If you’re looking for a final push of inspiration to get yourself excited for the upcoming Toronto Island Lake Swim, look no further.
Madhu Nagaraja swam in his first open-water race in 2003. Since then, Madhu has taken on some of the greatest open water challenges that mother nature has to offer. This includes swimming across the English Channel, across Lake Ontario, and even the notorious ice mile.
When I asked Madhu what led him to open water swimming, he replied “when you hang out with the wrong kind of people, you end up doing things that are outside your comfort zone.”
Madhu was an experienced pool swimmer for many years but had zero open water experience.
When it came time for his first open water swim, he didn’t hesitate. He just jumped in. How did he do it? Community. To get him through his first 1-mile swim in Spring Lake, California, he reached out to his friends to join him. In doing so, he brought together a group of people, his support system, to get him through the race.
Since then, his interest in longer distance swims only grew. After moving to Canada, in 2012 he decided to swim across Lake Ontario.
Why? Once again the answer is community. “When you move to a new country, you try to set your roots and that goes beyond just buying a house and finding a job. It’s about being part of the community. Being part of a group of people.” After building his team, Madhu relied on their strength, knowledge, energy, and support to get him across the lake.
The swim was a success and Madhu made it across Lake Ontario in 24 hours and 26 minutes.
Madhu knows that he, just like all of us, has a role to play in giving back to this same community that provides him with support.
When it comes to community members, Madhu gives back by taking new swimmers out on the lake and arming them with the knowledge and confidence needed to thrive through their swim.
As for giving back to the environment, Madhu’s Lake Ontario, that’s understandably a larger task. One which Madhu knows we can all contribute to in our own way. “Ontarians are blessed with a beautiful lake right in our backyard. And there’s no reason we all shouldn’t go out and enjoy the landscape that we’ve been granted access to.”
As a less-than great swimmer myself, this is easier said than done. But I will admit that I’ve always had a fascination with open water swimming. What better way is there to connect with nature than to jump in and fully submerge yourself – connect with the lake that supports you.
To be honest, every time I speak with Madhu I get a little bit closer to thinking I might give it a try. Madhu’s advice? “If he can do it, anybody can do it.” Of course, it’s important to remember the logistical aspects too. Know where you are and where you’re going. Respect the lake. It is more powerful than we can know. And, of course, never swim alone.
So, will Madhu be at the Toronto Island Lake Swim on August 28th? Yes. And so will Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. We’ll have a table set up all day, so make sure to stop by and say hi!