Meet Pat Gallant-Charette, 61-Year-Old Marathon Swimmer

How does one go from being terrified of water to a marathon open-ocean swimming champion? According to Pat Gallant-Charette’s life, it takes a very sad event, lots of endurance-building, and not letting anything stop you from continuing to try.

Gallant-Charette has only been a serious competitive swimmer for the past 10 years. But her swims now include the English Channel, Loch Ness, and the Strait of Gibraltar. She is participating in the “Oceans Seven” challenge, which takes swimmers to seven of the world’s most difficult swims. A native of Maine, Gallant-Charette’s first swim was the Peaks to Portland challenge, which her brother Robby had participated in and won twice.

After Robby died unexpectedly, Gallant-Charette, a nurse, reevaluated her life. She decided to make some changes. In memory of her brother, she decided to give the Peaks to Portland swim a try. It took her over a year to qualify. Her first day of training at a local pool, she had to ask the lifeguard to keep an eye on her because she wasn’t even sure she could swim two pool lengths. But she continued to train and over the next year was able to build up her endurance to make the 2.4-mile open-ocean swim.

After Robby died unexpectedly, Gallant-Charette, a nurse, reevaluated her life. She decided to make some changes.

What makes that even more amazing is that from the age of 13, Gallant-Charette had been terrified of being in water. While swimming in the ocean, she was bumped by what she thought was a shark. For the next several decades of her life, she refused to get in water above her knees.

Now, as she has participated in the various Oceans Seven swims, she has braved jellyfish and other ocean creatures, debilitating currents, and dangerous wave conditions. But she continues to swim for the joy of the sport. When asked why she does it, she simply said,

I just love open-water swimming.

Gallant-Charette never planned on becoming a marathon swimmer. She said, “It just happened.” After that first Peaks to Portland swim, she caught the bug and never looked back. Though there have been moments when she has not been able to finish a swim due to dangerous weather conditions, she continues to search for challenging marathon swims. She holds the distinction of being the oldest woman to swim the English Channel and the third-fastest woman to do the Strait of Gibraltar.

Pat Gallant-Charette doesn’t have any plans to retire anytime soon. She recently mentioned,

I want to see what a 68-year-old can do , and then what a 70-year-old can do. I can see myself doing this into my 80s.

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