Urban Swim Hudson New Jersey

New York, NY, USA

Hudson River morning

Looking upstream in the early morning

New York, NY, USA

"So, when are you going to come swimming so we can take pictures of you?" asked the jovial man in the red TriLife jacket.

"I don't know," I said weakly. "Right now, I've got this knee injury."

He rolled his eyes.

"We've all got knee injuries," he said.

Of course you do, I thought. You're all triathletes, and you're all crazy. But I didn't say it out loud.

The lifestyle athletes may, arguably, be a certain kind of crazy, but they all seem to be very nice people, and they're more than patient with a photographer who wanders through their swimming events, snapping pictures. Most of all, they seem to be having a lot of fun, as if there's really nothing they'd rather do than get up at 5am on a Saturday and swim two and a half miles in the Hudson. Probably because there really is nothing they'd rather be doing, unless it was a brisk marathon or a bracing hundred-mile bike ride.

I'm flattered by the assumption that, if it wasn't for the fact that I've been given the job of documenting the event, I'd be eagerly jumping into a wetsuit and splashing my way down the river with them. They are generously ready to accept anyone as a fellow enthusiast, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. And if some of them are well aware that I'd need to put in serious amounts of training before I could keep up with the slowest of them, they're polite enough not to say so out loud.

On the other hand, maybe it's just not obvious who is capable of doing what. At each event, there are a handful of obvious athletes: men whose physiques suggest that they've spent the last six years in either the military or a gymnasium, lean, hard-bodied women who look as if they were born in a wetsuit. But the majority look quite ordinary. All are clearly physically fit, but every age and body-type seems to be represented. Among the swimmers at this event, there are even two blind men and a woman who is paralyzed below the waist. The only real requirement seems to be determination.

Still, I don't think I'm ready to join them just yet. After all, I have this knee injury …