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World & Other Records


Many marathon swimmers claim world and other records. This was the case 50, 100 and 150 years ago and remains the case today. FINA (for the pool) and World Athletics (for track and field) regulate and confirm world records in their sports. Marathon swimming (non- FINA racing) does not have a similar global control board. FINA does not name world record marathon swims as courses/conditions vary dramatically. As a result, IMSHOF would generally NOT use the description World Record for a marathon swim. IMSHOF publishes biographies on our website for 300+ Honorees, has a small role for this topic for the sport and hence strives for uniformity in description and language as much as possible.

Swimmer Self Declaration of Records

Best practice is that well accepted organizations ratify/accredit/certify and announce successful swims. Some of these are IMSHOF Honor Organizations and have long been accepted as the official body of certain swims (examples:  Gibraltar Strait and Catalina Channel). These same organizations should also be the ones to determine and announce a record. Most Associations/Federations seem to avoid the phrase “World Record”.

Mentions of records in Honoree biographies were modified to “set the record” versus “holds the record”.  In the case of IMSHOF Honoree Mohamed Ahmed Marouf, as he has held the Zurich record for decades, it says “remains unbeaten still in 2019”.  The phrase "world records" is not used for marathon swimming.  It is use for pool swimming, Masters and other sports. 

Generally, global ratification/accreditation/certification organizations will not get involved when a swim takes place in waters regulated by local well accepted organizations.

It is always bad practice when a swimmer announces their own swims/records.

Guinness Book of World Records

This organization has operated independently for decades and will probably operate for decades to come. If they declare a marathon "world record", then usually the swimmers should - just repeat their citation - labelled as "Guinness Book of World Records". These would be the only world records which appear on the IMSHOF website. Anyone is free to challenge these directly with the swimmer or Guinness. IMSHOF may cited a few of these (or may not) in a biography.

Limited reference to Guinness Book of World Records is used in biographies written before 2022 - and not encouraged as Honorees hold many hundreds of such records.

IMSHOF are more likely to cite lists published by global marathon swimming experts/organizations (as of a stated date) – IF IMSHOF thinks it is relevant, credible, and actually adds to resume of an Honoree.  IMSHOF can only access records where they exist in easy to touch web locations (example IMSHOF Honoree Julian Critchlow's English Channel database).  There are hundreds of swims that do not  include the swimmer's age - so IMSHOF declares a youngest/oldest only 

on the basis of what can be seen.  Over time, databases become better and fuller and hence some records must be revisited.


Example IMSHOF Honoree Trent Grimsey in 2012 broke the “English Channel: England to France overall speed record" – adding the name “Guinness” (should they ever endorse it) to this doesn’t add anything extra to Trent’s accomplishment.


Example: Honor swimmer Cameron Bellamy has two Guinness World Records for rowing – noted in his biography.


Guinness will have their own processes and none of the suggested “rules” below are expected to apply.


Fastest Swim

Example: time across a recognized course (like England to France with potentially variable starting/landing places)

     call it “course record”

     call it "English Channel: England to France

          male speed record"


This can apply to 2-way, 3-way, 4-way (with rules about the turn times), triple crown/oceans seven and stage swims (rules laid out), etc.  Stage swims can get tricky due to

variable courses and turn-around times.

     call it "fastest combined time to complete the

          triple crown"

     call it "fastest stage swim (with noted details)"


Speed in a regular race (like Capri-Napoli).  Like the English Channel the finish point has not been the same over the years.

     call it “race record”

     call it “competition record”

     call it “Capri-Napoli female speed record”


Different associations records

     call it "CSA English Channel: England to France

          male speed record"


Then - there are the qualifiers: male/female; channel attire/non-standard (including FINA compression suit in a traditional solo swim); pro/amateur; with stated physical disabilities; and probably more.  Ultrarunning has a concept called: FKT- Fastest Known Time. This is mentioned for background – but IMSHOF has no interest in using this concept.


It is likely that the IMSHOF biography would refer to any FINA pool world record set by an Honoree.


First Ever Swim


    call it "first ever"

    call it “thought to be the first ever”


These would never be called a world record.


IMSHOF will be cautious when subcategories of first ever – like from Berlin, Trans, Black, Japanese, etc. Swimmers should be aware that few recognized organizations name such subcategory firsts – hence the organizations/swimmer takes a big personal risk in such claims – examples:

     first born in Berlin and never left?

     born elsewhere but lived in Berlin when swim

          was accomplished?

It can get tricky. IMSHOF Honoree Kevin Murphy does not appear on the new

Lake Tahoe list because he did not swim the new defined course. Kevin doesn’t really need any more swims in his biography – but as an example:

     call it “first to swim what he believed to be the

          length of Lake Tahoe but later swimmers

          developed a different route"

Longest/Slowest Swim

Global marathon swimming experts/organizations (as of a stated date) publish various lists.

     call it "longest sea swim as cited by X as of a

          stated date"

     call it  "slowest combined time to complete the

          triple crown"

     call it  "longest period to complete the triple crown"

Youngest/Oldest Swimmer

     call it "youngest"

     call it "oldest"



This could be the most medals, most swims, etc.  As an example (as of 2021) for IMSHOF Honoree Thomas Lurz:

     call it "most FINA open water world championship

          medals as of 2021"

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