Just keep swimming, just keep swimming

What have you done since Friday 17:30 CEST? I have had three lovely family diners, drove to Lelystad and back, filmed eight interviews, read the internet, read a book, had ice-cream downtown, watched a movie, drank coffee in the garden, had tea on the couch, had three showers, slept three nights, had breakfast three times, had lunch three times and sat at the computer to work this entire morning. I guess you had a lovely weekend as well. Hopefully with a lot of family fun.

I want to tell you the story of Maarten, because his weekend was… I don’t know how to describe this. He started swimming last Friday 17:30 CEST. And he’s still swimming as I’m writing this. So while you were sleeping, eating, drinking, chilling, working, resting, watching, showering, all he did was swimming. Crazy story, don’t you think? Daughter clearly thinks so, but it is a true story.

Have you ever heard of the Elfstedentocht? In The Netherlands it’s called ‘de Tocht der Tochten’. It’s the longest track for speed skating that we know and covers almost all of the province of Friesland and requires speed skaters to collect eleven stamps in eleven cities ( the ‘elf steden’). This track has only been skated on fifteen times so far, since it’s nearly two hundred kilometers long and requires long and cold winters for all the canals to get frozen.

Back to Maarten. He is not an ordinary guy. He’s an Olympic gold medallist in open water swimming (2008). He’s also had leukemia while in the midst of a sports career. So he’s had this crazy idea to swim the Elfstedentocht to collect money for cancer research. Last year he attempted to swim the whole route, but stranded after 163km. It must have bugged him immensely not to finish the whole route. So this year he tried again. And he’s going to make it. With about fifteen kilometers to go, only disaster can keep him from finishing in a few hours time.

I wanted to tell you about Maarten’s crazy swim, because I’m so impressed. Beyond words really. I checked the live stream set up by public broadcasting network NOS (great job using a 360ยบ camera) several times this weekend and I felt comforted seeing him raise one arm out of the water, then the next, knowing, almost from the start, that he will reach his goal this time. The perseverance of setting a goal beyond everyone’s imagination and trying to reach that, not being afraid to try again after failing the first time. That inspires me. More than I expected.

Of course I donated.

Maarten swimming in Burdaard (screen grab of NOS livestream)