Set your sights on these challenging swims for your New Year’s resolutions. Whether you prefer open water or pool swimming, there’s a challenge for you. I’ve ranked them in order from easiest (1) to hardest (5), but make no mistake, the easiest is in no way easy.
1) New World Record
Every year swimming records are made and broken, and in 2019 the bar was raised by Ross Edgley, who swam around the Great British coasts of England, Scotland and Wales with only brief sleep breaks over a staggering, shrivelling and unprecedented 157 days of open water swimming. This is the easiest item on the list because anyone could set a previously unrecorded swimming record at any time, such as the longest swim while strapped to a giant log; another mental, physical triumph of the brave Brit.
2) Red Bull Neptune Steps
Pictured above is a small canal lock, which is how canal boats get up and down hills, not people. However the pioneers at Red Bull are trying to change that, and the Neptune Steps challenge pits hundreds, sometimes thousands of swimmers against 7 huge locks in Glasgow, making it one of the top swimming events of the year, if only for bragging rights.
3) Morocco Swim Trek, Sahara Desert
These races take the term “heat” seriously, as they are based in the worlds most famous desert, the Sahara. Where many have struggled to find water, competitive swimmers have flocked for the last 5 years to swim 4 different competitions in 4 days, to be crowned King of the Sahara (not really, but nobody can stop you referring to yourself as that).
4) English Channel, “harder than Everest”
The treacherous tides that separate England and France can multiply the distance of this 21 mile (as the crow flies) swim. It can take between 7 and 27 hours of constant swimming, in contrast the fastest 26.2 mile marathon was ran in just over 2 hours. Without the proper gear and a crewed boat following you, and stopping you swimming in circles, this open water swim can easily end in death. Because untrained adventurers have summitted Everest, and far more people have climbed the highest mountain than have braved the cross-country swim, some claim the English Channel swim to be more difficult than climbing Everest.
5) The 50 Freestyle at Tokyo 2020
The ancient trails that serve as a modern measuring stick for each nations athleticism is the proving ground of more than swimming, and within swimming the categories are broad. Picking the hardest from among them was difficult, and open to discussion, but it is without doubt that the swimmers that make it into their countries teams are the best in the world. By occurring every 4 years, rather than the annual swimming championships held by FINA and others, the Olympics becomes the ultimate competition that the other, more frequent events become training for. The difficulty of this competition is amplified by the lifetime of practice and dedication that is required to even compete on the world stage of swimming.
The 50m freestyle is my choice for the most difficult event, because swimmers compete using their chosen form in a split-second explosive test of ultimate perfection of their craft. A slight imperfection in form will easily cost the race and any chance at gold. Heats for men and women start on the 31st of July, and discerning sports fans and swimming spectators worldwide will make sure to tune in to see this miraculous display of raw power and finesse, in stark contrast to the other list items.