Mark Lambert's Accidental Streak
by: Laura S. Jones
When Mark Lambert’s son headed off to college last fall, Lambert decided to make swimming a habit. Although this low-key swimmer claims it wasn’t on purpose that the habit turned into a streak, on January 5, 2012, he swam his 100th practice in a row. His proud teammates toasted him with champagne at 6 a.m. “We popped the cork right at the end of practice,” says Lambert.
Lambert, 50, is a member of North Carolina Masters Swimming and swims with the Stingrays workout group. Lambert took up swimming at the age of 45 and had zero experience in the sport. His foray into the water started, as it often does for Masters swimmers, with a child. “My son was 12 or 13, and he was swimming on a team. My wife couldn’t stand water, so I figured he must have gotten it from somewhere, so I decided to start swimming.” He lost 75 pounds in the process of learning how to swim and has kept it off.
At first, Lambert says he couldn’t do 50 yards without stopping. He gradually got better, but says he was sporadic with it until last fall. “I really wasn’t trying to get on a streak. I just figured I’d go if I wasn’t hurt or out of town or deathly ill. My goal really was not to bag another practice. Now I’ve got the habit, so I don’t really have to use up any willpower to get out the door.” His willpower gets to sleep in even for 4:45 a.m. practices.
“I thought it would wear me out, going every day, but I got used to it.” (The Stingrays practice five days a week.) Lambert says he usually swims about 2500 meters each practice. His favorite stroke is freestyle because he says he can’t do the others very well. “Except for breaststroke,” he adds. “I’m 6’5”, so I’ve got a good glide.”
Lambert says his coach, Shelley Bear, 44, has been amazing. “She’s a great promoter of our sport.” And of Lambert; Bear contacted USMS to ask us to shine a spotlight on Lambert's accomplishments. Lambert says he likes the team for the supportive atmosphere and because it is small, and they swim outside.
Lambert promised Bear he would do a meet when he turned 50, which he did in December. He figures he’s got a year to fulfill his promise and he is contemplating doing “a relay with the guys he swims with” and possibly a "freestyle something.” He’s nervous about doing a meet but is planning on it anyway. And his first meet may be Nationals in April. He sighs as he thinks about the work involved. “There ain’t no faking it in swimming.”
But competition or no, Lambert enjoys swimming for what it brings to the rest of his life. “I just do it to keep from weighing 400 pounds. I love to eat and I married a great cook. I’m really just doing it to stay alive.” Stayin’ alive is the best reason of all to get up at 4:45 a.m.
Lambert’s streak is at 110 and counting. And if he has to break it for a good reason, he’ll probably start another. “I just like to get in and go.”