How can I get started if I never swam a marathon?

LibbyLibby Member
edited February 2013 in Beginner Questions
Hi everyone! Can anyone give me any advice on how to get started if I have never swam a marathon? I just swim for enjoyment and usually in the summer. All my friends are running 5ks and I am not a fan of running. I would rather do something with swimming. Thanks!


  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    Greetings @Libby, and welcome to the Forum!

    It would help to know more about your swimming background and current skill level. More details = better. How often do you swim? How far? Open water or pool? Previous races? How long does it take you to swim a mile? Where do you live? (region)

    It is difficult to offer any helpful advice, with so few details about your situation.
  • SharkoSharko Sonoma County, CAMember
    edited February 2013
    I think the even bigger question to ask yourself is.........."do I have demons and do I have a real desire to vanquish get to the other side to be transformed? I motivated to swim in solitude and in my own head for 15 hours without I have a strong focus and I "Driven"...this is a good start...your friends running 5ks..(an hour run or so) does not seem to be the sort of motivation necessary to become a marathon swimmer.... swimming is a hard sport to gain proficiency at but it can be learned...and one can train the body in the gym with a trainer if the mind is another matter (I have actually lost mine)......but read about Kim Chambers and her transformation to become a marathon can be done..."if" you are motivated!!!

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsMember

    I just swim for enjoyment and usually in the summer.

    Before you start a marathon ( >10 k) swim start with some smaller swims. - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited February 2013
    Niek said:

    Before you start a marathon ( >10 k) swim start with some smaller swims.

    @Niek, you have such a deadpan sense of humor! Love it!
  • Hey, Libby- I'm pretty new to this too. Are you swimming 3-5,000 yards per workout currently? Try a long, straight swim just to see what it feels like. Then do it again two weeks later, but a little longer. I started out with 5K, then gradually have increased meters (or yards depending on the pool) every couple of weeks. My next long swim will be 14K. I can't wait until I can get into open water. The flipturns are a nuisance, though my back doesn't ache like it did in the beginning.

    As the fine folks have mentioned - marathon swimming is as much, or more, in your head as it is in your body. If you love swimming and get into a rythym, and are driven as Sharko mentioned (I'd say obsessed), you may discover this is the bizarre sort of challenge you've been looking for.

    Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska

  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsMember

    @Niek, you have such a deadpan sense of humor! Love it!

    Humor is needed. The swimming itself can be rather dull.

    But I also was serious. If @Libby only swims for enjoyment (nothing wrong with that!) and has never swam a long distance in open water than she should start with a small distance. Even 500 meters straight without the help of a site to hold or even just touch as can be done in a pool, can be frightening if done the first time.
    I see it with the young ones (6-8 y old) here in the Netherlands. 500 meters training in the pool no problems.
    But at their first max. allowed 250 meters openwater where there are no sites or a bottom and things living in that water, that can be most frightening.
    When they get over their fears they complain 250 meters is to short.

    So @Libby build the distance up. Start small and in future times let no distance stop you. - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    @Libby, there is much to learn by reading threads here on these forums. That's not to say I'm not going to give you any hints, just going to mention that searching through will yield much to read.

    Some in these forums will suggest you be comfortable swimming X-number of yards or meters. That's good advice. But for me, what worked best was doing long swims based on time. I had a bad 10K where a combination of lack of nutrition (before leaving the house, not during the swim) and ill-preparation of my body being horizontal lead to me not finishing. Sadly, a few weeks after that (4? 5?) I had a 10-mile swim. So...I added a long day (longer than previously done) of 2-3 hours once a week of just swimming. I did 1500s with minimal breaks between. Just to get my body used to being horizontal for a long time. (My back was the big problem in that 10K.) I think I got in a 8000 a couple weeks before my big race, and 7000s on the other weeks, with a 6000 the week before the race.

    Result? 10 miles (Swim the Suck...great swim) in 4:44. Couldn't be happier. Goal was 5 hours. Back didn't hurt. Shoulders/arms barely hurt. Felt like I could swim again the next day, albeit not as far. ;)

    That's my one hint. Swimming marathons is fun. Gives you time to think and solve the world's, or at least yours and your family's, problems while enjoying a nice swim!

    Good luck, welcome to the forum and welcome to the addiction that is marathon swimming.
  • Being part of a relay across a channel is a good way to get your feet wet while getting a lot of insight into the whole process.
  • this helped me a lot when i was just getting into swimming... I started with this and now I'm doing a channel relay in August...
  • SharkoSharko Sonoma County, CAMember
    Even though marathon swimming is a solitrary endevor, it is nice to have similar minded friends doing these somtimes lonely swims...On Saturday we had our first swim of the season, Dreaded February 9th swim ...Golden Gate Bridge to the Club.....10 of us, without wetsuits, in 50f water from a little over an hour to (me) Sharko and Joe at 2 hours...although I have done cold water swims solo before it felt good to have others around this time....(knowing others are suffering like you...not shure of that)..but great comraderie.....

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • CoreyCorey Member
    Swimming is a solitary sport for the most part and that is I enjoy it so much. While swimming in the OW the worlds troubles seem to disappear but come back quikly when I get out. OW swimming has a lot more of a mental game then a physical endevor....get that down and you are on your way!
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