This year, one of the founders of the iconic Midmar Mile will be competing in his 47th annual swim!

67-Year-old Mike ‘Buthie’ Arbuthnot will take to the water on 8 and 9 February to compete in the world’s largest open-water race.

Arbuthnot was one of the founding members of the Midmar Mile, which started in 1974. He remains the only swimmer to have officially competed each year.

Mike Pengelly has swum 45 officially and one unofficially, as has Gail Bristow, whose participation in 1974 wasn’t counted, as female swimmers weren’t allowed to officially enter at that time.

“I keep coming back as I have done all of them, and would like to continue that record until my time here is done,” he said from his home in Howick, just a few kilometres from the famous Midmar dam.

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“There are a number who are catching up and are hoping I will give up so they can pass my record, but I’m hoping that does not happen for now,” he quipped.

Arbuthnot said that among the reasons for the inception of the first Midmar Mile was the fact that a group of water polo players couldn’t afford a new ball.

“I was an avid water polo player and was part of the Seals team. Seals Club could not pay for a new water polo ball, which our team needed, as the team had to provide a ball for league games, so that was one of the motivating factors to start the Midmar Mile – to raise funds to buy a ball. The Glenwood water polo players’ team swam that first year and threw the water polo ball to each other the whole way across.

“After the first race was so successful, more swimmers started joining year after year, and now it’s a big race – the largest open water swim in the world. There was no electricity in the beginning, so times had to be done with a stopwatch and written down by hand.

“For years the finish would have long queues of people giving their names while standing in line, waist deep in the water. Things have changed a lot in the race, and in the world at large since that inaugural race in February 1974.”

After the success of the first year, Arbuthnot said there were a few issues with holding the next one at Midmar, and there were thoughts of moving the race to Durban.

“The port captain surprisingly said: ‘This is a commercial shipping port, we can’t have little girlies flapping around on their lilos.’ So that was the end of that.”

In later years, the celebrated event founder faced some serious ill health, but that never kept him from the dam.

His daughter, Tracy Arbuthnot, who will be swimming alongside her father this year, explained: “He had colon cancer and a major operation 14 years ago, and he underwent chemotherapy. He had skin cancer four years ago.

“During an operation, he had a brain aneurysm and nearly died, and he had a stroke in October 2019. He has been slightly compromised, however he feels that in the face of all this, it is his overall swimming health that has seen him overcome and live such a long and overall healthy life. That and a few beers!”

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Author: ANA Newswire