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#TBT to the Great Marathon Swimming of 1974

#TBT to the Great Marathon Swimming of 1974

Meet Bob Briselli. MIT graduate, engineer, consultant, and Appel Farm camper in the summers of 1972, 1973, and 1974. Bob was a music major, and he and his family still play classical strings, including sometimes with Albert Appel and his family.

But if you went to camp with Bob, you might have known him as “Fish.” That was what pretty much everyone called him. Because for Bob, Appel Farm wasn’t just about arts and music. It was also about sports and swim. The same is true for a lot of campers, of course.  But back in his day, especially in ’74, they took the “swim” part a wee bit more seriously:

“I was there ’72-’74, but I believe most of the marathon swimming occurred in ’74 and somewhat less in ’73. 1 mile is 72 laps. We did several 2 and 3 mile swims those years, and worked up to a 5-mile swim late in the summer.” 

That’s right. 5 miles. Times 72 laps a mile. Which means…“360 pretty-much continuous laps.” To put this in perspective, imagine taking a swim test — that’s one lap.Then imagine doing it again. And again. And again. And then 356 more times.

Given the action-packed schedule of an Appel Farm day, you might be wondering, when exactly did campers have time to do all this swimming? Well let’s just say they were really, really Early Birds: “[We] started at 6 am on a very cold morning (I definitely did not want to get outta bed!) and 3 of us finished in less than 5 hours…As a side note, we had lap counters for all the swimmers so that we knew our status at all times. Also, sometime after 8 am, I think a good number of upper campers came over to the pool area to check out the action. I actually didn’t have a clue about that, since I was ultra-focused on my strokes and rhythm and not on anything else going on.”

But before you conclude that these guys were a race of superhumans, with no connection to you and me, remember that they were just Appel Farmers, living by our same Core Values. Not just safety — “All swimmers had been checked out by the medical staff prior to the swim” — but also noncompetitive Community, Personal Growth, and Fun: “The event was not considered a race; but rather an achievement of effort, training, and perseverance.”  Getting out of the pool might have been a little painful, Bob recalls, but above all, he remembers feeling “excited that we completed the goal.”

Today’s Appel Farmers may not be marathon swimmers, but the pool is still a big part of Appel Farm life. Take a look at the mural that hangs behind the pool…

mural (pool)


… and some of the campers and staff that made it:

Make you want to swim? Less than four more months…

One last note: Bob (err…Fish) is part of a team that’s working together to plan and publicizes the 55th Anniversary Alumni Reunion coming up this September. Wanna join us? Contact Ben Fink ( for more information. And if you want more info about the reunion, or to sign up, just click here!