The first Manhattan Island Marathon Swim kicked off 25 years ago with twelve somewhat tentative swimmers (some vaccinated). Now the 28.5-mile contest, which starts and finishes in Battery Park City, is the New York City Marathon for the worldwide open-water set. It’s not nearly as challenging as the English Channel—but what a view! Solo swimmers and relay teams usually take about seven to nine hours; this year’s swim was interrupted by thunderstorms when the leaders were in view of the finish. The race continued after more than an hour, and women took first and second places. We talked to a few of the 86 swimmers who took the plunge.
1. CONNOR BOWMAN
Two-person relay, Princeton, N.J., 18, unemployed lifeguard and high-school senior
Why do you do this? It’s a lot less boring than swimming laps in a pool. Especially today, I’m doing this with my dad.
Favorite part of the swim: Up by the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, I caught a quick current that shot me out into the Hudson. It’s really great.
Afterward: I wanted a shower.
2. KRIS RUTFORD
Solo swimmer, Lincoln, Nebraska, 47, CPA
Have you done it before? Yes, twelve times. I won it in 1993.
Biggest fear? Nothing now. I got shots and stuff back then. There was a lot more talk about medical waste. There’s always stuff floating in there. but nothing to worry about.
Afterward: The East and Harlem Rivers were kind, but the Hudson got even.
3. ALAN MORRISON
Solo swimmer, Battery Park City, 45, attorney
Time: Did not finish.
How long have you been a swimmer? I started open-water swimming in 2004; a few years before that I took a learn-to-swim class. I could frolic. Frolicking is very different from competitive swimming.
Biggest fear? That I might not get around that first leg of the swim. We’re going against a tough current to start.
4. PENNY PALFREY
Solo swimmer, Queensland, Australia, 44, manager
How long have you been a swimmer? Since I was 3.
Biggest fear? I don’t think about that.
Coolest experience: In Cook Strait [New Zealand], I had 400 dolphins around me for about two hours.
Afterward: The East River was absolutely fantastic. And the last bit. The finish. I won.