aQuellé Midmar Mile: The History Of The World’s Biggest Open-Water Swim

by | Feb 7, 2024 | Events, Featured, Midmar Mile 2024

The first Midmar Mile took place in 1974 and featured the fewest entrants, 153, in the event’s history. It was also the only race in the history of the event that didn’t officially include women.

In 1977, the Midmar Mile’s entries topped 1000 for the first time, then passed 2500 in 1980, 5000 in 1994 and 7500 in 1997. In 1998, there were 11,000 entrants as five figures were broken. The 15,000-mark was topped for the first time in 2003.

In 2009, the Midmar Mile was officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest open water swimming event in the world. There were 13,755 finishers that year.

Midmar Dam

The biggest field in the 45-year history of the event was 17,332 in 2004.

Johannesburg-born Keri-Anne Payne is the most successful female swimmer in the history of the Midmar Mile, with eight victories between 2004 and 2015. Natasha Panzera (nee Figge) went undefeated from 1989 to 1995, scoring six victories..

The most successful male swimmer in the event’s history is Chad Ho, who recorded seven wins in succession between 2010 and 2016.

When Pat Butcher won the women’s race in 1980, her remarkable winning time of 18 minutes and 13 seconds was then the fastest time ever in the history of the Midmar Mile, men included – and was only finally equaled when Andrew O’Flaherty posted the same time in the men’s race in 1989.

Midmar Mile Fastest Times

Currently, the fastest time recorded for the Midmar Mile is 17 minutes flat by Chad Ho in 2016. Kerry-Anne Payne set the fastest women’s time of 17 minutes and 33 seconds in 2004.

It took until 1989 for a swimmer from outside of KwaZulu-Natal to win one of the main open events, when Saint Stithians’ schoolboy Andrew O’Flaherty of Johannesburg broke the host province’s stranglehold by racing to victory in the men’s race.

The first-ever foreign winner of the Midmar Mile was Germany’s Jorg Hoffman, who won the men’s race in 1998. Diana Hegedus of Hungary became the first female winner from overseas when she won the Midmar Mile in 2001 as a 15-year-old. She repeated her success in 2002.

In the Iron Man Biathlon category, determined by the best-combined results in the Comrades Marathon and the Midmar Mile, Russell Dyer claimed an astonishing nine consecutive victories from 1995 to 2003.

Aquellé Midmar Mile: The History Of The World'S Biggest Open-Water Swim

The long-time organiser, Wayne Riddin, was the first two-time winner of the race in 1975 and 1976. Years later, from 1990 to 1994, he won five Iron Man titles in succession. (This award goes to the athlete with the best combination of results in the Comrades Marathon, Dusi Canoe Marathon, and Midmar Mile.)

The oldest female finisher was Lorna Cochran in 2015 when she was 91. Colin Cable holds the men’s record at 89 years of age, which he set in 1999.

Once swimmers reach their 25th Midmar Mile, they are allocated a permanent number and no longer have to pay to take part in their primary events.

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