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MARATHON SWIMMING RULES Other diff erences occur around the use of rash vests, special

all-over suits, face masks and guards, all of which reduce jellyfi sh stings. Then there are stipulations concerning the maximum number of swimming caps, compression swimsuits, pace swimmers and the in-water time for relay swimmers. Rule divergence is an important topic because diff erences lead to arguments, accusations of cheating and disputes over records; a swim might be recognised as an offi cial swim under one set of rules but not under another. It also is an issue for anyone at empting to pioneer new crossings or swims. Where there is no existing ratifying organisation for a swim, under whose rules should it be swum? Zornig would like to see a set of common rules, although he admits it won’t be easy. “It would mean that the governing organizations around the

world must meet, put aside all diff erences, and unify. This is easier said than done and would involve give-and-take from every organization. It would require each organization to amend rules, but would result in a much stronger, uniform sport.” At this stage, it’s worth mentioning the touchy topic of wetsuit swimming. To some, this is a totally diff erent sport and should never be compared to marathon swimming, whatever distance is covered. For others wetsuit swimming is an alternative and equally valid swimming activity. But defi nitions and disclosures are essential because for most people a wetsuit swim is considerably easier than a non-wetsuit swim. There’s a big diff erence between being able to say, 'I was the fi rst person to swim across Lake Whatever in a wetsuit,' and 'I was the fi rst person to swim across Lake Whatever.' That’s not to say some wetsuited swimmers’ achievements aren't quite remarkable – Martin Strel’s descent of the Amazon, Jamie Patrick’s Sacremento River swim and David Walliam’s Thames journey all spring to mind – but should these be called ‘marathon swims’? 2011 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year Jamie Patrick says no, and devotes a page to the subject on his website, where he makes it clear that he in no way wants to confuse the long distance wetsuit assisted swims that he does with marathon swimming. The majority of marathon swimmers would heartily agree. Under everyone’s rules, if you want to call yourself a marathon swimmer you’re going to have to dump the wetsuit. A staged swim (as in David William’s Thames swim) would also not count as a marathon swim, even if it were completed without a wetsuit. Nick Adams, president of the CS&PF says that as well as wetsuits there are certain fundamentals that should be common to all bona fi de marathon swims. His list includes “don’t intentionally touch the boat, don’t drag off another swimmer or a boat and make sure you have a truly independent observer on board.” Zornig has at empted to list all the areas where the rules are in accordance, and those where there are diff erences (see box). Given the geographical diversity of marathon swims, the diff erent challenges they present and the local focus of many ratifying organisations it seems unlikely common ground will be reached anytime soon. From a swimmer’s perspective, therefore, if you wish your swim to be recognised as an offi cial swim, the most important thing is to ensure you are fully conversant with the rules of the organisation that oversees the route, and then stick to them. The situation is more complicated if you are exploring a new route or at empting a swim that isn’t yet monitored or recorded by any recognised organisation. The advice would be to seek the guidance of a regional body, such as the British Long Distance Swimming Association, or to contact the organisation that sanctions the nearest recognised swim. ○


MARATHON RULE DIFFERENCES Universally allowed by all sanctioning marathon organisations:

1. Skin Lubricant 2. Sunscreen 3. One silicone or latex cap 4. Goggles 5. Ear Plugs 6. Nose Clips 7. Glow sticks 8. Painkillers and anti-infl ammatories such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Naproxen

9. Caff eine 10. Food 11. One porous swimsuit which does not retain heat, provide buoyancy, compress or improve speed.

12. Incidental contact with support boat/crew 13. GPS and Navigational systems 14. Any type of boat as an escort (i.e., row boat verses motorized)

Universally disallowed by sanctioning marathon organizations. (Note: some organizations will allow swimmers to use select items in an 'assisted' or special category):


2. 3.

Draſt ing Fins

4. Headphones 5.

Booties Gloves

6. Paddles 7.

Shark cages

8. Net ing 9. Wetsuits

10. Face guards 11. More than two caps

12. Physical contact (assistance in and out of water) 13. Rest on support vehicle or kayak 14. Performance enhancing drugs

Disagreement between marathon sanctioning organizations:

1. Neoprene/thermal caps and/or caps with chin straps 2. Two swim caps 3. Electronic shark deterrent systems 4. Touch starts and fi nishes verses 'clearing water' 5. Exiting water for safety reasons and resuming swim (for shark sighting or lightning)

6. Rash guards 7. Compression swimsuits 8. Stinger suits which protect against jelly fi sh 9. Suits which extend below the knee, above the naval and over the arms for men

10. Suits which extend below the knee and over the arms for women

11. Pace swimmer (Reproduced courtesy of Scot Zornig)


Scot Zornig

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