they exited the water almost five hours after the first finishers. It was VERY cool.

    This is one of the reasons I LOVE master's swimming (pool -- don't want to get into the OWS version of it here). EVERYONE supports everyone...... we have our "big" meet this coming weekend....and there's a gentleman in his late 80s who enters the 1650 (mile) and 500 (short course yards) events every year. He swims them both backstroke. Takes him a good 40 minutes plus for the mile, and comparable pace for the 500. But, he's welcomed, cheered, and supported... and quite honestly, admired. He still starts off the blocks! I hope that when I'm 85, I can still dive off the blocks for a contest.

    j9swimKatieBunMLamby
  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member

    @miklcct

    I think you can expect that these last few responses to your post indicate the vast majority opinion among the Marathon Swimming Community.

    @miklcct said:

    I prefer to call the purest form of the sport that the rules of this website describe, as "channel swimming", which is a point-to-point swim with absolutely no assistance.

    I think using “channel swimming” is too limiting and doesn’t aptly describe or encapsulate

    evmoIronMike
  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member
    edited February 16

    It kind of rules out circumnavigations and lakes, too..... some pretty awesome marathon swims, there!

    evmorlmCopelj26IronMike
  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    For me ‘Channel Swimming’ means the rule set that I am swimming under, not necessarily where I am swimming.

    Copelj26miklcctKatieBun
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