Germany’s 24-Hour Arena Swim: How Many Laps Can You Finish?

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The Bienenbüttel pool during Germany's 24-hour Arena Swim. Photo Courtesy: Susanne Sutton

By Jennifer Yoo, Swimming World College Intern.

When you hear that there is an event called the “24-Hour Arena Swim,” what do you think of? Most would automatically think it’s an event reserved for professional swimmers who have been training their whole lives – but that’s not true. This German event is open to all! Swimming has a plethora of benefits; therefore, countries like Germany have been encouraging their citizens to swim through events like these for decades.

Every year, pools across Germany host a public 24-hour swim. Deutscher Schwimmverband (DSV) – the national German swimming organization – as well as Arena sponsor the nationwide 24-hour Arena swim program. Originally, the event was held in 1985 to raise interest in the sport and showcase Germany’s public pool facilities. Now, the event has evolved into a fitness and health extravaganza open for all to participate in by swimming as many laps as they can within the 24-hour allotted time.

This year, 26 pools across Germany participated. Swimming World caught up with participant Susanne Sutton for an inside peek into the event.

Swimming World: How did you get involved with the 24-hour swim?

Sutton: I am from Germany and go back each summer to visit family. For years, I had seen the event advertised and results posted at the Bienenbüttel pool, which is where I learned to swim as a child. This year, it was held from Saturday, June 29 at 3 p.m. until Sunday, June 30 at 3 p.m. I was so excited when I learned that the 24-hour swim would fall into the time I’d be in Germany.

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The Bienenbüttel pool during the 24-hour swim. Photo Courtesy: Susanne Sutton

SW: When did you start swimming?

Sutton: I started swimming for exercise when I was 41 – I am now 53. German children are taught breaststroke, rarely freestyle. Therefore, I learned to freestyle when I was in my 40s when breaststroke became too slow for me.

SW: How does the event work?

Sutton: When you register for the swim, you receive a “counting card.” You give your card to the counter for the lane in which you plan to swim. The counter will count the laps you swim. When you leave the pool to take a break, to sleep or go home for a while, you return your card to a file. From there you retrieve it, give it to a counter again and continue swimming. When you decide you are done swimming, you submit the card to be counted in the final results. All swimmers receive a certificate. Swimmers who swam 3,000 meters or more receive a medal.

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A counting card for the 24-hour swim. Photo Courtesy: Susanne Sutton

SW: How did you train for the swim?

Sutton: I swim about 3 times a week and usually do between 2 and 3 kilometers per swim. I did not really train any differently before the swim. My stroke is such that I don’t tire easily when I swim at a constant moderate pace.

SW: What challenges did you face while training and racing?

Sutton: I had torn my ACL on my last trip to Germany and had an ACL replacement surgery in December. My orthopedist said I could not do breaststroke until September, so all I did was swim freestyle. It would have been nice to throw in a little breaststroke when I felt tired.

SW: How far did you swim within the 24 hours, and what was your goal?

Sutton: I swam 10,100 meters. My goal was to swim a 10K, which I did in two sessions of 5K each.

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Sutton happy to reach 10,000 m! Photo Courtesy: Susanne Sutton

SW: How did you feel after you completed the swim?

Sutton: I felt pretty good. I only realized my fatigue when I went home and did not wake up until way into the afternoon. I had thought I might go back to the pool and do a few more kilometers but slept right through Sunday afternoon.

SW: What was your favorite and least favorite part of the swim?

Sutton: My favorite was swimming at sunrise with fog wafting over the water and few people in the water. It was very relaxing. My least favorite was the shark tank right at the beginning of the 24-hour swim when so many people were in the water.

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The Bienenbüttel pool at night. Photo Courtesy: Susanne Sutton

SW: What would you consider to be the biggest take-away from this experience?

Sutton: I am fitter than I thought!

SW: Are you planning to participate again? If so, what is your next distance goal? If not, what are you working towards now?

Sutton: Yes, definitely. It was so much fun! I have no goal yet, other than to see how far I can go!

SW: Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Sutton:  This is a great event, and I wish USA swimming would sponsor a similar event in the US. I proposed to organize a 12-hour night swimming and camping event at my community pool here in Laurel, Maryland, for August. However, people voted it down for liability and security concerns. That bummed me out.

Sutton receives certificate and medal for 24-hour swim from assistant pool manager Jens Weissmann. Photo Courtesy: Susanne Sutton

Swimming 10,100 m enabled Sutton to place 50th overall out of 300 swimmers and 18th among the women at her pool. The longest distance swum this year was 36,300 m. Last year, 96 km stole the show nationally.

As demonstrated by Sutton and other participants in the swim, anyone is capable of going the distance and improving their health! How far do you think you could swim in 24 hours?

Although written in German, you can click here for more information about the 24-hour Arena swim.

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

17 comments

  1. Tiana Lima

    Shane Erskine I would love this SO much 😍 🏊🏻‍♀️

  2. Neil Morgan

    We used to have a 24hr swim in our club every year. I never hear of pools doing it anymore. They always close overnight, even during swimathons.

  3. Shawn Nowak

    That sounds interesting, longest pool swim I did was 18,000 yards in 7 hours.

    • Mia Erickson Stevens

      I was thinking we should do this! I was getting ready to share it with you and you had already commented!

  4. Marisa Miller

    I am so impressed by the 36,300 meter swim. That is almost a mile an hour for 24 hours! 👏👏👏

  5. Lisa Cameron

    Such a beautiful fifty meter pool
    Would love this in our neighborhood💗

  6. avatar
    Keith

    I think the idea sounds nice, but if you swim freestyle in a lane where most people are doing the breaststroke, you’d catch up with them in no time and tap their feet. I don’t enjoy that and I’m sure the person doing breaststroke in front of me won’t either. Perhaps what they can do is isolate the freestylers and the breastrokers into separate lanes.

  7. Kristen Tiffany

    Kurt pretty cool idea for a fundraiser!!

  8. Camilla Sguotti

    Greg LeGrand we should look if they do it in Hamburg next year! 😎

  9. avatar

    Bienenbüttel is not too far from Hamburg, and their 24h swim will be July 11/12 next year. You can camp the night on their pool grounds. Saw a swim team from Hamburg camp there this year.

  10. April Gitzen

    Kay Luisa Lange this is awesome! Maybe Julian Morassi will go too!

  11. avatar
    Pia

    I swam in so many fun pools in Germany