In the international swimming community, one mile is signified as 1,650 yards or 1,500 meters. However, these distances are just short of a true mile. One mile is equal to 5,280 feet, 1,760 yards, or 1,609.344 meters. This means that the 1,650-yard mile is 6.25% shorter than a true mile, and the 1,500-meter mile is 6.8% shorter.

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How many laps will it take you to swim a true mile? Let’s find out.

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Laps vs. Lengths

Some people measure their swims in lengths, and others measure their swims in laps:

One length: Swim from one end of the pool to the other.One lap: Swim to the other end of the pool and back one time.

Long Course vs. Short Course

Pools are categorized as either short course (25-yard or 25-meter pools) or long course (50-meter pools). For racing purposes, there are two distance standards for the mile that account for the difference between yards and meters:

25-yard pool: 1,650 yards25-meter or 50-meter pool: 1,500 meters

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How to Swim a True Mile in a Pool

Based on your pool length, here are how many laps you’ll need to swim to complete a true mile:

20 Yard Pool: 1,760 yards is 88 lengths (44 laps)25 Yard Pool: 1760 yards is 70.4 lengths (35.2 laps)25 Meter Pool: 1610 meters is 64.4 lengths (32.2 laps)30 Meter Pool: 1610 meters is 53.6 lengths (26.8 laps)50 Meter Pool: 1610 meters is 32.2 lengths (16.1 laps)

The longer your pool, the fewer laps you will need to complete to reach one mile.

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Today, long course swimming is respected as the international standard for competition, with the World Championships and Olympic Games held in long course format. The Short Course World Championships, European Championships and the FINA World Cup Circuit are held in short course meters (25-meter pool)

Precision is Key

At one international competition, the 50-meter pool was built before the invention of touch-pads. The pool was 1cm shorter than 50 meters when the touch-pads were IN the pool. Records that might have been set in the so-called “short” pool would not count as records. Before the meet started, organizers discovered this very problem.

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With hundreds of swimmers set to arrive in a matter of days, the facility drained the pool, shaved 1cm off the wall, re-plastered the shaved surface, and re-filled the pool, with only hours to spare.

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