Early Marathon Swimming in the United States
Friendships cast in the belly of competition, team sport outlive today's trials and tribulations of fast paced life and distance for Steve Conder and Don Macdonald.
In the summer of 1980 then standout high school swimmers, along with a third (Craig Kercher) and coach (John Gibson) who had all swum for Bryan Rathke's UN-defeated Goshen Redskin swim squad embarked on what would be their biggest swim challenge yet, joining the early namesakes of US open water swims like John Kinsella, Lynn Cox, and others albeit not at that level but certainly well ahead of a sport that today is exploding.
|Macdonald, Conder and Coach Gibson welcoming|
the beach after a successful swim.
A class of open water swimming defined by long distances (at least 10 kilometers) and traditional rules based in English Channel swimming. Unlike marathon foot-races which have a specifically defined distance, marathon swims vary in distance. However, one commonly used minimum definition is 10 kilometers, the distance of the marathon swimming event at the Olympic Games.
As in all open water swimming, tides, surface currents and wind-chop are major determinants of finish-times. For a given course, these factors can vary dramatically from day to day, making any attempt to draw conclusions about athletic ability by comparing finish times from performances undertaken on different days meaningless.
One of the earliest marathon swims was accomplished in 1875 by Captain Matthew Webb, when he became the first person to swim across the English Channel. Similarly, perhaps the most famous marathon swim of all-time was accomplished in 1926 by Gertrude Ederle, when she became, at 19 years of age, the first woman to swim across the English Channel. In doing so, she demolished the existing world record for the crossing, by employing the crawl stroke technique.
The Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming includes three of the most well-known marathon swims: (1) 21 mi (34 kilometres) across the English Channel, (2) 20.1 mi (32.3 kilometres) between Catalina Island and the mainland in Southern California, USA, and (3) 28.5 mi (45.9 kilometres) around Manhattan Island in New York City, USA.
The Ocean's seven is a collection of seven channel swims: (1) North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, (2) Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand, (3) Molokai Channel between Oahu and Molokai Islands in Hawaii, (4) English Channel between England and France, (5) Catalina Channel between Santa Catalina Island and Southern California, (6) Tsugaru Strait between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan, and (7) Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa.
Competitive Friendship Builds Life Long Resilience
My friend Steve Conder whom I swam across Lake Wawasee and Syracuse (8 miles) in the early 1980's accompanied by our fellow swim team member Craig Kercher and coach John Gibson did what was barely even known back then an open water swim.
|Back then we learned about fueling the hard way.|
We began swimming together in grade school along with a whole bunch guys and girls (whom I will not try to name as I would inevitably miss someone accidentally, but you know who you are). These friends became all close and through our parents families included.
After high school we all went our separate ways. Many on to college or not but usually catching up in the summer. Years turned into 10, 20, and 30. Social Media made it easy to get back in touch, catch up and realize his was the foundation to life long resilience. Warriors in the finest Redskin tradition competing against each other with the highest regard pushing each other well beyond our youthful character to become among the best in the State of Indiana's swimming tradition. Competitive spirit pushed us both to become our best, our friends and coaches (school and family) always supporting us to challenge the next thing, to push harder, to believe in ourselves. Little did we know these attributes would follow us for years.
We have all shared in personal failures throughout life, felt sorrow for the friends, coaches and family we have lost, but I would say these teachings allowed us to stay on course, persevere and to realize there is no "I" in "We".