Triumph of the Long Distance Swimmer

Julie Ridge challenged the limits of human endurance, and declared victory after setting an unprecedented record of swimming around Manhattan Island, not once, but for five consecutive days last week. Her fastest time to complete the 28.5 mile course was for the final swim, clocking in at 8 hours and 35 minutes.

The former Broadway actress, who appeared in the cast of "Oh! Calcutta," became the first person in 1983 to swim two consecutive laps around Manhattan, finishing the course in just over 21 hours. She contended that the five consecutive day swim would be comparable to a runner competing in four 26.2 mile marathons every day for five consecutive days, an unheard of feat.

The Los Angeles-based sportswear manufacturer Jag provided sponsorship for the swimming marathon. "I wanted a new and greater challenge," Ridge said prior to the swim. "I still don’t know how far I can go. This is bigger, tougher, longer and more exciting than anything I’ve every tried, or even thought of trying. I can’t wait to get in."

The 29-year-old Ridge was originally scheduled to swim around Manhattan six consecutive days. But on the first afternoon of the attempted course, Ridge had to abandon her efforts after more than 8 hours as she ran into rough tides and winds around the Battery, the lower tip of the island. Among her other swimming efforts has been a successful crossing of the English Channel in 1982, completing the course of 20.5 miles in 18 hours. Her first book "To the Limit," is due out this fall. For her next feat, she would like to swim in Italy across Lake Como, a 30-mile course. She also intends to return to the broadway stage.

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