A Mile In Someone Else’s Speedos

April 9, 2010

The pool where I try to swim at least once a week started a program at the beginning of the year called Swim The Amazon. Naturally because I’m always attentive and on top of things I found out about the program earlier this week, but that’s another story. When I saw that the program was called Swim The Amazon, my first thought was, hey, if you’re going to make a commitment to doing something that big, do it right. If the people who’ve signed up for the program can’t go to the Amazon bring the Amazon to them: make one end of the pool brackish and fill it with mangroves or palm trees or whatever you find at the mouth of the Amazon, then change it to muddy fresh water and throw in some piranhas and crocodiles and maybe some of those candiru fish that swim up your urinary and then stick out little barbs and hang there if you urinate in the water. Putting some of those fish in public pools probably wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I used to think those fish were a myth because I assumed that the story was that they got people who were standing on the edge of the river answering the call of nature. It’s a pretty impressive feat for salmon to swim upstream, but for a little tiny fish to swim up the yellow river seems impossible. Then I learned that candiru fish get into people who let fly when they’re at least up to their waist in the water. If you’re thoroughly grossed out now, by the way, I promise not to bring up the candiru fish again in this particular article.

They could probably also put some of those really cool giant water lilies in the pool–the ones you can stand on. They’d be a nice place to hang out and take a break. As I was thinking about all this it occurred to me that the Amazon river is approximately three thousand miles. How the heck is anyone going to swim that distance in a year? I’d be lucky if I could swim that distance in a hundred years. When I was a Boy Scout I had to swim a mile for my swimming merit badge. I could have done it at summer Scout Camp, when a few kids were dumb enough to get up at five in the morning to go out to the freezing cold lake. A friend of mine did that, which either showed a lot of commitment or proved that he needed to be committed. The mile I swam was in a pool, specifically thirteen times around the pool, although the shallow end was so crowded with kids who needed to be told about the candiru fish that I ended up walking through that part of the pool. I’ve always felt guilty about not technically swimming a mile and walking part of it, although, technically, walking in waist-high water has got to count for something. Anyway, as I looked closer at the Swim The Amazon program I discovered that it’s swimming forty-two miles in one year. Now that seems a little more reasonable, although that still comes out to two hundred and twenty-one thousand seven hundred and sixty feet – or swimming approximately six-hundred seven and a half feet per day. It reminds me of how I used to hear about people swimming the English Channel, and I thought, wow, that’s pretty impressive because I was thinking of them swimming the length of it. I was still impressed when I learned that they actually just swam the width, which is a lot less, but that’s still a pretty good swim. The times I crossed the English Channel it took over two hours, and I was going by boat. I didn’t even have to walk part of the way.

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