MOUNT VERNON — A thousand miles.
It’s longer than a drive to St. Louis and back. It will take you to a sunny beach in Florida or to frigid International Falls, Minnesota. It’s nearly the length of the mighty Mississippi River.
For Mount Vernon High School graduate and current Mount Gilead High School swimming coach Brad Snow, it means swimming the length of a pool a total of 70,400 times.
Snow recently passed the thousand mile mark, swimming laps at the Mount Vernon YMCA.
“I started with swim lessons at the Mount Vernon Y when I was seven,” said Snow, who swam for Fairmont State College. “I swam on the Y swim team from the age of nine, all the way through high school. Then, I swam in college for four years. I married into a family that all swims. My wife swims, my daughters swim. My wife and I met when we were lifeguards at the Mount Vernon outdoor pool and she swam in college as well”
The program at Fairmont is rigorous and successful. In the end, it taught Snow plenty.
“We were always in the top five in the nation,” said Snow. “Good, for the size of the school we were. I feel that, if I can survive that program, I can survive about anything. It was hard, hard work.”
College wasn’t even in the cards for Snow — at least, that’s what he thought, until a day that changed everything.
“My high school coach (former Mount Vernon swimming coach Dan Stone) was asking me if I wanted to go to college” said Snow. “I said, ‘I can’t afford it,’ and he said, ‘That’s not what I asked you,’ I told him, ‘Yeah, I’d like to go someday.’ The next day, he came by and gave my parents a check for the first year of my school. That was a life-changer.”
There was one string attached, however.
“He went to Fairmont State,” said Snow. “He said, ‘If you go to Fairmont, I’ll pay for the first year.’ So I went to Fairmont.”
The arrangement with Stone went beyond the first year and it gave Snow a solid education.
“He mentored me for two years,” said Snow. “Then, through the rest of college, he hired me to work in his store.”
A thousand miles only tells part of the story and only accounts for the swimming distance that the 47-year-old Snow has covered since the mid-2000s. Snow has left many more miles in his wake.
“It takes a lot of lunch hours and that’s more impressive than the thousand mile mark, when you think about it,” said Snow. “Actually, I’ve done a thousand miles several times, when you think about all of the years of swimming at the Y, high school and college. I swam on my lunch hour at Rolls Royce, when I worked there for 16 years, but I really didn’t keep track of (the mileage.) When I started at Ariel seven years ago, I started keeping track of it. Everyday, I would mark it up there.”
The miles and miles piled up — lunch hour after lunch hour.
“As I got closer to the thousand, I thought, “That’s a pretty good milestone,” said Snow. “Especially when you consider that it takes me 15 minutes to get across town and change my clothes, so I only get half-an-hour a day.”