The 29 Confessions of a Distance Swimmer

Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

The 29 Confessions of a Distance Swimmer – From the Archives

By Chandler Brandes

“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.


  1. Julia Huming

    Cathleen Pruden ik youve already seen this but damn

  2. Pete Schwenker

    #18 is very correct. Until coaches work both sides of the pool.

  3. Luralulu Mlehliw

    I like:27. You’ve mastered flip turning and pulling down your cap simultaneously. Lol so true!!!

  4. Cassie Jacobs

    Seriously though… The one song verse… The entire time

  5. Secundra Beasley

    So true. I am an aspiring distance swimmer and I would never had considered it in my wildest dreams.

  6. avatar
    Brinson Hubbard

    #15 Especially when your counter puts the same number in twice…

    • Regan Nolan

      this is so spot on, couldn’t have made it through w/o you ? what am I going to do next year

  7. avatar

    BS…I love to swim 1,500 meters every day of the week and wouldn’t change it for anything…

  8. Nathan Robinson

    Samuel Rutley Jesse Goodyear Boo Waters Charlie Cox Sam Harris Rebekah Sefton

  9. Thomas Liess

    Cherelle Oestringer so accurate ? Starts perfectly with #1

  10. avatar

    Thinking about stopping 66 times during the race? Really? I usually don’t start thinking about that into I’m at least 1100 yards into the race and then it’s only a few times, not 66.

    As to 23, at least you can watch the entire 1500 at the Olympics on the internet now; NBC usually skipped the entire race.

  11. Monnette Fourie

    Enjoyed this. Laps counting, red blocks, tumble turns, starting times…. Long distance did choose me…..

  12. Tammy Munoz

    Alonso Mati Perez ?? La 1,2,4,7,8,10,11,13,16-20,25,26,27,28 jajajajaj en especial la 8 y 26

  13. Hallie Stoffal

    I used to practice my foreign languages during distance training. And ONCE my coach tried having me swim the 400 IM, with that exact line ” you have the endurance” he never ever again tried.

  14. Amy Stem

    Having raised a D swimmer, these were fun to read and true!

  15. Ronald Neill




    • Tayyaba Rauf

      Maliha Hashmi Haidi has swum the 800 several times but refuses to do the 1500!!! He still considers himself a sprinter at heart!! ?

  16. Dave Hoover

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

  17. Zena Ough

    Lena Hamblyn-Ough Larn Hamblyn-Ough Ella Crowe Alex Dunkley Melissa Potier

  18. Joe Mccafferty

    Katie Katie MccaffertyConnie Aller-Mccafferty I know #18 is on top of your list!

  19. Tennyson Henry

    Lexi Daniels Jane MacDo Alyssa Helak Devon Dabney why are all these a little too accurate

  20. Kreighton Gordon

    Adam Joseph Hodnichak Zack Krejdovsky Jayna Cline Comas Amanda Haile Dan Brett

  21. Meems Hoover

    That’s funny: You believe that hearing the bell is the equivalent of angels singing.

  22. Elizabeth Maraskine

    Sophie Montesanti “you wish their was a 4×500 relay and then realize how awful that sounds”

    • Sophie Montesanti

      That is so accurate. I wish for it hypothetically, but I know if it actually existed I would complain about it NONSTOP.

  23. Drew Chorney

    You’ve learned how to pee while continuing to swim…

  24. Eleanore Armanasco Kirk

    All true! ??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️

  25. avatar

    #20 love it

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