He ran a marathon every week for a year and for almost a year and a half he has been swimming outside somewhere every day – even in snow and rain. What drives Wigald Boning to such hardships?
Wigald Boning (56, Die Stupid) is unstoppable. For almost 500 days he has been going into a body of water to swim, whatever the weather. So far, nothing has been able to stop the comedian: in the Saale he dodged garden waste and sandwiches thrown into the water, at Berlin Central Station he dodged unfriendly inland waterway boatmen and in the Alster he dodged rowing pleasure boats without rear-view mirrors.
He swam past Bremen’s Weser Stadium and was probably the first person ever to swim into the rain retention basin at Hanover Airport. On the day of Charles’s coronation in London, Boning climbed into the Thames to keep his streak intact. He has swum in more than 90 different bodies of water.
Soon the 500th day of bathing
Corona infection, fever and cold didn’t stop him. Next Sunday, if nothing comes up, will be his 500th day of swimming without interruption. He has long since achieved his goal of going swimming for a year: “I’m in the freestyle.”
But what drives him? “First of all, we moved to Lake Ammersee. Then I thought, we have to do something with this big, beautiful lake on our doorstep,” says Boning in an interview with the German Press Agency.
He also swam away from an impending operation: “I had problems with a calcified shoulder and tried all sorts of therapies. And lo and behold: I was able to completely cure the shoulder by swimming in cold water – at least that’s what my orthopedist says.”
He has now written down the strange and dangerous things that happened to him while swimming in a book (“Mr. Boning goes swimming”).
As a water-shy landlubber, he wasn’t born with a career as a swimmer, he reports. Nevertheless, he ended up in the top ten in a 24-hour swim in Bavaria. Then the setback: he needed 7 hours and 24 minutes to cross Lake Constance and was crowned the unofficial “world slow swimming champion”.
“As a track and field athlete, I was very average in my youth, but I won the trophy as the most diligent in training,” says Boning. “Consistency, that is my quality.”
It became clear to him in Magdeburg that the project couldn’t be called “Boning goes swimming”: “So I went into an old arm of the Elbe. It got flatter and flatter until I touched down on my stomach.” He could also only bathe in the Gera river in Erfurt, but not swim.
The most unpleasant swimming experience was “clearly” a coconut plantation in Thailand, where he was filming. “It was a musty cesspool. But I didn’t give up and swam a few meters.” He can think of several nice swims: “A few mountain lakes were fantastic. Or making an ice hole for the first time in the Zillertal and then getting in there. That was something special.”
It also became dangerous – of all places in his familiar home lake: “I lost my orientation in the thick fog in Ammersee. If you no longer know which direction to swim in, you don’t have infinite time, depending on the water temperature.” When an anchored motorboat emerged from the fog, “I knew again where to go to shore. I didn’t really have fog as a source of danger on my list.”
Boning dived under the ice cover of a frozen lake: “This is S-Bahn surfing for breaststrokers. You have to be careful that you always keep an eye on the opening in the ice. Anything else can lead to a disastrous end.”
But warm water is also dangerous: “How hot can I bathe? A completely stupid experiment, to which I can only say in retrospect: Don’t try it! Thank God I fainted after a delay – not in water that was just over 40 degrees Celsius. but a few minutes later.”
He had previously ridden his bike for a good 200 days a day in 2014. The final point was crossing the Alps on a folding bike: from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Venice in 25 hours. Then he put on his running shoes: in 2021 he ran a marathon every week for a year. 52 by 42.2 kilometers. Sometimes in Crocs, sometimes pushing his seriously ill father in a wheelchair.
From an orthopedic perspective, the marathons were the greater challenge. “Something was always hurting. Swimming is much more pleasant for the body. You relieve the strain on it. All the aches and pains just disappeared. But the mental strain of daily ice bathing or winter swimming took a toll on me. Getting into three-degree cold water with a fever – The enjoyment is neglected.”
Quarrel with a swan
What else got in the way of his swimming streak: “A swan in the Wörthsee that tried to stop me from getting into the water. I talked to him, tried everything, friendly, but also in a sharp tone. At some point he was fed up stupid and he cleared the place.”
He had his definitive low point in motivation at the end of March: “The water was still five degrees cold and there was also cold rain. My dad had died, I was grieving and nothing could persuade me to climb into the lake. Then I have this Japanese seat -Used the bathtub on the balcony – and felt a little bit ashamed afterwards.”
Wigald Boning, Mr. Boning goes Baden, Gräfe and Unzer Verlag, 22 euros, 271 pages, ISBN 978-3-8338-9164-9
I am an author and journalist who has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. I currently work as a news editor at a major news website, and my focus is on covering the latest trends in entertainment. I also write occasional pieces for other outlets, and have authored two books about the entertainment industry.