After writing this story on open-water swimmer Melodee Nugent, I kept thinking about the comparison between her long-distance efforts in the water and my runs on local trails.
How does a three-hour swim compare to a three-hour run? Or taking it further, how does swimming 27 miles compare to running an ultra marathon?
There is a general rule of thumb that holds swimming one mile is the equivalent of running four. In that conversion, the Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test in the Red River, the race Nugent completed last month, would be the equivalent of running 108 miles.
After completing that swim, Nugent had no trouble walking the next day day. Reaching up to grab a glass of a shelf was a challenge, though, given the soreness in her shoulders.
In comparison, it took me several days to walk pain-free down a flight of stairs after covering 31 miles in the Glacial Trail Ultra, a few years back.
To get a bit more perspective, I contacted Mary Gorski for her thoughts. Gorski has completed Ironman triathlons and the Badwater Ultra through Death Valley. She put the toughest chip squarely on the ultra swim.
“To me, running for 10, 12, 15 or more hours seems like a much less demanding task than swimming for the same period of time,” Gorski said. “With running, I have the freedom to walk when I want. I can talk to others while I am doing my event. I can eat when I want, and if I am not ready to eat at an aid station, I can carry supplies down the trail with me and eat whenever I darn well please.
“And most importantly, I can BREATHE when I want. you don’t have that luxury in swimming. You must plan each moment, even each breath.”