At the age of 46, Washington lawyer JC Boggs set himself to an unusual mid-life goal: by his 50th birthday, he would swim competitively in every one of the nation’s fifty states. Now, nearing his big birthday, TSD paddled up alongside Boggs to check in on his progress and learn how anyone could find the time to do such a crazy thing. Boggs has deep Delaware roots – he’s the grandson of legendary US Congressman, Senator and Delaware Governor Cale Boggs and he grew up in Wilmington, later going on to work for US Senator Bill Roth before practicing law in the nation’s capital where he is a partner with the firm of King and Spalding.
TOWN SQUARE DELAWARE: Ok, so where are you in your ’50 by 50′ quest? How many more states to go and how much time to until your birthday?
JC BOGGS: I completed my 50th and final state last month, in Charleston, West Virginia. So I am done and looking forward to the next challenge. The first of my 50 swims took place in southern California in December 2007 and I have averaged about one swim/state per month. It’s taken me just over four years to meet my goal, with a couple to spare before my August birthday. It’s been tremendous fun and a lot of good workouts. Plus I am always meeting interesting people along the way.
TSD: To be clear, you didn’t “grandfather-in” any states where you’d already taken the plunge – correct? You started this mission at scratch?
JCB: That is correct. I swam competitively for many years and had already covered a number of states, though nothing close to 50. When I came up with the idea, I set certain ground rules – mainly that it be a certified U.S. Master Swimming (“USMS”) program – and essentially started from scratch.
JCB: Under the Boggs rules, three types of swims would qualify. Most frequently, I would find a local USMS team and join them for an organized workout of an hour or two. I also signed up for a few Masters swim meets as well as several competitive open-water swims. Just last year I swam off the coast of Oahu, competed in a 5k outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, and joined some friends for “Big Shoulders” swim in Lake Michigan.
While I was raised in Delaware and spent a lot of time in the water at Wilmington Aquatic Club under coach Bob Mattson, I had never actually swam with the U.S. Masters in the state, nor many others for that matter. It was quite a few years after my college swimming days – at the University of Richmond – that I determined to workout again on a regular basis. About 10 years ago, I joined the Alexandria Masters in northern Virginia, and now swim mornings with the Curl-Burke Masters in Washington, DC.
TSD: Now, how in the world did you find the time between family, work and your active involvement in politics to pull this off?
JCB: I travel a fair amount for business. That is really how the idea was originally conceived. I like to get in three good workouts a week and my travel schedule made that increasing difficult to do. The hotel gym was just not cutting it, so I began looking up masters swim programs in the locations to where I was travelling. U.S. Masters Swimming maintain a helpful web site that directs you to local swim programs (www.usms.org). And I would typically call or e-mail the coach in advance, just to make sure the practice schedule was up to date.
We also scheduled a family trip last summer to Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming, and Custer State Park and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. That enabled me to tick off three otherwise elusive states, plus we had some great family time together in a truly magnificent part of the country.
TSD: What are you going to do with all the frequent flier miles?
JCB: We never have enough. As the son of a Marine Corps aviator and pilot for Pan Am and later Delta Airlines, I was brought up traveling the world and we continue to enjoy getting around. We were just in India this past March, where I made a point of getting in a good workout at the site of the 2008 Youth Commonwealth Games.
TSD: The Washington Post did a great article on your pursuit. Why didn’t TSD get an exclusive? Your hometown website of record?!
JCB: Bob Woodward got to me first.
TSD: You grew up swimming here in Delaware – Green Acres Swim Club wasn’t it? In the ultra-competitive North Brandywine Swim League-
JCB: You got it! My grandparents lived in Green Acres, just across the street from the neighborhood pool. We had a strong team back then and it was a great way to spend the summer. We got to see a lot of my grandparents then too, which now that they are gone, seems not nearly enough.
TSD: You have family here in Delaware and you’re back here a lot. Two questions: 1. where and when was or is your official DE swim going to be? and 2. when you’re not in a pool, what are your favorite haunts in Delaware?
JCB: The University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication hosted a debate between former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and GOP svengali Karl Rove sometime in the Fall of 2010. I came up for that and overnighted at the Courtyard on campus so that I could make the 5am swim the next morning – at the Carpenter Sports building.
Favorite haunts? Well, we don’t spend as much time in Delaware as we would like to, but it’s always great to catch up with family and friends when we do – wherever and whenever that may be. We tend to get to Lewes more often than anywhere else – our home away from home – and stop by Half Full and King’s Ice Cream on just about every visit. That’s why I need to keep working out…