Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Community Organizer from Chicago

For years, Chicagoan Marcia Cleveland has been working tirelessly in the open water community, helping thousands of open water swimmers achieve their goals. She coaches swimmers, gives clinics, writes books and constantly shares her passion with everyone from newcomers in the U.S. Masters Swimming community to those who wish to cross the English Channel.

In July this year, Marcia did a 24.9-mile solo swim in 12 hours and 49 minutes with David Blanke and Chris Layton swam from one of Chicago to the other, from north to south in Lake Michigan. Their Chicago Skyline Swim was similar to the 27-mile course swum by English Channel swimming legend Kevin Murphy in 2002 and the Nial Funchion in 2003.

Their Chicago Skyline Swim is being nominated for a Certificate of Merit by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.*

Like every experienced open water swimmer, Marcia’s solo successes are based on her training, her ambition and her experience. The hardest swim Marcia ever did was her 1993 English Channel qualification swim in Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire on a beautiful, sunny day. Marcia describes her qualification swim that day in the 15.5°C (60°F), "Marcy MacDonald and I swam 10 miles from one end of the lake to the other and back. She was ready for the water temperature, I was not. I felt completely defeated around 6-7 hours and realized how difficult it is to qualify to swim the English Channel. I was really low after about 5 hours in that swim because I was out of control cold-wise in something that had always come naturally to me (swimming)."

But, out of the depths of despair of that qualification swim, Marcia rose to the occasion and successfully crossed the English Channel in 1994. She wrote a popular book, Dover Solo, about her experiences.

In August, Marcia was also instrumental in organizing and hosting the first U.S. Masters Swimming 25K National Championship where 45 masters swimmers took part (see photo of start on left). The feedback from the swimmers was extremely positive, "...the Inaugural 25K Open Water Nationals held outside of Indianapolis…was an absolutely superbly organized and unforgettable event. The race director, Dick Sidner, went to extremes to make sure that every detail of the experience was just perfect, and he was ably assisted by…Marcia Cleveland, and others. The race was very safe. The field was incredibly strong. The kayakers did a great job. When I finished the race I hugged Marcia Cleveland…and I wanted to hug everyone else who made this event so memorable," expressed Jon Lenchner.

For her enthusiasm for the sport and her unwavering willingness to help others achieve their own goals, Marcia was nominated for the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

Photo of 25K start from the Forest Park Aquatic Center website.

* For more information on how to apply for a Certificate of Merit by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, click here and scroll down to the bottom.

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