SYRACUSE -- After breaking a record that stood for close to 70 years, Gordon Gridley smiles at the thought of his record being broken today.
Serving as the race director for the resurrected Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim, now known as the Great Salt Lake Open Water Marathon Swim, Gridley, a 39-year-old Syracuse resident, will have a perfect view of a race that has been on his mind for a few years.
Gridley's obsession with the race started when he read a historical book about the Great Salt Lake.
"There was one chapter that discussed Saltair resort, and how it was a huge hangout," Gridley said. "At the time there was a 6-mile race from Antelope Island to Saltair."
The race started in 1926 and ran until 1941. During the years, race organizers moved the finishing spot to Black Rock Beach, which was also a resort at the time, adding two miles to the race.
Gridley was intrigued by the race and did more research. He found the weather was so bad the last time the race was held, only one of the 10 or so contestants finished.
Gridley read about Utah swimming legend Orson Spencer and even spoke with Spencer's wife about the Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim. She told Gridley that World War II also had an effect on stopping the race.
Still, Gridley could not stop thinking about the race.
"I thought I'd like to swim that," Gridley said.
So he did.
In September, he swam the course and finished in 3 hours and 24 minutes. That was 15 minutes faster, he said, than the record set in 1937.
"The wind was pushing me toward Black Rock and waves were pushing me, too," Gridley said. "I wanted to share that experience with other swimmers."
Gridley has used swimming in Great Salt Lake to prepare for a goal he set for himself in junior high school. Thanks to a recent dip in Great Salt Lake, he will have the chance to accomplish that goal in about 14 months.
Earlier this month, Gridley spent close to 11 hours swimming in Great Salt Lake in order to qualify to swim the English Channel.
According to the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, the "Governing Body for English Channel Swimming," all swimmers that want to take part in a solo swim must supply proof/ratification of a 6-hour swim in water 61 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) or lower, or supply the proof of completion in a event recognized by the CS&PF.
To share the experience of swimming in Great Salt Lake with others, he decided to bring the legendary old race back to life. The 8-mile Great Salt Lake Open Water Marathon Swim begins at approximately 9 a.m. today at Antelope Island.
"There has been a huge response from outside of the state," Gridley said. "At first, the locals haven't (offered) a whole lot of response. Initially, we got a quick response from swimmers in California, Massachusetts and New York."
Five of the swimmers scheduled to race today are from Utah, including Will Reeves, whom Gridley says has a chance of breaking the record.
Along with the 8-mile race, 25 swimmers will compete in a 1-mile race from the Great Salt Lake marina to Black Rock Beach. Gridley said that 23 of those swimmers are from Utah, while the other two are from Wyoming. The 1-mile race begins at noon.
Although he will miss swimming in the lake today, Gridley said he is excited to oversee the race. Plus, with the English Channel still waiting, Gridley is being smart about how he prepares for that huge challenge.
"Now that the qualification is over, I'm going to pull back for a little while," he said.
For more information about the race, visit www.greatsaltlakeopenwater.com.