Recently, a few swim friends and I shared memories and various transgressions from our swimming careers of yesteryear—a skipped practice, a scheme to get out of butterfly sets—when someone turned to me and said, “You know what? I never swam the 1650.”
I was shocked. “Not once?”
Though I tried to get him to go to the lap pool right then and there, he, of course, wouldn’t. I tried to get him to commit to swimming the mile at some Masters meet in the future, but he shook his head. “That time has passed.”
That time has passed. Probably the four saddest, but most honest, words known. I felt sorry for my friend — the one who had never had the joy and pleasure of swimming a continuous timed 66 lengths freestyle to the point of nausea and vomiting.
In all seriousness, I do feel bad for him. The mile isn’t only a Seven Wonder of the Swimming World; it’s also a rite of passage. Just like swimming a long course 200 fly or jumping off the high dive, the mile is something that, as a swimmer, you’re supposed to do. It completes the experience of being a competitive swimmer. (Just like all distance swimmers should swim the 50 freestyle in a meet at least once.)
Here are my reasons why every swimmer should swim the 1650 at least once during a competitive swimming career:
1. To tackle the fear of the unknown.
Fear will stop you from trying new things. Don’t let fear get in the way of exploration and adventure. Okay, so maybe the mile isn’t that glamorous of an adventure, but at least you’ll push new personal boundaries. Explore the unknown... especially in the form of 20 minutes of straight freestyle.
2. To get your coach to stop bugging you about swimming the 1650.
Get that mile out of the way. If it’s always a thing you haven’t done, it’ll always just sit in your head, causing anxiety. Sometimes, the wondering is the hardest part. Other times, your coach or teammates or siblings will never stop pestering you to swim it. It’s sort of like how to best get into a cold pool: Leap in.
3. Swimming the 1650 will make those 100 freestyles feel so much shorter.
Or 500 freestyles. Or basically anything.
4. Because you might — just might — actually enjoy it.
Seriously. The 1650 might become your favorite event. Or your best event. You won’t know ’til you try it. I was once terrified of the 400 IM. Didn’t want to swim it. Cringed every time I thought about it. Then, one day, I bit the bullet and swam it. The next season, the 400 IM was one of my best events.
5. So you can always say, when talking with old swim friends years in the future, “Yeah, I swam the mile.”
No one has to know it was only once.