It’s well known that Shelley Taylor-Smith holds the record for the fastest swim around Manhattan: 5 hours, 45 minutes, 25 seconds.
What’s not quite as well known is that she achieved this feat on a special “fast tide” – a convergence of maritime conditions in the East, Harlem, and Hudson Rivers that occurs only once or twice a year, if at all.
With the founding of the modern Manhattan Island Marathon Swim race in 1982, and more sophisticated understanding of tide cycles, a string of specially planned solo “record attempt” swims were undertaken in the ’80s and ’90s, all on fast tides. After Diana Nyad‘s 1975 swim in 7 hours, 57 minutes, the record was lowered six times by four different people over the next 20 years:
- 7:14 – Drury Gallagher in 1982
- 6:48 – Paul Asmuth in 1983
- 6:41 – Drury Gallagher in 1983
- 6:12 – Shelley Taylor-Smith in 1985
- 5:54 – Kris Rutford in 1992
- 5:45:25 – Shelley Taylor-Smith in 1995
Her record has stood ever since, despite an assault last year by world-class marathon swimmers Petar Stoychev and Mark Warkentin.…
Amanda pointed me to this excellent new documentary film by Martin Belderson about the past and present of swimming the waters around Manhattan.
After brief segments on the history of the NYC waterfront and two of the shorter NYC*SWIM events (Liberty Island & Brooklyn Bridge Swims), there’s an extended look at the 2009 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. The film focuses on the duel between Australians John van Wisse and Penny Palfrey, and a 6-man American relay who chased them. The footage is pretty incredible.
The MIMS segment begins at 22:37. Unfortunately Vimeo (unlike YouTube) doesn’t allow you to skip ahead without loading the full video.…
The three traditionally recognized jewels in the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming are the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.
These aren’t necessarily the most challenging marathon swims in the world (though they are certainly challenging), but they’re arguably the most famous and iconic.
One might argue this traditional definition unfairly favors North Americans – and penalizes our friends in the Southern Hemisphere. A more “hemispherically balanced” Triple Crown would likely include the Cook Strait between the north and south islands of New Zealand.
But why settle for just one Triple Crown? Leave it to Steven Munatones to produce an almost comically long list of alternative triple crowns, depending on one’s geographic perspective. As it turns out, the trifecta I’ll be attempting this year (Tampa Bay, Manhattan Island, Catalina) is one of them – the “American Triple Crown.”
So now you know.…
This chart compares the average MIMS finishing time over the years for Men vs. Women (click to enlarge):
Interestingly, the average female MIMS finisher was faster than the average male in about 80% of the years. Men were faster only in 1982. (The remaining years are statistical ties.)…
Five months until MIMS! In the meantime, some data porn for your enjoyment (click to enlarge):
The NYC Swim website has MIMS results as far back as 1915, but the modern version of MIMS as an annual marathon swim race began in 1982, when Drury Gallagher founded the Manhattan Island Swimming Association.
The chart above shows every MIMS finishing time from 1982-2010 (black dots), along with the slowest, fastest, and median time of each year (blue, green, & red lines, respectively). Only participants in the annual MIMS race are shown – no solo attempts (e.g., Shelley Taylor-Smith’s record swim of 5:45 in 1995).
This is sort of interesting.
It isn’t being actively promoted yet, but it seems the Manhattan Island match race/record attempt wasn’t just a one-off deal. Last September, NYC Swim invited four swimmers – pros Mark Warkentin and Petar Stoychev, as well as two local women – to take on Shelley Taylor-Smith’s overall record of 5 hours, 45 minutes. Warkentin won the day, but still came 31 minutes short of the record.
NYC Swim will hold another match race/record attempt this coming September 28, but the contestants will instead be the top two finishers of the regular MIMS event on June 18 (in which I will be competing).
Who will they be? Maybe Vegas should put out lines on open-water swimming?
Another interesting post on the Channel Swimmers chat group from Ned Denison (member of the MIMS selection committee), describing some of the unique challenges of MIMS compared to other famous marathon swims (e.g., English Channel):
… [snippet - see chat group for full post]
Somebody referred to MIMS as the “weak sister” of the three events. Be careful… We all know that every open water swim is different and that the same open water swim is different every year, month, day, hour and minute. A daylight EC swim in August with hot sun, warm calm water, no wind and perfect timing to land on the CAP is very different from – what most of us got or will get.
So – there are some things about MIMS that are usually a bit easier that the EC and Catalina.
This is interesting. Ned Denison, member of the MIMS selection committee, posted the following “inside scoop” on the selection of the field for the 2011 swim. From the Channel Swimmers chat group:
Last year I reported from “inside” the committee to help you all understand how the selection process worked for the 2010 solo swim. Time to update you – a year later. The goal is simply to de-mystify the process for future solo applicants.
The application process for Manhattan is not simple ! It takes a few hours to complete a swimmer profile and upload evidence of swims and write an essay. The earlier one starts the more time you have to ask questions and get help. So…the final date was announced in advance and the applicants scheduled time to get up early or stay up late or take an hour or so off work (depending on their location in the world!)
- The first 15 applications received were very qualified, had no information outstanding, met all the diversity requirements and were automatically selected.
By my unofficial observations, the online applications for MIMS were closed a little over an hour after they opened. 46 swimmers threw their hats into the ring during that time, including:
- 14 women and 32 men
- 6 Australians, 4 Britons, 2 Irish, 4 Mexicans, 1 Italian, 1 Portuguese, 2 Spaniards, and 26 Americans
- 20 English Channel crossers, 6 Catalina Channel crossers, and 8 MIMS finishers
The early favorites would have to include:
- John Van Wisse – MIMS winner in 2000, 2008, and 2009, and 2-way English Channel crosser in 2010.
- Erica Rose – former USA open-water national team member, 5K world champion, and more recently, 6th overall finisher in this year’s Big Shoulders 5K.
19 applications (including my own) were accepted the same afternoon, on the basis of the “first-come, first-served, first-completed” policy (i.e., no missing medical forms, etc.).…
The MIMS application went online at 1pm Eastern today, as scheduled. I was no later than the 8th solo swimmer to submit a complete application, so I should be in good shape to make the 25-person field. By 2pm Eastern, 40 solo swimmers had applied.
I now await word from the committee who reviews the applications. It could be a few days. Did I dot all my I’s and cross all my T’s? Let’s hope so.…
Before it becomes stale news, I wanted to note several fascinating, inspiring, “water-level” accounts of the recent Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. The 28.5-mile circumnavigation of Manhattan is one of the generally-accepted crowning achievements of open-water marathon swimming (along with the Catalina and English Channels), and is the only race among the three.