Introducing new Global standardised Marathon Swimming Rules

We humans cannot avoid applying patterns, recognising changes, marking time, and marking time. We impose arbitrary markers, and the years begin and pass and end with signs and notifications, anniversaries and announcements, resolutions and changes.

In 2012 Evan Morrison and I started the forum. Evan and I believed marathon and aspiring marathon swimmers and the wider community of observers, fans, friends and others, needed someplace to connect, to make friends, ask questions and get answers, to essentially catch up with the online times. Nick Adam’s Google Channel Chat Group already existed but we wanted to supplement/improve the email-only format and build a public online space, something outside the constraints of a single organisation and outside commercial interests, and so the forum was born.

Marathon Swimmers New Banner cropped & levelled properly-resized

A second stage in the forum and global community development was the introduction at the end of 2012 of the forum’s Global Marathon Swimming Awards, for best solo female and male swims and the Barra award for most impressive body of swimming in a single year. In 2013 those awards were further expanded with the Barra award being divided into female and male categories, and the introduction of a Services to Marathon Swimming Award.

In the lead up to the formation of the forum there was a lively email discussion about the possibility of forming some kind of umbrella marathon organisation amongst a group of fairly well known swimmers, (and me, the Zelig of open water swimming!). Almost everyone came to the conclusion that this was not currently possible. This discussion was part of the origin of the forum.

With the forum now just coming up on its second anniversary Evan and I have not forgotten our desire to progress the development of global community of open water swimmers, and especially those of the marathon persuasion.

Some events of autumn 2013 showed that our sport was still woefully misunderstood by the wider public and media. Swimmers were even willing to deliberately mislead the public and media and use and abuse the loose and collegiate nature of the swimming community to further personal aims and in the process tarnish long-held traditions.

In 2013 Evan, (whom for those who don’t know him, is a creative powerhouse) had suggested we revisit our original intentions. And so we set out to write a draft umbrella set of marathon swimming rules with a core set of authors, comprised of Andrew MalinakElaine HowleyEvan and myself.

Over the course of a few months we edited and expanded and rewrote those rules, circulating to a wider global group for appraisal and criticism, before arriving at a final set by year’s end. Quite a few people from around the world contributed comments and feedback to the various drafts, they are named on the document and we thank them all.

So it is that with both pride and enthusiasm the four authors confidentially release the global:

Rules of Marathon Swimming.

About these rules 

This is a set of guiding standarized rules and is the only such global rule set. If you wish to understand or use marathon swimming rules, barring accidental omissions in the writing, this set is as close to a core global set as we believe possible.

The rules have been peer-reviewed by many experienced swimmers including marathon and Channel swimmers and swim organisers all of whom are identified in the document.

This rule set can be used to govern any new swim by a single swimmer or by any organisation.

The document is open to further review and discussion.

Despite a number of people working on them and all our efforts, we expect that when we open these rules up the wider world and the wisdom of crowd-sourcing, improvements or edits will become obvious. Therefore we plan to review these rules with a core committee every year. In the meantime, suggestions can be made here, Evan’s blog or most especially on the forum and the core authors will be able to review at any time.

These rules cover the areas of observation, equipment, definitions, and swimming rules.

This document is available for anyone or any organisation to use or adapt, under a Creative Commons Attribution License with Derivative and Non-Derivative sections. This means anyone may use and partially adapt these rules to their own requirement, but they must attribute the original forum rules. The sections which are covered by a Derivative License may be changed, but the sections which are covered by a Non-Derivative may NOT be changed.

These rules are not currently the explicit rule set of any existing marathon or Channel swimming organisation. They DO NOT supplant the existing rules of any marathon swimming organisation nor are they intended to so do. The rules DO NOT cover assisted swimming of any kind. Marathon swimming is about unassisted swimming, and as such assisted swimming is variable and beyond our scope of interest.

They are not an expression or elitism or exclusion, merely a codification of existing traditions for the benefit of the marathon and indeed non-marathon swimming world by a group of swimmers who feel the time has come for this, not for our own self-aggrandisement, but for the benefit of our sport and our friends and those we esteem.

The question of other swim types similar or related to marathon swimming will inevitably arise and many swimmers will swim other types of swims, or what we call Special Swim Types (Stage, Relay, Circumnavigation and Multi-Leg). Outside the core rules there is a supplement defining these other related swim types.

With the release of these rules, we will also be issuing a press release to major online and print media, including swim specific organisations such as H2O,, FINA, Swimming World Magazine,  DNOWS, USMS. Please click here for the full press release

IMPORTANT: Evan points on the forum that acceptance by the marathon swimming community is vital. To this end he’s created an Endorsement page where you can leave your name without having to be a Form member. I would URGE to please so do.

Related links:

The announcement on the forum

Evan’s blog announcement.

Direct link to rules.

Direct link to Press Release.

H2Open Magazine‘s article on rules release.

Swimswam article on rules release.

Swimming World Magazine article on rules release.


4 thoughts on “Introducing new Global standardised Marathon Swimming Rules

  1. Pingback: Channel and Marathon Swimming Articles Index & adding a Donate to, the world’s most popular open water swimming blog option | LoneSwimmer

  2. Pingback: LoneSwimmer Has No Balls | LoneSwimmer

  3. Pingback: Launching a global Rules of Marathon Swimming

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