Three years after a knee surgery that almost left him without the ability to walk, Edgewater resident Doug Karr completed his first open water marathon swim in August.
Karr swam in New York City around Manhattan Island, which is 28.5 miles in 8.5 hours on Aug. 7. The swim around Manhattan Island is an iconic race in the marathon swim world and for it to be his first race was a big deal to him. After COVID-19 protocols prevented some international swimmers from participating, his friends helped get him an invite to the race. The Open Water Triple Threat Crown is the English Channel, Catalina Islands and Manhattan Islands. Karr dreamed as a kid to complete the crown, which he is now one-third finished.
“It was phenomenal and amazing, it was special to be swimming past the Statue of Liberty and so inspiring,” Karr said. “The waves were going in all different directions.”
Karr’s son was a part of his crew that was cheering him along through the marathon.
“To pass this to my son is priceless and I loved having my son and family cheering and following me around the race,” he said. “I felt peace and perspective while I was out there swimming and I found self-respect and to live out my dreams.”
In 2018, Karr had a knee surgery that went bad and got infected. Karr had to relearn how to walk during rehab. He had stopped swimming for 15 years but when COVID-19 hit, he felt like it was the best time to start again. All the pools were closed, so he started swimming in Rhode River near his house.
“My wife didn’t want me to start swimming again, she thought I would have a heart attack but It was something I wanted to do,” Karr said. “I started to train with some old friends and they convinced me I could do these long marathon races.”
Karr has lived in the Annapolis area for over 20 years and was born in New Jersey, where he first fell in love with the ocean and swimming. Karr swam competitively in college at Virginia Tech University.
“Swimming in the Jersey Shore when I was young, was like my daycare. My mom would take me there in the morning and jump waves,” Karr said.
On Oct. 8, Karr will be one of only 25 swimmers from around the world who have been invited to participate in the inaugural DC Marathon Swim, 20.5 miles from Chain Bridge to Mt. Vernon.
“I am excited to see how much I have grown since Manhattan,” Karr said. “Marathon swimming is about personal growth in and out of the water. It’s about pushing limits and seeing what’s on the other side and what better backdrop than our nation’s capital.”
Karr trains for races in the Chesapeake Bay that can be like ocean conditions at times, he said.
“I am out swimming every day in one of the Annapolis rivers, doing 20 to 25 miles,” Karr said. “I fell in love with the Chesapeake and the conditions, the waves, temperature change and the wind out there. It gives me more peace and I feel connected with the environment.”
Karr calls training daily a “slog” because he is dealing with cold water, sunburns, windy days, sea lice, chafing, stingrays, muscle fatigue, jellyfish, diesel fumes, debris, inconsiderate boaters and water snakes.
Open water swimming has taught Karr many life skills, he said.
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“No matter if I am swimming a 50-yard freestyle or 28.5 miles around Manhattan you swim the race one stroke at a time. The same holds true for any of life’s adventures,” Karr said.