Tampa Bay Marathon celebrates 20th anniversary in windswept conditions

The 20th edition of the Tampa Bay Marathon took place on 21 April 2018 in rough and windy weather. The event, which challenges swimmers to cross the 24-mile stretch of Tampa Bay in Florida is one of only a few ultra long distance swimming races open to ‘regular’ swimmers – if there is anything regular about people who can cover such distances in the water.

This year’s individual winner, Karen Zemlin from Minnesota, battled 15 knot winds and half metre chop to finish in 9 hours 55 minutes. Karen is an accomplished marathon swimmer and had previously finished third overall at the 2014 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. In 2013, she won the 27-mile END-WET in 6 hours 58 minutes. The Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test or END-WET, is a 27-mile swim down the Red River between Grand Forks, North Dakota and Oslo, Minnesota. 

The race started at 7:08 in the morning with the water temperature a very comfortable 24 degrees Celsius but the strong winds made for hard going for the swimmers until around noon, when the wind eased slightly. However, the reprieve was short as the wind gained strength again towards evening and there were isolated thunderstorms as the last swimmer finished at 7:36pm.

Karen was only 23 minutes behind the winning relay: Team Spunky Old Seamen (53 year old Seth Huston of Houston, Texas, and Greg Jablonski, 51, from Portland, Oregon) who finished in 9 hours, 32 minutes. In third place was team Capital Punishment, a four person relay.

Alison Hayden, 46, finished fourth overall and second individual in 11:21 while Jim Loreto finished third in 12:28 (and first man).

Since the 24 Mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim was first staged in 1998, it has drawn competitors from across the United States, Great Britain, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Australia, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Bailiwick of Jersey, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Canada, and the Cayman Islands.  The race is one of the world’s longest marathon swims and held annually in April, in celebration of Earth Day.

The next Tampa Bay Marathon Swim will be on Saturday 20 April 2019.  The 24-mile ultra-distance marathon swim race starts at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and ends on the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Tampa.


Solo Swimmers

9:55 Karen Zemlin – Overall Champion

11:21 Alison Hayden – 45-49 Age Group Champion

12:28 Jim Loreto – Male Champion

Relay Teams

9:32 Spunky Old Seamen – 2 Person Relay Champions

10:21 Capital Punishment – 4 Person Relay Champions

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.