Marcella MacDonald (USA)
2019 Honor Open Water Swimmer
FOR THE RECORD: 16 ENGLISH CHANNEL CROSSINGS INCLUDING 3 DOUBLE CROSSINGS, LOCH NESS (36 km/22 miles), AROUND THE ISLAND OF JERSEY UK (66 km/41 miles), EDERLE SWIM (28 km/17.5 miles), Three times across LONG ISLAND SOUND (27 km/17 miles), 5 times around MANHATTAN ISLAND (46 km/28.5 miles), MOLOKAI CHANNEL (42 km/26 miles), TAMPA BAY (24 miles), 3 times BOSTON HARBOR (10 miles), MAUI CHANNEL (10 miles), MERCER ISLAND, WA (20 km/12.4 miles) and the TRIPLE CROWN.
When she was just 12-years-old, she knew open water swimming was her passion, and she told her younger sister that she would swim the English Channel one day.
In high school, Marcella MacDonald swam competitively until she was 17, and went to American International College as a softball player. While in college, she would sneak into the nearby Springfield College pool during her free time to swim.
In 1993, MacDonald first heard of an opportunity to swim around the island of Manhattan and has since completed the 28.5-mile swim five times.
In 1994, Marcella MacDonald made her childhood dream come true, at the age of 28. Since then, she has swum the English Channel 16 times, including three times when she did a double cross, swimming there and back. MacDonald was the first American woman to swim across the Channel, from England to France and back in 2001.
At 18.2 nautical miles, the English Channel is considered by many to be the “Mount Everest” of open water swims. Only 1500 men and women have successfully swam the English Channel and many, many more have tried. The trek generally starts at the White Cliffs of Dover at Shakespeare Beach and ends on the shore of Cape Gris Nez. By many accounts, it is the most difficult swim to finish. It’s a very cold, 20-mile swim in water that is much saltier, and the changing tides approaching the French shore can force swimmers to basically swim in place for up to four hours.
The English Channel and the Manhattan Island Marathon swim are a part of the Triple Crown of open water swimming, which also features the Catalina Channel Swim, a 20.1-mile swim from Catalina Island to the shores of San Pedro, California. MacDonald completed the triple crown in June, 2013 when she swam the Catalina Channel in 12 hours and 9 minutes.
MacDonald has also successfully completed the 24-mile Tampa Bay, Florida Marathon Swim, a solo swim around Mercer Island in Washington, and a 17-mile swim across the Long Island Sound in New York.
She has successfully crossed the Ka ’iwi Channel and Maui Channel in Hawaii and has also completed the 41-mile Round Jersey solo swim in the United Kingdom. MacDonald also swam the Lochness, a 22 mile swim.
This past September, MacDonald even attempted the 52-mile swim from the UK to Belgium in St. Margaret’s Bay, something no man or woman has ever completed. After 15 hours, an injury to her left shoulder forced her to stop at a beach north of France.
In addition to her open water swimming accomplishments, Dr. Marcella MacDonald is a Podiatrist who operates her own practice in Manchester, Connecticut. In her spare time, she enjoys coaching at the Laurel East Hartford YMCA and gives talks about her exciting adventures and open water swims.
MacDonald has already been inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named the Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year in 2011 by the World Open Water Swimming Association.
MacDonald still finds the time to train to ensure she is ready for the next big swim. She is usually in the water training every day at 5:30 a.m. This July, she is set to swim the English Channel again, on the 25th anniversary of her first crossing. The way she puts it, “it’s just right stroke, left stroke, right stroke, left stroke — for hours on end.”