Milt Hein, left, manager of Deep Eddy Pool, stands with Keith Bell, right, who just logged his 11,111th day in a row of swimming. Family photo
Chalk up swim number 11,111 in a row for Keith Bell.
The retired Austin sports psychologist and former University of Texas swim coach slipped into the cool waters of Deep Eddy Pool this morning and knocked out 111 laps, continuing a streak he started more than 30 years ago.
You could call Bell a swimming enthusiast. That would be putting it mildly. He usually swims between 4,000 and 6,000 yards – or between 3.5 and 4.5 miles – each day, although some days he logs more than that.
He prefers Deep Eddy, which is filled with spring water, because the water is cooler than at most other pools around Austin. (“But don’t go there, it’s terrible,” he says, chuckling.) Sometimes, he swims in the lake. Monday, he kicked upstream on the San Marcos River, in a current so brisk he only moved forward an inch or so every minute.
Keith Bell, right, closes to lane line, swims laps with his wife, Sandy Neilson-Bell. Family photo
Bell’s current streak began in April 1989.
“I wasn’t thinking about a streak, I was just swimming every day,” Bell says. “On my 60thbirthday, we had a big party and (my son) Bridger did a quiz about me and included how many days in a row had I swum. It was 6,000 or 7,000. Sometime after that it, occurred to me that I was closing in on 10,000 days.”
To mark that milestone, Bell swam 10,000 yards (that’s about 6 miles) and raised nearly $10,000 for charities that provide swim lessons. A portion of the money specifically went to adults, because Bell believes that if parents know how to swim safely, they’ll encourage their children to swim, too. And swimming, he notes, can enrich almost anyone’s life, no matter their age.
Bell swims whether he’s feeling great or not, although he rarely gets sick.
“If I don’t feel well, I just go and swim a couple of thousand (yards) easy,” he says. “It’s like going for a walk.”
Bell swam at Kenyon College in Ohio. He served as an assistant coach of the men’s swim team at Texas, then coached the first intercollegiate women’s team there. He’s also coached U.S. Masters programs and high school teams. He and his wife Sandy Neilson-Bell, a former Olympian, currently run a swim program for adults in Austin.
Does he plan to quit swimming anytime soon?
“Uh, no,” he says, like that’s the silliest question anyone could ever ask. “It’s a really nice part of the day for me.”
Deep Eddy Pool celebrated its 100thbirthday in 2016. Here’s an article I wrote about that. https://www.statesman.com/NEWS/20160903/Deep-Eddy-Pool-celebrates-100th-birthday-this-summer