The Loneliness Of A Marathon Swimmer

The Loneliness Of A Marathon Swimmer

Training for a channel swim can be lonely. Hours and hours of solitary swimming, both back and forth in a pool and up and back along the shoreline. Alone with their own thoughts with limited vision, it is a marathon endeavor in a cloistered environment. Stroke after stroke, kilometer after kilometer, hour after hour, day after day; the effort can feel endless and lonely.

The inner drive is the engine that motivates the channel swimmer. They push themselves like few others.

That individual effort is normally limited to the open water. However, when an athlete travels alone to another country to attempt a channel swim, that feeling of isolation is intensified.

On the shores of Dover where athletes come from around the world, the welcoming ambiance of like-minded channel swimmers is a boost to a swimmer coming from a foreign land. But the global community of the English Channel is unique. What is usual is the experience of a swimmer like Anna-Carin Nordin.

The leading Swedish swimmer in the race to achieve the Oceans Seven just traveled 30 hours from her home to Southern California. Alone and without friends in Los Angeles, her dream is to complete the Catalina Channel after her triumphant swims across the English Channel, from Molokai to Oahu across the Molokai Channel in Hawaii, and between Morocco and Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar. Staying in a hotel that she found online, Nordin found her way around the megalopolis of Southern California … alone with her thoughts without anyone to discuss her feelings, worries or goals.

But that tough spirit developed in the open water serves her well as she navigates the freeways and foreign ways of California. Alone, but undaunted; unaccompanied, but unfearful, she checks into her hotel, only to find it is a distance from the Pacific Ocean. Not ideal by any means, but she understands that all will not go to plan onshore or off.

Full of questions and unaware of the answers, the personable, friendly 40’ish mother of one reaches out to the open water swimming community via Facebook. She meets a local swimmer and they share a meal. Commonalities are shared, slowly at first and then one right after another as smiles become constant. The camaraderie across cultures is made easy when talk centers on swimming, but then discussions go beyond the water. A sense of comfort and a feeling of community emerge. Nordin feels not quite exactly at home, but certainly the feeling of confidence is increased and her sense of foreignness is lessened. Jet lag is easier to overcome when a new friend is made, especially when that new friend is a fellow swimmer in a foreign land.

As the week progresses, she will meet her escort pilot and volunteer observer from the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation for the first time.

Within a week, she will become acclimated to the water, ocean conditions and time zone. She will be ready and focused.

When she sets off from Santa Catalina Island, she will return to ocean environment where she finds a comfortable solace.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones