Connecticut native Marcy MacDonald becomes first person to swim from England to Belgium – Hartford Courant

Marcy MacDonald had already swum across the English Channel for 26 hours, where the Strait of Dover converges with the North Sea.

She was on her way from England to Belgium when she got stuck in a tide that tried to push her back, along the French coast near Dunkirk.

MacDonald, who has swum the English Channel 17 times, the most of any American, swam in place for five hours.

“If you looked at the [swim] tracker, people were saying, ‘There’s something wrong with the tracker,’ she said from England on Friday. “But it was, ‘No, I can’t go anywhere.’

“It was a test of patience, really.”

And after that, she still had six hours of swimming to finish.

MacDonald, a podiatrist from Andover, swam 39 hours, covering 54 miles from Ramsgate to a beach in De Panne to become the first person to swim from England to Belgium. She started at 11 p.m. local time on Wednesday evening with her friend and pilot for several of her swims, Mike Oram, guiding her with his boat, the Gallivant.

He had recently brought a relay team of swimmers to Belgium, so he knew the tides and how they changed. The route was east of the usual Channel swim route.

MacDonald had to swim in place twice – once for three hours earlier in the swim, then the long drudgery along the Dunkirk coast.

“It’s a very different kind of swimming,” she says. ” You just have to be patient. It’s definitely not for everyone. It’s not a question of speed.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m not insisting at all.’ I knew it was going to be a long swim. I knew I would be there for 30 hours.

The water was warm – 70 degrees – but the weather wasn’t perfect.

“I swear Poseidon and I don’t get along,” she laughed. “He knows I’m in the Channel and he makes it a tough race. It was not a sea of ​​glass.

The idea of ​​swimming to Belgium came to her when she visited the country after one of her Channel swims in 2000.

MacDonald first swam the English Channel in 1994, then returned in subsequent years to complete more swims, including three double swims. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2019 and has a pool named after her in Manchester, Connecticut, where she grew up.

She struggled to train for this particular swim because, she says, she struggled to find hope in the world earlier this year, between the war in Ukraine and the school shooting. primary in Uvalde and all the rest.

“I have two hopes,” she wrote in an email to fans before the swim. “I hope to make this crossing. But if I don’t, I’ll know I gave it my all. I hope we, the community of the world, can be more kind and humane to each other. I know I’m hoping for a Pollyanna world, but that wouldn’t be wonderful. Let’s be kinder to the elderly and those with special needs, one day we younger people hope to reach our 80s-90s and hopefully we will be cared for.

“What are your hopes? Start locally in your world community, volunteer or donate to a local charity.

Lori Riley can be reached at [email protected]

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