Smiling Why You Swim

Today, I found myself smiling while I was swimming.

While reading the accounts of the Tarahumara running, I couldn’t help think the most amazing thing about a group of super athletes living in Barancas was their smiles. Obviously you can’t see smiles in text, but I imagined them on the faces of people running distances that seem crazy.

Of course, I’ve swam distances that make people think I’m nuts. One week I hit 38 miles in a week, but I couldn’t do it consistently. This may explain why I find running an ultramarathons  attractive even though I’ve never run even a marathon.

The smiles got to me though. I enjoy swimming and the challenge of swimming for as long as I can. Location isn’t even a factor, in the pool, in the lake, or in the ocean, I enjoy them all. But I don’t really smile while I’m doing it. It would be a distraction or less fun. Then I remembered something.

When I swam with a team, it was all about the fun – the unbridled joy of pushing myself to the end of my limits right alongside one of my friends. The pool is where I’ve met some of my closest friends and had the most fun. It is this connection that helps me understand why the Tarahumara run with big grins on their face.

McDougal was on to something when he said that Tarahumara didn’t run to compete in the same sense that we normally think of competition. Instead the Tarahumara run to come together as friends. The race and the competition are just part of the fun of being together, and the competitors enjoy the thrill of the chase.

Whatever your speed, the pool is a great equalizer. You’re doing laps, and you can always meet up at the end of sets or find a distance for you and your work out partner that fits a common time. Some of the guys I swim with swim 250s for my 300s, we can still push ourselves where we are at, and we find the smiles on our faces.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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