"CUTTING WATER" = ONE swim stroke. In 1994, my life changed while cutting through the cool waters of the English Channel, a place that brings me peace. Swimming is such a wonderful, lifelong sport, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, no matter what level you may be.
Dream, Prepare, Succeed.
- Marcella MacDonald
Manchester High School has produced some amazing people, but Marcella MacDonald is perhaps the most amazing. Once a swimmer on the Manchester High School Girls Swim Team, she now holds the American record for swimming the English Channel 15 times.
MacDonald recently came back to the school to share her story and inspire the students of her former high school to, “Dream, prepare, and succeed.”
Swimming the English channel is a huge accomplishment in itself so after the 15th time venturing from England to France, it is obvious there is something very unique about her. Dr. MacDonald, who is a podiatrist, gave a wholehearted smile when she was asked the first of a series of questions: What motivated her to swim the English Channel?
“Apparently, when I was 12 years old I mentioned something about swimming the English Channel…. I was always a distance swimmer.. so it just was something that kind of went into place…”
MacDonald, 50, started swimming at the Globe Hollow pool in Manchester as a young child and continued on with Manchester Swim Club, competing for the first time at age 7. She eventually competed on the MHS swimming team before graduating in 1981. Swimming beside her at each level was her twin sister, Beth Collins.
She went on to describe the first time she ever swam the 21 mile long distance in 1994.
“Each swim has been different,” she said. “My average swim has been about 11 hours. … Every 45 minutes I stop for about one minute and then I make my way across.”
She takes in nutrition via the boat that follows along side her when she is in the water. Although everyone swims the Channel without any assistance, she has eyes on her at all times for safety precautions. She also needs nutrition and energy to keep swimming, so that is also given to her during her swim.
How does it feel to be in the water swimming the Channel? Swimming for such a long period of time is much different than running or biking.
“I feel more comfortable in the water than out of the water,” she said.
Loving the cool water touch your skin and the feeling of moving your body in a rhythm with the ultimate goal of getting to the other side is a necessity in an event like this. Physically, all one needs to make it all the way across the Channel is to be in shape and, obviously, to train a lot.
It’s also more important to think you can do it.
“Mentally, to prepare for this I have worked 20 years for this, so it’s gotten a lot easier to say, ‘Well, you know you’ve been in the water for 24 hours before … there is no reason you need to get out after 12 hours,’ ” McDonald said. “A lot of my crossings were trying to do a double crossing. Some of those where I was not successful to come back to England have motivated me to try harder.”
Finally, after three tries, MacDonald had her first double crossing.
From student at our very own high school and a major part of the MHS girls swim team to doctor to the ultimate swimmer is a massive achievement. She received a congratulations from her alma mater on her 15th swim across the English Channel and a big thank you for coming in to inspire many.
After spending the past 20 years paddling from Dover to France, it is time to venture into new waters, while helping some special people. Soon, I will be traveling with my A-team to Scotland to swim the length of the famous Loch Ness. As always, I try to help a Foundation raise funds and awareness and I thank you for interest and support. I am deeply troubled with the thought of homeless individuals, especially in our US Veteran population.
That is why I am teaming up with our Connecticut-based “Homes for the Brave”. Can you imagine not having a place to call home?
Please write “Loch Ness Swim/Marcy” to track your donation.
I will always be dedicating my swimming to all those battling cancer and in the memory of 4 special people in my life. Cancer first hit my family when I was young. My grand-aunt Eleanor Kersavage, passed away with uterine cancer and my Auntie Bea Halchak battled with brain cancer.
On January 1, 2002, our LEHY family lost Nikki Giampolo to bone cancer, just turning 16 years old. Her spirit still lives on in our East Hartford swim team.
In July of 2009, my brother-in-law, Gregory Allen Urban, who passed away, after a valient battle with lung cancer. I can see him now, talking about cars and projects around the house, music and his family.
I know Aunties, Eleanor and Bea, Nikki, Greg and all the angels will help me CUT through all this water this summer.
The St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation, based in Bridgeport, CT provides financial support for the needs that Health insurance companies don't cover, in addition to providing affordable cancer screening, wigs, medication and other things to make life easier for those suffering with cancer and their families.