Friday, February 10, 2017

Interview with Holly Maitland-McKenna: "I Take My Time and Enjoy the Adventure"

Holly Maitland-McKenna paused at the shallow end of the Penn State Harrisburg pool to speak with one of her many visitors. She wore a rash guard over a swim suit and her chlorinated, goggle-marked eyes looked tired. At that point, she had been swimming for almost 19 hours straight, since 8 p.m. the night before.

When she saw me, she smiled and thanked me for coming as she did with every visitor who came to support her. She had already swum 17 miles by the time I arrived around 2:45 p.m. on Friday, January 27. “I’m tired,” she said. "Not from swimming but from being awake all night." She showed me the raw chafing on her neck from the rash guard, but said she didn't want to take it off because she was too cold. She said her pace had slowed down, but she felt confident she’d last another five hours.

I met Holly when I started teaching swim lessons at Penn State Harrisburg, and she impressed and inspired me when I learned of the marathon swims she completes as a fundraiser for THON. For four years, she completed 15-hour swims, but this year she decided to crank it up a notch and swim for a full 24 hours.

And she did it! She completed 21 miles in 24 hours. That’s an impressive feat for a great cause.

Holly Maitland-McKenna
Sport: Swimming
Age: 53
Occupation: Swimming Instructor, Water Safety Instructor, Lifeguard Instructor

How did you first get interested in swimming?
Effects of a 24-hour swim

Holly: I have been swimming since I was a baby. Went through the whole ARC (American Red Cross) swim lesson program right into Lifeguard and WSI (Water Safety Instructor).

What does your weekly workout schedule look like, and what keeps you motivated to train?

Holly: I teach five water fitness classes a week, which is my cross training from lap swimming. I try to swim at least two miles a week, but that doesn't always fit into my schedule. My motivation: I just love the water.

What are your short and long term athletic goals?

Holly: Short term: going to a clinic for open water swimming. Long term: possibly more open water swims.

Tell a story about a favorite moment of your athletic journey.

Holly: Teaching wise, having an adult learn and realize they just swam! Personal: meeting Diana Nyad.

How would you describe your athletic journey or body?

Holly: I am an arctic seal.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Holly: I don't consider myself an athlete. I suppose because I am not competitive. The few swims I have done, in a triathlon, I only do the swimming part, I take my time and enjoy the adventure. I don't need to be fast. Or come in first. Just love the journey.

I conducted this interview as part of the Thigh Flasher Athletes Who Inspire Me Interview Series: I interview women who have inspired me and/or others to lead a fit, healthy, happy, fun lifestyle. If there’s a woman you know who has inspired you to get fit and/or compete in sports, share her story!

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