Mike's Mailbag: Go the Distance

Mike's Mailbag: Go the Distance

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, June 26, 2017

Every Monday, I answer questions from summers around the country. If you have a questions, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com.

Hey Mike,

Every time this year, my team attends a national distance meet. It's a lot of fun, but I'm a sprinter. I always feel disappointed with my distance events because my teammates' times are so much faster. I'm happy for their success, but I also feel left behind.


Left Behind Sprinter


Dear Left Behind Sprinter,

Have you considered, during all of those swim meets featuring all those sprint events and sprint relays and sprint 50s and sprint 100s, maybe the distance swimmers are envious of you?

It's particularly grueling to be a distance swimmer. Not only because training to become a distance swimmer requires and demands difficult, challenging, time-consuming workouts, but also because racing opportunities are extremely limited. There’s the 400/500 freestyle, the 400 IM, and the mile. To race any farther than that, or to compete in any other “distance” kind of event, one must exit the chlorinated pool and head towards open waters.

On the other hand, consider sprint freestyle. At the Olympic Trials, if you finish in the top six of the 100 freestyle, you go to the Olympics. You’re on the team. Your career is set. Not only from an exposure standpoint, but you also get significant experience and endorsement opportunities compared to the 3rd place finisher of the 1500m. I wonder how that would change, if the same “Top 6” courtesy were extended towards Olympic Trials milers.

Imagine Olympic Trials where the top 6 of every distance event went to the Olympics. Suddenly, I bet you would see a lot more competition in the 400 IM, the 400 freestyle, and the mile. Conversely, imagine an NCAA Championship meet that featured relays of the 500-yard freestyle. Imagine the Cal Bears competing against the Stanford Cardinal in the 2,000 freestyle relay.

I’d bet Cal and Stanford would recruit even more 500 freestylers.

Left Behind Sprinter, I’m joking around and having a bit of fun with you. But seriously, if you really want to take on the distance swimmers at the distance meet, train more distance! Just because you're a sprinter doesn't mean you can’t crank out a decent distance swim. When I competed, I knew many swimmers who transitioned between sprinting and distance and back again.

Instead of feeling sorry that you can't keep up with the distance swimmers, either be happy for them — happy those exhausted distance swimmers can experience some of that glory that is oft-extended and emphasized among sprinters — or hop into that distance lane this Monday morning.



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