February 16th – The Extremely Brave and Glorious Marsh Race

Whilst much of the marsh bordering Buentoille is dangerously gaseous, there are areas, especially in parts further out where graveyards have never been dug, where it is safe to swim. Quite why you would deem it necessary to swim in the frigid water of a bog is another matter entirely, and a question which you would have to look to the Fraternity of Wild Swimmers to answer.

The fraternity, originally a pleasure-seeking group of like-minded individuals who took to local rivers and lakes in the summer months in naught but their underwear (and who unsurprisingly featured heavily in the gossip rags of the time), slowly became more focussed on feats of great determination and bravery, prizing prestige over leisure. They were initially formed of various painters, models and other louche types, but gradually these were replaced by more sporty personalities. Eventually, in 1734, after a hard night of drinking and boasting of physical feats, the leader of the Fraternity, Ischiri Haardman, decided to settle the latent rivalry. He challenged all members of the Fraternity to swim across the bog, promising a silver badge and everlasting glory to those who passed the finish line, and banishment from the Fraternity to all those who did not.

The course is unmarked, the shifting muds making any permanent route unfeasible. Instead there is a start point and an end point, and at no time between the two may the swimmers raise their shoulders out of the water, unless they wish to face disqualification. Swimmers must tackle the course in nothing but their underwear, with swimming aids, wetsuits or layers of fat to protect from the cold being strictly forbidden. To date, 38 people have died or become irreparably lost in the race, with thirteen of those being killed by exposure. The rest have fallen foul of The Flume.

Around the mid-point of the race is a long spit of land that cuts the course in half. If you do not wish to climb over it (and therefore be disqualified from the race), then you must find The Flume; a small opening in the bank, where the seaweed and reeds part and a dark passage waits. Water gushes through the submerged tunnel, and it can quickly transport a person to the other side with minimal effort; the issues arise with where it deposits you when you’ve passed out the other side. Swimmers have reported being transported to entirely random parts of the bog, often into the dangerous sections where marsh gasses can cause additional complications. Whilst this has proved extremely helpful in some instances (Jerald Livin surfaced two metres from the finish line on his trip through The Flume in 1934, posting the quickest ever time), in many others it has resulted in exceptionally dangerous or strange situations; hundreds of swimmers have been flushed out to sea, and there are urban myths of one swimmer somehow surfacing in the People’s Mirror, many miles away.

For those who survive the ordeal, the badge and corresponding membership of the Fraternity confer many benefits, including admission into The Precipice, an exclusive subsidised drinking and dinner club which was given the vast majority of Haardman’s extensive fortune upon her death. Exceptional members; those who post particularly fast times, or who win the year’s race; are highly revered, and they often land lucrative contracts promoting sporting goods.

Those who complete the race will usually be found in The Precipice shortly afterwards, but only after they have submitted themselves to be hosed down in the yard outside. The only person to have got away with avoiding this almost-ritualistic washing was ‘Stinky Johanson,’ upon whose post-race stench a horrible cocktail of the same name has been modelled. It is considered good form to order one of these cocktails after the race, and to vociferously proclaim your love for it to all who will listen. Many fights have broken out over who loves the hideous creation the most.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Landing of the Gallant Gentleman

  • The Festival of Cutting Edge Acoustic Technology

  • Fiaromo Gillande’s Festival of Acute Lower Back Pain Relief – Just One Application and You’ll Feel The Difference – Reasonable Credit Payment Options Discussed – No Wiseguys