The Great Ohio River Swim is almost upon us. At 8:15 am on Sept. 24, participants will enter the water at the Serpentine Wall and swim about 900 meters to Northern Kentucky and back, ending the swim at the Public Landing.
Soapbox spoke with veteran swimmer Jennifer Mooney about how to prepare for this unique swim.
Mooney, who has participated in the swim more than seven times says, “Now is a good time to start preparing. If you’re a good swimmer and in decent physical shape and start training now, this is very doable.”
But what you shouldn’t do is go in without preparing.
Mooney explains that the swim is mostly for active swimmers and those who used to swim. However, the event is open for all ages and abilities — you just need to be a strong swimmer to participate.
Participants will need goggles, a comfortable suit, towel and an ID for registration. Required swim caps are provided, as well as an ankle time keeper. Mooney says that it’s best to arrive early and bring a friend that can wait at the Public Landing with a towel.
As far as eating before the swim, she suggests “whatever you feel you need,” the morning before the swim, but nothing too heavy. But afterward, you're going to need a high-protein meal.
A big question about the event is whether it’s even safe to swim in the Ohio River. Mooney says that she has never had a negative impact. Event coordinators check the water quality up to the week before the swim. They will reschedule the event if the water quality is unfit for swimmers, which has happened in the past.
The river is blocked off for the duration of the event, and a team of kayakers observes the water should swimmers need assistance.
On average, it takes swimmers about 20 minutes to complete the route, but the water remains open for about an hour.
What’s it like swimming in the Ohio River? This time of year, the water is usually warmer than the air. And while the visibility isn't great, Mooney says she hasn't encountered debris or strong currents. The route is triangulated, and the current pulls you in a relatively straight line, but it's not a strong current. The biggest obstacle is actually other swimmers.
The Ohio River Swim is gaining popularity and diversity. With an average of about 200 swimmers, organizers expect more participants this year, which always includes an influx of high school swim teams.
This year, the swim will honor Bill Keating, Jr., best known as the head of Cincinnati’s first swimming family. He was the first person to sign up for the inaugural event in 2007; he won the male swim but lost the overall title to his daughter, Caroline. Over the years, three of Keating's children and his father swam the event with him, and he was a big supporter of the event and convinced others to sign up. Earlier this year, he lost his battle with brain cancer.
The $40 registration fee ($25 for kids ages 12-18 and $35 for college students ages 17-23) goes to Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, a nonpprofit dedicated to getting urban teenagers involved in outdoor programs.
You can register for the swim here.
“It’s a fun, tranquil experience,” says Mooney. “It’s a chance to see the city from a totally different point of view, a point of view you never get. It’s very beautiful. I like to take the time to experience it.”