In this episode I spoke with Diane McManus just before her 70th birthday. While she conquered her fears of deep water and learned to swim as a child, she didn't spend much time in the pool until a running injury forced her to take a break from land sports in her 50's. Then, out of curiosity, she signed up for her first open water mile.
Then pushed from 1 to 3… to 5 to 8 miles, eventually pushing to double digits! Diane tells us about the wild woman inside that just wants to see what she can do.
Nurture your wild side with this episode of Marathon Swim Stories. Enjoy!
In her own words: I learned to swim as a child. Because we vacationed on Fire Island every year, my parents made sure we knew how to swim—it was vital to be able to swim, since we spent so much time near/on water—and since most of my swim lessons were in a bay, when I first did an open water mile, I didn’t have the adjustment that many people do who are used to pools. However, I didn’t swim for teams, not as a kid, not in high school, not in college. I swam for fun and exercise, just swimming laps. Then when I got into running, I swam even less and only when rehabbing from running injuries. During one injury, missing the camaraderie of races, I signed up for a mile open water swim. It made my pool swims more interesting, as I needed to progress from a half-mile with frequent breaststroke breaks to a full mile all freestyle. But I finally was able to do that, went to the swim, made rookie mistakes, but overall loved it. However, soon after that, I was able to run again, so swimming returned to the back burner.
A few years later, still more runner than swimmer, I saw a sign in my Y announcing that the kids’ coach was forming a masters swim team. The coach wanted people to participate in an ocean mile. “No way,” I thought. I’d learned to be comfortable in a bay, but had some scary experiences ocean swimming—nope, not doing that! But the coach was persuasive, his enthusiasm infectious—and so I finally agreed to swim. While terrified as I made my way to the first buoy, I settled down once I got past the breakers, and began to enjoy the experience.
That year, I heard about a five-mile swim from Fire Island to Long Island, the Maggie Fischer Memorial Great South Bay Swim. No way! Too far! A mile seemed fine.
Then two years later, I swam it, surprising myself with a time of 3:25—but I was so seasick I thought that would be it for longer swims. Yet I was swimming more, incorporating swims into competitive events—splash and dash races, then New York’s Stars and Stripes Aquathlon.
Although my first masters’ coach had by that time left coaching to get his degree in physical therapy, I was swimming with a succession of masters’ teams, until I hooked up with John’s group.
And in 2014, he trained me for the Great South Bay Swim. After a series of “you’re kidding, right?” workouts, I took 40 minutes off my time. I’ve been training with John ever since that year, joining most of his events, and graduating to 8 miles, then 11. Who knows what’s next!
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Swimming sounds courtesy of swimmer Todd Lantry.