Kris Rutford Swims 17,000 Miles To Make 28.5

Kris Rutford Swims 17,000 Miles To Make 28.5

Photo of John Keller courtesy of John Keller in Nebraska.

Kris Rutford has logged 27,359 km (17,000 miles) in pools and the open water during his training and competition career over the 24 years.

20 of those years, the Nebraska resident has participated in one of the most visible and popular marathon swims in the world, the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. “This year, I completed my 20th swim around Manhattan. In the 30+ years of races held around Manhattan, I current have 3 of the top 12 time among nearly 800 finishers.”

His marathon swimming career includes the following historical swims:

1992 – the fastest swim around Manhattan Island
1995 – the first swim around Manhattan Island in clockwise direction
2014 – 20th Manhattan Island circumnavigation swim

A recent inductee in into the Midwestern Swimming Hall of Fame, he completed the most number of circumnavigations around Manhattan Island as well as served in a variety of volunteer roles in the sport. “I am also a member of the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim application committee, serving in that capacity for 10 years or so. I also served as the Director for the Open Water Swimming competition that is part of the Cornhusker State Games from 1991 – 2000.”

Captain Tim Johnson recalls, “When Kris made his attempt in 1993 to break the 7-hour swim barrier in the Manhattan Marathon Swim, he was a world-class swimmer who just won the 1993 Manhattan Marathon swim. I had his times for the marks around Manhattan from that swim which are just like knowing the splits on a 200-meter race. Knowing this information and using the tide model for that swim, I could extract his pace at any point in the race. Using this information, I could feed that data into the tide information for the date of the attempt and develop a projection for his swim.

This information was given to the coach who can regulate the swimmers pace. At one point in his swim down the Hudson River, he was getting ahead of his pace and I asked the coach to slow him down just a bit. She got Kris to drop his stroke count by one. I didn’t want him to burn out early and not have something for the toughest part of the swim: the East River. We zeroed out 6 of the marks down the Hudson; he was on target to break 7 hours when the East River took over and threw him off schedule.

While I fussed with the numbers, Kris kept on swimming. Behind schedule at the Brooklyn Bridge, then he had made up some time at the Williamsburg Bridge. I was shocked because once a swimmer falls behind in their pace schedule, I had never seen anyone catch back up.

So the difference was Kris had found the elusive East River flood current that I had been searching for about 10 years and it wasn’t along the Manhattan shoreline. We were more than halfway across the East River towards Brooklyn as we passed under the Williamsburg Bridge and the water was roaring. I told the skipper to keep with Kris who was also a veteran escort pilot. Neither of us had been this far out from Manhattan and it was new territory. As we approach Roosevelt Island, I could see the water was switch over to the Manhattan side and the skipper and I discussed following Kris as he passed between U Thant Island at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island and the main island.

The water was white with rapids indicating shallow water. Since the boat was a shallow draft, I made the decision for Kris to pass between these islands with the escort boat rather than waste time having him swim on the Manhattan side. We were in uncharted territory in the history of this race. Kris successfully ran these rapids; it was an exceptionally high tide. This was a first and we also were now ahead of schedule. We kept Kris along the shore of Roosevelt Island for a while then switched him over to the Manhattan side in preparation to popping him out of the current as we approached the finishing line, the pier on Mill Rock where the East River rises up 3 or more feet as the current turns to pass thru Hell’s Gate under the Triboro Bridge. Kris flew by the finishing line at more than 10 knots. He was the first of about 5 swimmer to break the 7-hour barrier.

Kris been swimming this race for years, 20 competed swims now. I admire his ability to be standing on the top of the swimming world and next be helping other swimmers make their first swim and continue to return to the water he once conquered
.”

His career included the following swims:

* August 5th 1988: 21 miles in 10 hours 44 minutes across the English Channel (England-France)
* August 27th 1988: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 48 minutes around Manhattan Island
* July 1989: 22 miles in 9 hours 9 minutes across Lake McConaughy in Nebraska (fastest crossing and 2nd person)
* August 19th 1989: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 56 minutes around Manhattan Island
* August 19th 1990: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 10 minutes around Manhattan Island
* August 10th 1991: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 6 minutes around Manhattan Island
* August 29th 1992: 28.5 miles in 5 hours 53 minutes around Manhattan Island (former record)
* June 5th 1993: 25 km in 5 hours 28 minutes Lake Lanier, Georgia at U.S. Swimming 25K Championships
* August 8th 1993: 30 km in Sylvan Lake, Canada in the FINA World Cup series
* August 21st 1993: 28.5 miles in 7:26.30 around Manhattan Island
* August 12th 1995: 28.5 miles in 17 hours 48 minutes around Manhattan Island (in the clockwise, first completion)
* August 3rd 1996: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 33 minutes around Manhattan Island
* July 19th 1997: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 26 minutes around Manhattan Island
* July 11th 1998: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 47 minutes around Manhattan Island
* June 12th 1999: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 10 minutes around Manhattan Island
* September 27th 2003: 28.5 miles in 8 hours 36 minutes around Manhattan Island
* July 3rd 2004: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 51 minutes around Manhattan Island
* June 16th 2007: 28.5 miles in 9 hours 51 minutes around Manhattan Island
* July 5th 2008: 28.5 miles in 7 hours 55 minutes around Manhattan Island
* June 12th 2010: 28.5 miles in 8 hours 21 minutes Manhattan Island
* June 18th 2011: 28.5 miles in 8 hours 18 minutes around Manhattan Island
June 23rd 2012: 28.5 miles in 8 hours 10 minutes around Manhattan Island
* August 24th 2013: 28.5 miles in 8 hours 22 minutes Manhattan Island – Quiet Swim
* June 28th 2014: 28.5 miles in 8 hours 42 minutes around Manhattan Island-Group 2 (20th anniversary loop)

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