Lake Zurich and English Channel, now George is to take Manhattan

Derry long distance swimmer George Meenan celebrating after swimming the English Channel last year. 2206IC08

Derry long distance swimmer George Meenan celebrating after swimming the English Channel last year. 2206IC08

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First he swam Lake Zurich, then the English Channel but now George Meenan is planning his biggest challenge yet in New York.

For many people completing 28 lengths of a pool would be quite a struggle but a 28.5 mile-long circumnavigation of Manhattan is more the Derry long distance swimmer’s cup of tea. At 10am tomorrow morning, George will attempt to achieve the colossal feat of finishing the gruelling annual Manhattan Island Marathon Swim inside his personal target of between eight and nine hours. The Derry City Council employee, is relishing the challenge - having swam up to 30,000 metres a week during many months of tough training with City of Derry Swimming Club, North West Triathlon Club and during every spare moment. “It’s something I just had to do,” he told the ‘Journal’.

“I swam the Channel last year and Lake Zurich the year before, so this year I decided to go for a river swim and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim is perfect.” But George is not going into the challenge lightly as the MIMS is one of the top five longest endurance swims in the world.

“Having trained in the Swilly and the Creggan reservoir, the temperature in the Hudson is not going to be a problem. The main problem is going to be dehydration so it’s important that I stop every 30 minutes for about 20 seconds or so to take on as much fluid as possible.”

Safety is a top priority for the organisers - the Hudson is a very busy and fast moving tidal river - as there are 40 solo and 33 relay competitors taking part. “Safety is a big issue and each swimmer will have two canoeists and a powerboat accompanying them in the race, and we’ll just have to work our way around all the traffic,” George said.

The Derry man is keen to swim the course in as fast a time as possible, although he admits completing it will be the real achievement. “When someone climbs Everest no one ever asked them what time they did it in. The way I approach these long distance swims is that my priority is to get to the end. That said, if things go my way in the swim, then I’ll be competing at the end of it.”

Even to get accepted into the prestigious MIMS was a huge achievement as there are very strict rules for admission.

“For many it’s a catch 22 situation because if you haven’t done a big swim then you don’t get in. I’m just happy to get the chance,” George added.