I Swam Around Manhattan Island!

One of the people I met there had mentioned he was from New York City. I jokingly asked if people swim there. He said “Yes – all the way around the island, and you have to do it.”

That’s it. I was sold.

I had to go through a pretty strict application process, but I got accepted to do the swim at the beginning of December 2016! This means I had 9 months to officially train to swim around Manhattan Island.

About the Swim

The swim is organized by New York Open Water. This group puts on several swim events throughout the year. The swim I signed up for is called 20 Bridges. This is formally (and more famously) known as the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. The swim is a 28.5 mile circumnavigation of Manhattan Island.

I had a lot of training ahead of me.


I focused on this training starting January 1. I slowly built up my mileage per week and even hired a coach to help me formulate a strong plan and get the best out of my workouts. I ended up swimming around 520 miles in total by my swim date, August 19.

The Swim

I couldn’t believe the day was already here. I was in NYC and getting prepped for the swim. Before I knew it, we were loading onto our boats to head to the start line. My entry fee included a motorized boat for my crew (Ellen Bridges and Brittany Schield) and my observer (Janine Serell), as well as a kayaker to stay beside me (Lizzie Tabor).  

The swim was a wave start, and I was the only one in wave 1. This means I started alone and stayed alone the entire swim. This was great for me. I didn’t worry about what other swimmers were doing around me or ahead of me. I got to focus on my swim and enjoy it on my own.

The course had us start at Mill Rock where the East River meets the Harlem River. I went up the Harlem River first, and then hit the Hudson River. Then, I turned at the Battery to go up the East River back to where I started.

The swim was amazing. It was everything I thought it would be. I was never nervous or scared. I felt completely taken care of. I even had an NYPD boat escort the entire swim.  The Harlem went by quickly. Since most of the bridges were in that river, I felt like I was constantly going under another bridge. It was really neat.  

Hitting the Hudson was completely surreal. I turned the corner from the Harlem, and I could immediately see the George Washington Bridge. This bridge is the only bridge that connects New Jersey to Manhattan, and it is beautiful. I could see it for miles and miles even after I passed it. This gave me an overwhelmingly amazing feeling. I couldn’t believe I was doing what I was doing.

As I got closer to Lower Manhattan and Battery Park, the water got more and more choppy. This immediately put my stomach in a knot. I felt like I was in a washing machine and almost couldn’t keep food down as this went on for about 3 hours. I never got nervous or anything, just annoyed at my stomach for hurting.

Feeding for any long distance event can be tricky. I typically like to eat and/or drink every 30 minutes.  In this swim, I had 8 bottles of Gatorade, and different types of snacks to account for differing conditions.

I got up the East River, away from the Battery, and could feel the water calm down, and I felt much better. As Mill Rock approached, I picked up speed and couldn’t stop smiling. I was about to completely circumnavigate the island swimming alone! The race director was on a boat at the finish to call my official time and finish: 7:45:18. Time to celebrate!

What’s Next?

I am so glad I did the 20 Bridges swim. It was my biggest swim and exactly what I hoped it would be.  Of course, I am already looking ahead to see what’s next. I have a few things I am considering for 2018, but right now I will sit back and focus on the Knoxville Bridges to Bluffs Open Water Swim and Swim the Suck!

This is the first year that Knoxville has put on an open water race!  I am friends with the race directors, so I hope they get a great turnout.  Everyone should do it! As for Swim the Suck, this will be my 5th year participating.  You can read a write up of my first year on our blog here.

For more background on Jamie Ann’s swimming career, read this recent article by The Gadsden Times. She was also interviewed on a podcast back in June.  Check it out here.