The fastest swims around Manhattan (Part 2)

The fastest swims around Manhattan (Part 2)


Part 1.

Shelley Taylor-Smith recorded the fastest swim around Manhattan (5:45:25) in 1995, but it was a special “record attempt” swim scheduled on an unusually fast tide. What are the fastest swims in the regular Manhattan Island Marathon Swim race, which is typically held on a slower tide? Over the 29 years of the modern MIMS, the 10 fastest swims are as follows:

  1. Tobie Smith, 1999, 6:32:41
  2. Tammy van Wisse, 1999, 6:51:31
  3. Rob Copeland, 1999, 6:52:49
  4. Susie Maroney, 1990, 7:00:27
  5. Matthew Nance, 1990, 7:04:53
  6. Jim Barber, 1991, 7:06:34
  7. Kris Rutford, 1991, 7:06:44
  8. Matthew Wood, 1990, 7:07:32
  9. Susie Maroney, 1994, 7:08:10
  10. Igor de Souza, 1991, 7:08:20

Interestingly, 9 of the 10 fastest times happened in just 3 years – 1990, 1991, and 1999. The 3 fastest times were all in one year – 1999. Perhaps these years were “stacked” with outstanding swimmers. Another possibility is that these years saw especially favorable conditions (faster currents, smoother water, warmer water, etc.).

One simple method of estimating the effect of conditions is to find the median time in each annual race – and compare each individual to the median of that year. The fastest swims relative to the median would therefore be judged as the “most outstanding” swims. Here are the top 10 swims, compared to the same-year median time:

  1. Shelley Taylor-Smith, 1989, 7:32:34 (84 minutes faster than the median)
  2. Shelley Taylor-Smith, 1998, 7:18:07 (-77 minutes)
  3. Jay Benner, 1998, 7:19:40 (-76 minutes)
  4. Chris Derks, 1998, 7:24:02 (-71 minutes)
  5. Jim Barber, 1989, 7:45:15 (-71 minutes)
  6. Shelley Taylor-Smith, 1988, 7:27:44 (-71 minutes)
  7. Susie Maroney, 1990, 7:00:27 (-70 minutes)
  8. Penny Palfrey, 2007, 8:36:01 (-69 minutes)
  9. David Strasburg, 1989, 7:51:10 (-65 minutes)
  10. Matthew Nance, 1990, 7:04:53 (-65 minutes)

And… there’s Shelley Taylor-Smith again! In fact, 3 of her 5 swims (all 1st place overall finishes) are among the top 10 “most outstanding” swims. In other words, she was demolishing the field.

No matter how you look at it – solo “record attempt” swims or regular MIMS races – Shelley Taylor-Smith is the greatest Manhattan circumnavigator of all-time. It’s really not even close.

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