Battle Of The Sexes Around Manhattan Island

Battle Of The Sexes Around Manhattan Island

The Manhattan Island Marathon Record Attempt is set for September 10th where three male American pro open water swimmers will try to break the long-standing Manhattan Island record of 5:45:25 set by Shelley Taylor-Smith in 1995. Women vs. men. Three vs. one. 20th century vs. 21st century athletes. The non-GPS era vs. the GPS era. Passion vs. money. Who will prevail? In one corner, Mark Warkentin of California (shown on left above), an Olympic swimmer and 2008 silver medalist in the world 25K championships, Chip Peterson of North Carolina (right above), the 2005 world 10K champion and multi-time USA national open water champion, and 2010 world 25k champion Alex Meyer of Ithaca, New York (middle above) have proven speed, experience and endurance in the open water. They have all swum in rough water, cold water and competitive races – but they have never swum 28.5 miles before. Can these three young men take down a very high standard set by a savvy woman who set endurance records from Sydney to New York? Can they swim faster than a woman at the peak of her career who are been arguably called the greatest female endurance swimmer in history? Ever since Gertrude Ederle set the world English Channel record in 1926, marathon swimming has been the only sport where women have outperformed men. In the other corner is Australian Shelley Taylor-Smith who is happily cheering on the men, her mates in the world of marathon swimming. “Ah, records were meant to be broken, you know,” smiled Shelley, now a FINA official and referee, with a twinkle in her eye. “They are all fast swimmers and they will be swimming together, so it’s a bit different, but it should be a great event.” Back in the 1990s, no one – male or female – was able to catch Shelley who won the famous Manhattan Island Marathon Swim five times in 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1998. Before her record-breaking day, her support team, including Captain Tim Johnson, the ultimate source for endurance swimmers, studied the tide charts and analyzed her previous swims. With this data, Shelley’s team perfectly timed her start, charted her course and paced her swim as she swam around the island with clockwork precision, catching most of the currents in the Hudson River, Harlem River and East River. The all-star team of analysts and experienced mariners worked with the greatest swimmer of her era to set the bar – a bar that has not been even remotely threatened by the hundreds of men who have swum around Manhattan Island since 1995. Shelley’s team had a comprehensive body of data to work with because her unprecedented track record around Manhattan Island: besides her five Manhattan Island Marathon Swim victories, she also finished third in her first attempt and tried two other specially-arranged solo attempts – once when she finished in 6 hours 12 minutes and another when she set the current record of 5 hours 45 minutes – for a total of 9 circumnavigations. There is no substitute for this experience and ground-breaking analysis. Combined with her tenacious spirit and renowned training habits, this laid the groundwork for one of the classic endurance world records in history – where a woman, singularly motivated, outperformed every male contender in history – since 1915, the first year that athletes started to circumnavigate Manhattan Island. The men, fast and strong, are still considered young in marathon swimming years. They have collectively done fewer swims over 10K than the number of times Shelley has circumnavigated Manhattan Island. So while they have the speed and endurance, that lack of vital experience in timing themselves around the extraordinarily tricky tidal flows around Manhattan. Additionally, their escort boats and kayakers will be working with them for the first time on the record attempt. On the other hand, Captain Johnson modeled Shelley’s record attempt using analyses based on the intimate knowledge of the tidal flows around Manhattan Island precisely correlated against Shelley’s peak pace over a 6-hour period. The skills, hunches and guidance of the men’s escort crews will play a part in their attempt, but they will also depend on fate because the weather and winds can whip up the waters something fierce on race day. The differences between Shelley and the men are on various levels. While Shelley swam around Manhattan for the love of the sport based on her deeply felt passion for marathon swimming, the trio of male contenders will be motivated – at least in part – through capitalism. They will be incentivized by a winner-take-all cash prize. We will be following this record attempt as the time gets closer and the marathon-swimming Battle of the Sexes on September 10th. Stay tuned. Copyright © 2008 – 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Assocation