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What is the One Hour Postal Championship?

A brief history

Author Unknown | January 22, 2009

Never thought you could compete in a national championship? You can.

Every U.S. Masters Swimming member of any age and ability is invited and encouraged to participate in the largest national championship event of the year: the 1-Hour Postal Championship. Last year the 1-Hour Postal Championship had over 2,400 participants from across the country.

What Is the 1-Hour Postal Championship?
The 1-Hour Postal is a virtual event held every year since 1977. The event is structured so that each participant swims at his or her home pool on whatever day in January that is convenient. Participants swim for one hour and count their distance. Swimmers must enlist a counter to record their 50 splits. By January 31, each participant must complete an entry form, attach the splits and submit the paperwork with the entry fee to the host club via mail: hence the title "postal" championship. The host club tabulates results and posts them on www.usms.org. As with other competitive events, results are broken down by gender and age group.

Swimmers may also pool their results to form relays. Relay teams for the 1-Hour Postal Championship can be made up of three members of the same gender or mixed relays made up of two men and two women. Relay members each swim for one hour and sum their yardage. The youngest member of each relay team determines the age group in which the relay will compete.

"Some participants get creative with their 1-Hour Postal swims. I have heard of people swimming a combination of strokes and even one full hour of each stroke," exclaimed Marcia Cleveland, Open Water and Long Distance Committee chair, when she described the event.

The History of the 1-Hour Postal Championship
The 1-Hour Postal swim was developed by D C Masters and Masters swimmer Dale Petranech in 1977. The event quickly grew and, shortly after its inception, attracted athletes from across the country. There are many U.S. Masters swimmers who have participated in the event every year since its inaugural year. Marcia has swum in the 1-Hour Postal for nearly 20 years and said, "The 1-Hour Postal is a great event because it serves as a benchmark. People who never compete at a meet love it just as much as highly competitive swimmers." When asked why she thinks the 1-Hour Postal event attracts more participants than any other U.S. Masters event, she said, "Every participant in the 1-Hour Postal Championship finishes at the same time. Whether you swim 1,000 yards or 6,000 yards, every one has a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day."

Barry Fasbender of Stanford Masters has participated in the 1-Hour Postal Championship for 31 years. "I first learned about the event through the United States Masters Swimming newsletter that June Krauser distributed to members in the 70s. Since then I have swum it every year and use it as a benchmark in my training," said Barry. Barry laughed as he recalled the fun he had when the team that he trained with in Palo Alto, Calif., used to compete with another local team to see which team could swim the distance from San Francisco to Hawaii the fastest; he recalled, "It was a friendly competition and each team used the 1-Hour swim as part of the challenge." Barry keeps a record of each of his 1-Hour swims in a notebook and looks back at past results each year before he swims. "I set goals based on my previous results. Rather than a distance goal, I set pace goals for myself and watch the clock as I swim. I like to see if I can hold a particular pace, rather than going out fast and trying to hold on," said Barry. Barry has been in the Top 10 list for the 1-Hour Postal Championship on many occasions.

The 1-Hour Postal Championship has become a U.S. Masters Swimming tradition for many of its members such as Marcia and Barry. Bill Volckening, USMS SWIMMER magazine editor, also commented on the event and its place in U.S. Masters Swimming history. "The 1-Hour Postal Championship is an event that is unique to U.S. Masters Swimming; it sets us apart from other organizations."

The 1-Hour Postal Championship is one of only a few events that have no registration limit or time standard. There are no late fees, warm-up times or heats in the 1-Hour Postal Championship. The 1-Hour Postal was designed to be an all-inclusive, convenient and fun event to challenge any member of any age and ability while competing with fellow swimmers from across the country and remains true to that purpose. 

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