Today I signed into "The Atlantic" -- part of my daily procrastination ritual designed to keep me from ever accomplishing anything that could be labeled as "real work." (Never go to the website "The Daily What." The blog is a time vortex and will suck you down into its deep, dark rabbit hole of videos and links. Unless you're like me and that's your thing.)
But I was somewhat taken aback by the headline on today's Atlantic website: "Marathons, Once Special, Are Now Crowded."
The implication in this headline is that because more people run marathons, these marathons are suddenly not "special"? The article states that just last year alone, over 500,000 people ran in a marathon. So just because more people are doing it, makes it not as "special"?
Guess what. Running 26.2 miles is freaking hard. If you actually do it, that's special. I understand that Boston Marathon organizers want to keep "slow people" out of their hoighty-toighty event. God forbid the Boston Marathon turns into a participatory-based event instead of time-based.
What is interesting to me, though, (and we're getting to the topic of swimming finally) are the sheer number of people looking for that "athletic credential." To say, "Hey baby, I've ran a marathon" is becoming a pretty-cool status symbol in the United States. It's a resume builder, even if you only accomplish it one time, one race. You can forever say, "I ran a marathon," and people will slap you on the back, even if you've got that pudge building, if you're 10 years removed from your marathon-running days, if you can hardly see your toes because the contours of your stomach are starting to overwhelm your waistband.
Running a marathon is cool. So where's that for swimming?
Swimming, I think, could head this direction. Europe is already seeing a huge increase in popularity of open-water swimming, and as long as BP stops ejaculating its product into the Earth's water supply, we'll probably see the same increase here in Ameri-cuh. I'm sure here, at some point, prestigious open-water swims will emerge (there already are a few, though none with the prestige of the Boston Marathon). The ultimate problem with swimming, though, is that there is no word equivalent for "marathon."
You say you ran a marathon, people are impressed. You say you swam a marathon, and people look at you funny, "Huh?" You can say you swum around Manhattan, which is definitively bad-ass, but the REASON why marathon running has taken off is because anyone, anywhere can accomplish the SAME THING. Anyone in Jersey can run a marathon, then say in a job interview, "I've also ran a marathon." Anyone in Idaho can say, "Oh yeah, I ran a marathon last year." From Hawaii to Hell, Michigan -- anyone can run a marathon and slap that accomplishment onto a resume. Most people just want to SAY it. Most people just want to say, "Yep, I've done it, I've completed a marathon."
(I know I want to, though we'll see if the belly flab allows it.)
Swimming doesn't have that. Swimming doesn't have that all-encompassing term for general badassness. So that's what we need to do. Instead of using the somewhat complicated and ambiguous term, "Marathon Swimming" we need a new term altogether. We need a term where, if you whisper it over a dimly-lit bar conversation, a member of the opposite sex will immediately be attracted. A term that evokes an impressed face from a job interviewer. A term that implies, "Yo, I'm pretty awesome because I swam a [term here]."
Suggestions? Swimathon? Puke-a-thon? Something minus the suffix "athon"? Here's your official chance, swim fans, to change the world. (Or at least provide that 5 minute distraction to your day -- because isn't that the point of all blogs?)