River swimming advice from a guy who knows his stuff

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Photo Credit: Lou Blouin

Darren Miller wants you – and everyone else up to and including the people who often call River Rescue to come to his aid – to know that swimming in Pittsburgh’s rivers is not only safe but also enjoyable.

We first became aware of Miller, who is an open water marathon swimmer, through an Allegheny Front article posted to our Facebook page:


He’s passionate about open water distance swimming and about encouraging others to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s rivers, so we thought he’d be a great person to offer advice to our new or less experienced river swimmers.

First of all, “There’s nothing to be worried or afraid about,” said Miller, of Murrysville.

It’s a point Miller makes often.

The rivers are also cleaner than they often get credit for, he said.

“I never had issues running into logs or fish or garbage,” he said. “For the most part, the water is very clean. I can see my hands and my arm strokes ahead of me.”

Miller has experience swimming in all three rivers. In fact, in 2014 he hosted the first annual Three Rivers Marathon Swim, a 30K race in which swimmers do 10K in each of the three rivers. The Ohio River is pretty calm, Miller said, while the Monongahela tends to be a little warmer than the other two and can also be a little murky. The Allegheny River, which is the one swimmers and kayakers will be in for the Pittsburgh Triathlon and Adventure Race, is typically clean, he said, and although it does have a current, it’s not going to sweep anyone away.

When you’re swimming against the current, Miller said, just know that you’re going to be about 30 to 40 percent faster coming back.

For those who aren’t used to swimming in the river, Miller advised just taking some time to get comfortable with being in the water before race day.

“A great way to do that is if you’re able to take a boat out, just start hopping off and hopping back on,” he said. “If you can’t do that, I always jumped in at Allegheny Landing down by PNC Park and Kayak Pittsburgh. I’d just hop right off the dock there, float around and get used to it.”

Of course, it’s important to pay attention to the current state of the rivers and whether ALCOSAN has them listed as safe to enter. See our earlier blog post about water quality and how you can check on river status here: https://pittsburghtriathlon.org/2016/07/19/a-few-words-about-sewers/

So as long as ALCOSAN says you’re good to go, hop on in!

And, if you’d like to learn more about Darren Miller’s Three Rivers Marathon Swim, which will take place on Sept. 24, visit his website here: http://www.darren-miller.com/three-rivers-marathon-swim/

Or email him at dmiller@darren-miller.com.

He also needs boaters to volunteer for the race, so drop him a line if you can help out.

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