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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Finishing A Marathon Swim Barefoot And Barrel-Chested

During the first half of the 1996 Maratón Acuática Internacional Santa Fe - Coronda race in Argentina, Mohamed Marouf started to have shoulder problems early in the 57 km FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix marathon.

He fought through the pain, but as he passed the 9 km, the pain was too much to bear.

"I did not think I could stay with the pack or even finish the race, so I asked to be pulled out," recalls the personable multi-lingual Egyptian.

With the entire flotilla and rest of the field moving down the river towards the finish 48 km away, there was no turning back.

"I asked my boat escort to stop. They called medical boat that took me to a nearby beach. We waited near a building for few minutes before I asked them to take me to the swimmers' hotel. They tried to call, but no one answered. I waited for someone to pick me up." He waited and waited, wearing only my swimsuit with my goggles in my hand."

Being resourceful and being fit other than his injured shoulder, he set off for the hotel - barefoot and barrel-chested. "Getting pick up did not look good after a while so I took off walking in my swimsuit and goggles along the street."

Talk about expecting the unexpected. But Marouf, true to his sport, was flexible and adapted to the situation in a country where he did not speak the language. "There was no one where I was and no one was coming to pick me up. There was no protection from the sun. I did not know exactly where the hotel was, but I knew that I could not just sit there or no one would find me."

Clothed only in his Speedos, Marouf put one foot in front of the other and headed home, or somewhere. He knew that he could not just sit on the banks of the Río Coronda. "It is a pretty isolated part of Argentina, but I finally met a few local people. Unfortunately, I could not speak Spanish and they could not speak Arabic, and body language was not being understood. So I walked some more. And more. And more."

Marouf, without hydration or directions but never forgetting his goggles, finally made it back to the hotel, several hours after his competitors who had swum the course had finished, showered and relaxed. "They were all wondering what happened to me, but they laughed and smiled because they knew I could make it."

Come hell or high water, or simply an injured shoulder, Marouf certainly proved that he could make it.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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