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by Howard Rutenberg

November 30, 2005

Enjoying Masters swimming

Howard Rutenberg lives in Hot Springs, Arkansas and writes: "I grew up in New Jersey. My brother and I swam for what was then the third ranked swim team in Northern New Jersey. In dual meets he competed for firsts and seconds and I struggled for an occasional third or fourth place. After high school graduation, he went on to swim for Syracuse University and my swimming career ended. That was 1965. It was to be a long time before I ever swam again.

Fast forward to 1989... I had just gone through a difficult divorce. I had been playing tennis and golf up to that point and suddenly nearly all physical activity ceased. I had gotten terribly out of shape and my life was spiraling downward.

Gracie Allen once wrote: "Never place a period where God has placed a comma."

Then two things happened. The first occurred when I was at the Little Rock Racquet Club with my three teen-aged boys. My middle boy challenged me to a two hundred yard freestyle race. I couldn't finish it. It really scared me. So, I started swimming again.

The second thing that happened was that Ron Bank, an Arkansas Masters swimmer, asked me to join Arkansas Masters. Well, he did more than ask me. He kind of stalked me. It was disturbing to be dressing for work in the mornings only to look out my window and see Ron sitting in a car drinking coffee outside my home with a clipboard and registration form.

H.G. Wells once said: "The past is but the beginning of a beginning."

And so it was for me, the beginning of a beginning when I joined Arkansas Masters in 1990 with a freestyle stroke that was so bad it would have brought tears to your eyes. I have never regretted it. I improved every week, particularly when I began swimming with a group three days a week under the auspices of a coach.

These days, I love to compete, primarily to try to improve or maintain my own times. I hold two state records (LCM 1500 freestyle, 50-54 and SCY 500 freestyle, 55-59). I do OK in competitions at Southwest Regional meets in places like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio; particularly in the distance events.

I have been the chairman of Arkansas Masters for five years and editor of the newsletter for two years.

In conclusion, I feel very lucky to have found Masters swimming. If there was a "magic pill" in life—something that could be taken to positively impact things like blood pressure, the cardiovascular system, sleep habits, certain cancers, etc. it would be exercise. It has been proven that the creme-de-la-creme of exercise is swimming. And Masters swimming has provided me with continuous incentives to continue to swim and an opportunity to meet some of the finest people I have ever known.

Today, there are over 41,000 United States Masters swimmers in the U.S.

George Orwell once wrote that "it takes a constant struggle just to see what's under one's nose."

I feel like I am one of these 41,000+ Masters swimmers who have figured out what was directly under my nose. It was Masters swimming."


September 2005