"For me, open-water swimming is not so much about racing other people. You're setting goals, saying, 'I want to accomplish something unusual.' You could call it extraordinary, but I don't think about it like that. I'm still the same person at the end of the day."
Earlier this year, Dan Richards ’78 got a few e-mails from former Bucknell swimming teammates and friends from the water polo team, asking him, “You did what?”
Richards had just completed the 24-mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim in just over nine hours, his first open-water long-distance swim. For Richards, it’s part post-retirement activity and part reconnecting with a passion that goes back to his childhood.
As he prepared for a 22-mile swim across the Catalina Channel, scheduled for late September, Richards displayed some youthful exuberance for his favorite sport: “Doing this has been an amazing journey. It’s fun at this age to feel your body get back in shape — your times start to get better, and you feel great about what you’re doing.”
A Miami native, in high school Richards was a small fish in one of the nation’s top prep swimming programs. He was charmed not only by Bucknell’s smaller campus, but also by long-time coach Dick Russell (who passed away in April), who offered him the chance to contribute to the already successful Bison program.
Now, as he prepares to retire from his post as a senior financial executive with Orgill Inc., he’ll spend more time working with his wife, Chris Peterjohn Richards ’76, on their philanthropic efforts at Bucknell (where they endow a scholarship fund) and tending to their Memphis, Tenn., home, complete with four horses, six cats and a dog.
And, of course, he’ll keep swimming.
But to Richards, it’s not about reliving the glory years of competition, and it’s certainly not about boosting his ego: “For me, open-water swimming is not so much about racing other people. You’re setting goals, saying, ‘I want to accomplish something unusual.’” He says, “You could call it extraordinary, but I don’t think about it like that. I’m still the same person at the end of the day.”
Note: Richards successfully swam the Catalina Channel, 22 miles in 10 hours and 10 minutes, on Sept. 23, 2008. More recently, Richards swam the English Channel in 12 hours and 32 minutes.
Updated Sept. 24, 2010