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Marathon Swims

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Rejean Lacoursiere found the picture of the great white shark that his brother in law Jean Guy took. The roll of film was discovered in Jean Guy's basement were it had been stored undeveloped for thirty eight years. It was taken just as we came out of the breakwall. The Shark slipped in behind me and followed me for the rest of the race.

 

Was I Shark Bait???

The Worlds Greatest Marathon!!! This is the way they advertised this 14.1 mile race from Narragansett Rhode Island to Block Island. All the top marathon swimmers in the world were there. The race started from the beach. As we came out of the harbour through a gap in the breakwall Billy Barton was on my left and ReJean Lacoursiere on the right, I noticed some thing dark in the water just below us. I asked Billy is that a shark? Billy said "it's a shark". We picked up our pace and the three of us moved to the front of the pack very quickly. Billy moved away from me to the left and ReJean (Johnny) moved to the right and I swam straight ahead. The shark followed me. After about twenty minutes the boat that was with me put up a sign it said "Don't Panic there is a shark 200 yards behind you" then they wrote "don't stop or change your pace" then they said " the coast guard is tracking it and if it attacks they will shoot it". This was a real confidence builder for me???? This shark was 14' long and followed me for 10 miles. I took no nourishment during that race. I ended up completely exhausted, it was the last marathon race I ever swam in. I didn't stop marathoning because of the shark, I was 39 years old and getting tired of getting ready to race every year..

SWIMMING THE NORTHUBERLAND STRAITS only 9 miles...

I swam from Cape Tormintine to Borden Prince Edward Island, four major rip tides and thousands of jelly fish, the toughest nine miles I had ever raced.

The jelly fish there are a variety that sting but are not as bad as some others I have experienced. They were in patches about 50 yards across and 100 yards in length and I went through several of these patches. I was stung all over my body.

Half way through the race due to the stings I started seeing things. Every time I looked at the side of my attending boat I saw bacon and eggs . The most disappointing thing about this swim was as I walked out of the water after finishing, some one walked up to me and handed me a dry tastless ham sandwich, but all I wanted was the bacon and eggs that I saw on the side of the boat.

After the race was over and the prize money was given out, I was on the search for a restaurant that would make me bacon and eggs and found one who did. For about a week after that when swimming I could see jelly fish tenicales whenever my face was in the water.... even though I was swimming in lake Ontario - no jelly fish there just lamprey eels.



SWIMMING THE SAGUENAY RIVER (1964) 28 miles

The race started in Chicoutimi, Quebec, just as the full 22 ft tide was in. We covered the first 20 miles in 2 1/2 hrs and arrived at the entry to the Bai de Ha Ha just as the tide was coming out of the bay.

George Mazadra, the great Argentinian marathon swimmer, called this spot "coffee break point" because he said "no one is going anywhere for a few hours anyway!" We were swimming against the full force of the tide.

As the story goes...Champlain, on his quest for a passage to the east (China) while travelling along the St. Lawrence, and Saguenay Rivers found himself in the middle of a bay and he exclaimed "Ha Ha une Baie"! From then on, it has been known as the Bay de Ha Ha.

I selected a course 200 yds off shore which allowed me to make very gradual headway, covering 1/4 mile in about 1 hr. Ed Forsby and I finally made the break out into the Bay ahead of the others - no one else got around the corner, through the tidal waters and into the bay. It took the rest of the field two more hours to get through the heavy going.

Ed was exhausted, and I was finally able to pull away from him. I was hugging the shore line fighting the tide until I was three miles from the end of the race. I then swam into the middle of the Bay to the finish line at Port Alfred.

It nearly ended my career as a marathon swimmer - I had frayed the tendons in both arms.

I finished in 9 hrs. 18 min. The second place finisher, Armond Cloutier, 11 hrs. 18 min.
This race had only six finishers, the rest were pulled from the water after 13 1/2 hrs.

It was a tough swim for me, and I was hurting. The story in the french language newspaper Le Presse, said "TOM PARK WINS THE SAGUENAY MARATHON" and the story went on to tell how my brother Tom came out of retirement and won the race. The other paper the Le Matin wrote the story as it really happened and called me the "SEA WOLF" a name which stayed with me in all the Candian french language newspapers from then on.




I swam in a thirty hr. marathon in Montreal. The course was 1/3 of a mile around and around. It was relay style with two swimmers on a team. My Partner was Billy Barton from Florida USA. We changed every lap which took us a little over 7 min.

Half way through the night, Billy could no longer swim because of the cold. I then started to do all the laps. I had tried eating chocolate, glucose powder mixed with tang, and chicken, but nothing seemed to bring my energy level up. I was exhausted after about 15 more laps around the course. My coach asked Billy if he could go in to relieve me. Billy then went in for two laps. I went to the rest tent to lay down.

A friend of mine who owned Pepi's Pizza, passed by and asked how I was doing. I told him I wasn't feeling too well. Pepi happened to be carrying the largest pizza I had ever seen. He was delivering it to some of the other teams' coaches.

He offered me the pizza, and I devoured it. When it was gone I went back in the water. It was strange I had been ready to quit before I took my break but after the pizza I felt like super man. I never swam better.

After the sun came up, Billy was able to continue doing his laps.

The usual Marathon swims were 10 miles to 28 miles. I have seen other swimmers eating bananas, whole chickens, soup, dates, etc while they were swimming. During the races I stuck to glucose and a tang mixture.

You can read about these Marathon races in Conrad Wennenberg's book Wind Waves and Sunburn.

  George Park's Bio

1952 - George trained to participate in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki Finland, but during his 1st heat (440 freestyle)which was his specialty event he lost consciousness after 200 yds and was pulled from the water. After this setback, George changed his specialty events to sprints only - 100 freestyle and butterfly. During this time, he also played waterpolo for the Hamilton Aquatic Club

1953. - After changing from mid-distance swimming to sprinting, he set new Canadian records in the 50 and 100 freestyle and butterfly

1954 - George set a new Canadian record for the 100 freestyle during the Canadian Championships and qualified to be a member of th 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. He anchored two 2nd place finish relays and came 4th in the 100 freestyle - beaten by the top three swimmers in the world at that time from Australia.

March 1955 - The Hamilton Aquatic Club won the Canadian Waterpolo Championship with George swimming at centre.

April 1955 - Pan American Games in Mexico City. Placed 2nd to Clarke Scholes, the Olympic and World Champion for 100 mts.

July 1955 - Internation Meet in Cuyahoga Falls Ohio George placed 1st defeating the world champion, Clarke Scholes.

1956 - George set a new Canadian Records for the 50 yds and 100 mts freestyle, and qualified for the Olympic Games in Melbourne Australia. George was considered at the time to be within the top three sprinters in the world and his training indicated that he had a good chance to get on the podium. During the heats for the 100 mts freestyle, George was leading for the first 50 mts by a half body length then the unforseen happened... the turn marker in George's lane was three feet closer to the wall than it should have been??? When they built the pool in Melbourne they forgot to paint the turn marker on the bottom of the pool. They used lead weighted black rubber mats down. Somehow the mat on George's lane was moved. When he went into his flip turn, he hit his head on the wall - was stunned, and came off the wall in 8th place. He caught everyone but the top three swimmers in the heat and finished fourth one tenth of a second behind the last qualifier.

1958 - George created new records for the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly and qualified for the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff Wales. Again bad luck struck with George stepping into a pothole sustaining a green fracture in his right ankle. He still competed with his ankle wrapped in tensure bandages and contrubuted by helping the relay teams win medals.

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