Woroni TV sat down with ultramarathon swimmer and second-year student Ben Freeman to talk about his upcoming participation in the 20 Bridges and Catalina swim challenges, as well as how he balances uni work with training. down with ultramarathon swimmer and second-year student Ben Freeman to talk about his upcoming participation in the 20 Bridges and Catalina swim challenges, as well as how he balances uni work with training.
W: Hi Ben, you’re undertaking two massive swim challenges, could you tell us a little about them?
B: The first one I’m doing is a swim around Manhattan Island – it used to be called the Manhattan Marathon Swim but now it’s called the 20 Bridges Around Manhattan Island. It’s a 46km swim, you start at the East end you swim up and go down the Hudson River to finish. From there I’m going to fly to LA and swim the Catalina Channel, which is just off the coast of the mainland, and that’s a swim that’s done in the dark due to currents. You start the swim at midnight and swim through the morning, that’s a 33km swim.
W: In the dark especially, how do you know where you are going?
B: On both swims there’s going to be a support boat, especially on the Catalina swim, guiding me across. On the boat I’ll have my support team, my mum and dad will come across and they’ll help do all the feeds and support stuff.
W: In the past you’ve completed some pretty amazing swim challenges at pretty young ages, what are some of your biggest accomplishments?
B: The first real ultramarathon I did was in 2014 when I did the Hong Kong half marathon swim, which was 15km. From there I got a real passion for ultramarathon swimming because I had been doing open water swimming since about eight. I also decided that I wanted to swim the English Channel, so I signed up for that in 2015 and that was like the pinnacle of [my] open water swimming.
W: How do you balance university and swimming?
B: Good time management. I train in the morning and that really wakes me up – I get my classes and study done in the morning so I have a chance to relax in the afternoon before and after training. ANU has really provided me with a great environment to pursue my studies and my passion.
W: On average, how many hours are you swimming every week?
B: On average about 20 hours. On my bigger weeks I do about 130km in the pool which averages out to about 30 hours. I also try to do about four to five hours in the gym.
W: How do you see your swimming career fitting into your future?
B: Swimming instills a lot of good qualities which help set you up for a good career, whether that be time management or discipline and having that drive to get up and do something.
W: What is the toughest part about a swim challenge?
B: A lot of these marathons have a unique component to it that makes it so challenging. With Catalina it’s the dark, with Manhattan it’s the distance and with the Channel it’s how cold the water is. You’ve just got to take it one stroke at a time.