On Saturday, February 20, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ben Katzman dove into the pool at the King George YMCA for a swim. It was a little different than a recreational swim you or I might enjoy though. Ben was prepared to swim for several hours, and he wore an accessory most don’t when swimming – handcuffs.
After training and accomplishing hours in the pool under these odd circumstances, Ben decided to make it official and attempt to place himself in the record books. He swam over five miles in four hours, shattering the previous record, set by an Iranian who in 2019 swam about three and a half miles while handcuffed.
The Santa Rosa, Calif. native joined the Navy in 2008 and most recently was stationed at the Branch Health Clinic at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren. He found joining the Navy “the no-brainer choice for me since I was a thrill-seeker and wanted something high-speed to take me away from my home town.” When he joined he was able to choose the job he wanted. “I always wanted to travel and was raised to have a servant's attitude and I found the military to be my calling.”
Swimming has been part of his life since he was a child. He was involved in swimming or diving lessons from the age of three and though his high school didn’t have a competitive swim team, swimming became a part of his life, for fun and for fitness. “Swimming became a regular part of my workouts (in high school) when I would go to the gym. I lifted for track and field as a shot put and discus thrower and always made time for swimming with almost every workout.”
That fitness regimen continued into his Navy career. “I like to stay in top shape already and swimming is my favorite workout - it's relaxing to me.”
Breaking or setting a world record is something that has always been on Katzman’s “Apocalyst (my bucket list).” “This particular record just happened to be what I decided on.” He considered attempting the record for swimming the farthest distance in 24 hours but knew he didn’t have the time to train effectively to break it, so he searched other swimming records and found this one. “Elham Sadat Asghari set a hell of a record and it took quite some time to train up to it,” said Katzman. Once he got used to the handcuffs on his wrists, his training took off.
And in this instance, the delays brought about by the COVID pandemic were a help instead of a hindrance. Katzman’s attempt at the record was delayed several times over the course of the last year. “The only reason I pushed so far past (the existing record) is because with all the delays due to COVID, I kept on training. A year ago the four mile mark, which is what I boasted to Guinness that I would complete to make the new record, that distance seemed a stretch and was difficult. An extra nine months of conditioning really paid off (mostly running and calisthenics with pool access and gyms being limited). I was able to complete some other endurance events that pushed my mental grit to the max which definitely played a big part in me completing this attempt so successfully.”