Midmar Mile After Mile After Mile

Midmar Mile After Mile After Mile

To give you a feeling for the size of the Midmar Mile, typically we pull out about 600 people,” said Byron Dillon who has volunteered and participated in 30 of the 39 Midmar Mile events in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

The scale of the event is almost unimaginable …

…yet from the individual swimmer’s perspective, things run smoothly and enjoyably. The registration and check-in procedure is smooth, although it can get crazy on race morning when hundreds flock to the Midmar Dam for same-day entries.

The day kicks off with a heat for the disabled. As the television cameras and spectators gaze across the cooper-colored dam surrounded by the green rolling hills of South Africa, initially dozens, then hundreds, and finally thousands of swim caps are seen bobbing, swimming or sprinting across the straight-line one-mile course. As swimmers with missing limbs, unable to walk up the boat launch finish, reach the shore, cheers erupt and the stars-of-Midmar are the attention of photographers and cameramen.

Penny Heyns, South Africa’s double Olympic gold medalist from the 1996 Olympics, stands at the ready all day long with a microphone in her hand, greeting swimmers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. She probes them for their impressions and insight why they do the world’s largest competitive swim.

Lorna Cochrane, the oldest woman in the field at 88 years old, thrilled the crowds with her quick wit and wisdom of a life well-lived. When asked by Penny when she trains, Lorna replied, “Oh, I am so busy, it is difficult to find time to train. But you must. Staying busy and staying active is the key to good health.”

And good fun.

Once the athletes and their families and friends descend upon Midmar Dam, there is sensory overload. A carnival area with rides for children, chalets, camping sites and log cabins for families, and a huge expo area with vendors of all kinds are a sampling of what Wayne Riddin and his staff have prepared for swimmers from Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Well-versed announcers keep the flow of conversation going in an easy-going, educational manner. With thousands of swimmers either swimming across the dam or making their way to the start or proceeding to the post-race entertainment zone, the energy is electric.

Huge television screens and flat-screen TVs are posted in various locations so swimmers and spectators alike can see their friends, teammates and loved ones taking off and finishing. When the swimmers finish, each swimmer is greeted by several photographers, a slew of observant medical professionals, timing officials and medal-givers in the finish tent, aQuellé water distributors in the post-race assembly area and constant good cheer throughout.

A great ambiance, fantastic organization, warmhearted hospitality are all part of an entertaining weekend of outstanding open water swimming.

Photo of the finish of the aQuellé Midmar Mile by Andrew Martens. For more information on RC Helicam, contact Jaco Tredoux.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones