Marilyn contacted me this week to see if she could come and swim with the LOSTies. Her and her daughters, Jodi and Janet, are doing a road trip and wanted to stop in and see us! Pretty cool.
As you can imagine, being as into open water swimming as I am, I have read all there is to read on the subject and know all the names and places and swims. Part of my goal for LOST Swimming was to “re-start” open water swimming in Lake Ontario, after a hiatus of about a half a century. And much to my surprise, I’d say we’ve done it. I would argue that LOST Swimming and the Global Swim Series have made open water swimming as big in Ontario as it has ever been! Which of course is thanks to all of you coming out and making it a fun thing to do on a Saturday morning. So with Marilyn joining us, it kind of feels like it has all come full circle.
As you likely know, open water swim races used to occur at the CNE back in the 1920’s and ’30’s. Wrigley, chewing gum company, even used to put up huge prize money that would draw big numbers out for races. The equivalent of over $150,000 in today’s money! They kept going for many years after that and they had some very large… and long (15 mile) races too. There was even a professional race across Lake Ontario in 1976. But of all these big events that occurred in Lake O, by far and away the most famous was when a 16 year old Toronto girl named Marilyn Bell (her married name is actually Marilyn Di Lascio, but people still often know her as Marilyn Bell) swam across the Lake. There was actually $10,000 in prize money offered to an American woman who was the reigning world champion marathon swimmer, and Marilyn only jumped in late, almost as an afterthought. The American never made it, and after Marilyn was part way across, and all of Canada was following her progress, they then offered the prize money to her if she made it.
And she did. And the rest is history.
PS. I asked Marilyn if wanted me to call the media and local dignitaries and stuff… because this is pretty cool… she said “no thanks”, she’d rather ditch the formal stuff and just come and make new friends that share her passion for open water swimming! Although she did say, she’s happy to do selfies with anyone who wants one with a 78 year old grandma! haha.
See you on Saturday.