By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A Stuy Town resident is preparing for a marathon this weekend, but she isn’t going to need her shoes.
Recent high school graduate Simona Dwass, who Town & Village readers might remember as the intrepid swimmer who freestyled the 17 miles from the East River near East 26th Street to Coney Island last summer in a record-breaking four hours and 24 minutes, will be attempting to swim around the entire island of Manhattan this Saturday in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. The feat is more than ten miles longer than the swim to Coney Island at 28.5 miles but Dwass is confident in her stamina to finish the race. She said that the only challenge she’s anticipating is the water temperature.
“If the water is too cold I might not be able to make it,” she said. “Even if it’s 73 degrees, it would be hard to swim for seven hours. The currents are supposed to be strong the entire swim so it would just be an issue of the temperature.”
Eighteen-year-old Dwass was the youngest person to complete the trip to Coney Island, known as the Rose Pitonof Swim, and she is pushing boundaries again, being one year younger than the usual age requirement of 19 for the marathon swim. The teen said she was excited to learn last year that the competition’s namesake was 17 at the time of the race, just like she was at her attempt.
She said that she was considered for the marathon swim because she’s been participating in events with NYCSwim, which organizes the race, since she was 15, but she still had to do a qualifying swim and submit an application and essay before she was approved to participate. Despite being younger than the qualifying age, however, she noted that there are a number of swimmers younger than she is who have completed the race, even one as young as 12, but she said that she felt more comfortable doing the swim at age 18.
This year, when she was trying to find information about the first woman who completed the 28.5 mile swim, she discovered that the first person to attempt and complete the swim around Manhattan in 1915 had particular local relevance.
“The kid who did it a hundred years ago lived in the neighborhood,” she said. “He joined the navy (during World War I) and some time after he came back, he designed Stuy Town and Peter Cooper.”
She said that she was particularly interested to learn Robert Dowling’s motivation behind his involvement in the design of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village.
“His idea came from the fact that he liked tall and narrow buildings and reclaiming green space in an urban setting, which is unusual,” she said. “I thought that was cool too because part of my swimming is to reclaim the waters around the city and show people the water quality isn’t as bad as they think.”
Dwass graduated from Hunter College High School this year and is heading to Swarthmore College in the fall, where she said she will definitely continue swimming.
Last year, the race was held in mid-June and the first person to finish was a woman, Grace Van der Byl. According to the New York Times, she finished the race in 7:14:03. The first male finisher completed the course in 7:17:59. The race starts and finishes at the south cove in Battery Park City on the Hudson River and swimmers will complete a counterclockwise circumnavigation of the island. NYC Swim notes that anywhere along the Manhattan waterfront between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the day of the race is a good opportunity to see swimmers. The East River between East 18th and 34th Street is a good spot, and swimmers are expected to be in that area around 9 or 10 a.m.