As you may or may not know, I have an allegiance to swimming that began many years before I started running. After a recent change in my twitter name from "runamyrun" to "runamyswim" I got my butt back into the pool after a while away. I spent much of the summer doing open water swims in the ocean, Hudson River and Lake Sebago and staying away from the busy pool at the gym. The gym has a sundeck, so the pool gets icky with people jumping in with sunblock on and whatnot, so I try to stay away as much as possible. The insane heat of July and August also caused the water to heat up to probably 85 degrees, which is intolerable for real swimming.
Wednesday I made my return to the pool after almost 2 weeks of NO swimming because of the rough surf in the ocean and my focus on marathon training. The pool kicked my butt on the first time back, but it was much kinder during my return today.
As I was sweating up a storm in the steam room and sauna after my swim, I got thinking about swimming vs running. I am going to say this- Swimming is just as fun as running. I know plenty of runners that either can't swim or "hate"swimming for whatever reason, but I feel the need to defend swimming as an equally fun and challenging endurance sport. Some people suggest that swimming in the pool is "boring" or compare it to running on the treadmill, but I beg to differ. I often liken lap swimming to track running. It is definitely nothing like running on the treadmill/hamster wheel where you aren't actually moving your body in space. Like running on a track, you complete the same loop over and over again while challenging yourself and the clock. The thing I love most about swimming (indoors and out) is the way you're alone with your thoughts in the swishing water. Just like running, I can work through most problems or ideas while I'm swimming, I've made lots of friends through swimming, and we all have in common one thing- we're athletes. We train just the same- we all do speedwork to get faster, do long open water swims to prepare for long distance events, and do maintenance swims just to keep things moving. There is nothing, NOTHING as liberating as conquering an open water swim in an ocean, lake, pond or some other body of water. I think if many people who dislike swimming took the time to see that swimmers are JUST like runners, they'd be more likely to embrace it or at least give it a try. Maybe the reflective goggles make us look less friendly...
Anyway, as I write this I'm toggling between typing and watching the tail end of the Manhattan Island Marathon swim as Mark Warkentin attempts to break the record set by Shelly Taylor-Smith in 1995 of 5:45. It is unbelievable to watch his little glo-stick moving up the Harlem River towards the finish at 112th in the pitch black. His attempt at the 28.5 mile swim has to evoke some sort of camaraderie among the running types who can certainly appreciate the hard work that goes into this type of race.
While I won't be tackling the Manhattan Island marathon swim or English channel anytime soon (or EVER for the channel), I do have some plans for longer swims in 2011 and I'm really looking forward to kicking up my swim training over the winter. I hope to have a little company for the training (even if you're in a kayak!)
With that, I have to go watch his final 45 blocks or so.. he has 30 mins and a 6 knot current on his side. Go Mark, Go!