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Mentone Open Water Marathon Swim

An analysis

This event was the brain child of myself in conjunction with Brian Kirk (Mentone LSC). Without the support of Brian and the Mentone LSC this event would not have been possible.

Over the past 5 or so years there has been a noticeable shift in the numbers of people seeking longer swim events. For many years the standard Open Water Swim event distance was 1.2km here in Victoria. Now we are seeing a shift to many Clubs and Event days having a 5km swim as well as the traditional 1.2km swims. The 5km events are selling out quickly with numbers capped in these races for safety reasons. A high percentage of 5km swimmers are backing up and competing in the 1.2km events also.

The trend to participate in Endurance events is not restricted to swimming. There has been a huge increase in the number of people participating in Running Marathons and Long Cycling Events also.

Swimming, however, has always been a bit different to running and cycling. The reason for this is that water is approximately 900 times thicker than air, and even though good technique is important in both running and cycling, the penalty for poor technique is not quite as unforgiving as it is with swimming.

The thought of a 5km swim in 2017 is not as daunting as it once seemed, and so the timing was right to introduce a second Swimming Marathon event here in Melbourne. (The other event is the Williamstown WOW held in December each year).

Congratulations to our 10k winnner Kate Murphy


Features of the Mentone OW Marathon include:

No boat or kayak support required:

The triangular 2.5km course means that swimmers do not need to provide boat or kayak support. Ultimately all swimmers need to do is turn up and swim (Easy).

  • Generic water and Gatorade (provided by the Mentone LSC) is on tap at two separate feeding stations. A third feeding station is in place for Individual feeding requirements (Swimmers to provide their own).

Wetsuit/ Non - Wetsuit categories

Something that is important to any athlete is that their performance is measured fair and equitably with other people in their event. Different physical attributes make it hard to specifically categorise each and every person. People have different genders, age, height, arm span, foot size, weight, BMI, etc that will impact on their respective performance in the water. However, the wearing of a wetsuit arguably provides a far greater benefit for an individual than any physical attribute.

So it makes sense to separate Wetsuit wearers from Non - Wetsuit wearers rather than separate waves by age & gender. Enough said.

Deep Water Start and Finish

How many times have we seen dramatic, close finishes in swimming events where the first person out of the water of the swimming race is mown down and beaten in the run to the line. We were lucky enough to work with Swimming Victoria who kindly lent their Start/Finish gantry to us so that we could provide an in water start and finish.


10km is the widely accepted distance for a swimming event to be called a Marathon. The time it takes an elite runner to run 40kms is equivalent to the time it takes an elite swimmer to swim 10km.

Any events significantly longer than 10km are therefore considered Ultra-Marathons (such as the Perth to Rotto swim 19.7km).

5km swims are considered Half Marathons.


As an avid Open Water swimmer, I asked myself what would I like an ideal event to look like.

The factors to be taken into consideration are significant and not to be taken lightly.

Event promotion, insurance, pre-registrations, on day registrations, course layout, sighting buoy setup, Start/Finish line setup, event categories, category start times, category rules, waivers, swim caps, timing, social media updates, results publishing, cancellation procedures, feeding station requirements, bag storage, etc, etc … The list seemed endless. And then there are the Big Ones - SAFETY and Volunteer Resource for the day.

Each and every item above has a substantial sub item list that needed to be carefully thought through, have resource allocated to and then implemented on the day.

We are very grateful for all those volunteers who donated their valuable time and positive energy on the day. An event like this would not be possible without the efforts of these people.

All this and we had to do its without the support of any official sponsors.

10k non wetsuit start they go!


Each of the above points, if not done well can detract on the participant experience.

The overall experience ultimately determines the future success or failure of any event.

It makes sense…

The presumption is that if a person enjoys something, they will do it again and promote it. If they don’t enjoy the experience they won’t. People vote with their feet and next year’s participant list will be the definitive feedback on how well we did this year.

Initial Feedback from this year’s event has been very favourable with many people voicing their approval of the event features… Wetsuit/NonWetsuit Categories, No separation by age or gender, Deep water start/finish and the general spirit in which the event was conducted.

As we do further review of the event I will indeed be seeking Feedback on what people think would make the event even more enjoyable.

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