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Museum Musings: The first Fun Fitness Swim

Rather than focusing on the competition of a race, the event was described by the Whistler Question as 'a community event to encourage fitness'
Swimmer Shelley Warne heads from Wayside Park to the Alta Lake Inn and back under the watchful eye of Marilyn Moore, who dusted off her bathtub derby craft for the occasion.

After arriving in Whistler in August, 1974, on a year’s leave from teaching that became multiple seasons, B.J. Godson filled various different roles in the growing community, from bartender at establishments such as the Highland Lodge to the creator of a Ski Friends program on Whistler Mountain. During her time in Whistler, she also founded Whistler’s annual Fun Fitness Swim.

According to Godson’s mother, she began to swim at the age of one, even before she started walking. She continued to swim and, in 1979, her boyfriend at the time suggested she organize a swim in the area because she was “such a good swimmer,” and “loved to organize things.” This led to the first Fun Fitness Swim, a fun distance race of about a mile and a half (about 2.4 kilometres) in Alta Lake on August 19, 1979.

Godson’s time working at the Highland Lodge introduced her to Roy Adams, a representative of Molson, and he agreed to have the company sponsor the event. Thanks to this sponsorship, every participant in the race was guaranteed a T-shirt, a banana, and some chocolate. Local resident Chico made trophies for the first-place winners, and local businesses donated prizes for a draw.

Rather than focusing on the competition of a race, the event was described by the Whistler Question as “a community event to encourage fitness,” open to everyone over the age of 19. Thirty-seven swimmers left Wayside Park in one-minute intervals, led by Godson and heading for the docks at Adventures West. Volunteers in rowboats and canoes were recruited to help any struggling swimmers, and spectators were encouraged to come cheer. The race was followed by an afterparty at the Christiana Inn, with refreshments provided by Molson and members of the Alta Lake Community Club. The first two winners were Rick McFadden at 41:25 and Meg Fellowes at 44:00, both of whom were reportedly so cold after the race that they didn’t make it to the afterparty.

The first Fun Fitness Swim was such a success that the second year went ahead with almost full registration even though the weather was wet, cold and windy. The course changed a few times over the first years until the Fun Fitness Swim moved to Lost Lake in the mid-1980s. According to Godson, one of the main reasons for moving to Lost Lake was the danger of windsurfers on Alta Lake.

Though the windsurfing club and local windsurfers were asked to stay out of the swim course for a couple of hours during the race, there was little they or organizers could do about visiting windsurfers or those who didn’t get the notice. One swimmer in the 1982 event even recalled colliding with a windsurfer. “I hit one. He was a beginner,” he told the Question. “He fell and couldn’t get out of the way. I didn’t see him and—bang—I ran intohim.”

Though the event continued to focus on encouraging participation rather than competition, swimmers still swam to the best of their abilities, and Godson remembered one participant in particular demonstrating their athletic ability. According to Godson, she was swimming around Lost Lake when “all of a sudden, there’s somebody passing me at a high clip, swimming so fast they made a little wake.” She soon realized that she had been passed by Dawn Titus, which was particularly annoying as Titus was sporting a cast on her leg until just a couple of weeks before the swim.

The Fun Fitness Swim continued to take place at Lost Lake without windsurfers and under Godson’s leadership until 1989, when her friend Cindy took over the organization. Molson continued to sponsor the event until the last Fun Fitness Swim was held in the early 1990s.