The 29 Confessions of a Distance Swimmer

“I didn’t choose the distance life. The distance life chose me.”

Well, not quite.

Distance swimmers are all born the same way: we swam the 500 for the first time around age nine or 10 and didn’t do too badly, so our coaches put us in it again at the next meet.

Then again.

And again.

And before we knew it, we were swimming the 1000. Then the dreaded day came when we had to swim the 1650.

And here we are, many years later, still staring at the bottom of the pool, anxiously waiting for the red blocks to appear.

Here are 29 confessions all distance swimmers have:

1. You wish you were a sprinter. Every. Single. Day.

2. You can guess your splits correctly―to the tenth.

2016 olympic swimming qualifying times

Photo Courtesy: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

3. You have a different pair of goggles you use when racing the 500, which are obviously different than the ones for the 1650.

4. Brackets around sets don’t phase you anymore.

5. You hate when your coach thinks you can swim the 400 IM because you have “endurance.”

6. You secretly have at least one teammate who you will never, ever let count for you.


Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

7. You genuinely have no idea what stroke to do when a set says “no freestyle.”

8. You contemplate stopping at least 66 times during the mile.

9. You secretly like training trip because it means long course.

10. You wonder what it would be like to be Katie Ledecky nearly every practice.

FINA World Championships Katie Ledecky

Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

11. The thought of all the food you’ll eat after practice is sometimes the only thing that gets you out of bed.

12. Your ideal race plan includes using the first 600 as your warmup.

13. It means so much to you when you see your teammates cheer for you the entire race…

14. …except on the first lap, because no one can be THAT excited with 65 laps to go.


Photo Courtesy: Christa Weaver

15. You seriously consider getting out and slapping your counter each time they shake the numbers.

16. You quietly (or loudly) curse the person who thought it would be a good idea to race anything over a 100.

17. You have separate playlists for the 500, 1000, and 1650.

18. You purposely breathe to the side your coach isn’t standing on.


Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

19. You wish there was a 4×500 relay, but then realize how awful that would actually be.

20. You’re thankful that your start has no impact on your races.

21. You often think about all the yardage that you’ve skipped because, even after all these years, you still can’t count correctly.

22. You cry into your goggles almost every practice, but no one notices because your eyes dry long before the set is even halfway done.


Photo Courtesy: Christa Weaver

23. You consider writing complaint letters to broadcast stations for cutting to commercials during distance races.

24. The red blocks are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.

25. During long sets, you only have the single most annoying verse of a song stuck in your head.

26. You believe that hearing the bell is the equivalent of angels singing.

Photo Courtesy: Hayley Good

Photo Courtesy: Hayley Good

27. You’ve mastered flip turning and pulling down your cap simultaneously.

28. You don’t want to be at the distance session just as much as everyone else doesn’t.

29. You love when people ask in amazement, “You swim all those laps…at once?”

Even though our hearts may be in the 50, we’ll forever be entered in the 1650.

By Chandler Brandes, Swimming World College Intern

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *