1997: Swim around Key West, Fla., 12.5 miles.
1999: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, New York, 28.5 miles.
2001: English Channel, England/France, 21 miles.
2003: Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, Florida, 24 miles.
2004: Catalina Island to Long Beach, Calif., 22 miles.
2005: Lake Zurich Marathon Swim, Switzerland, 17 miles.
2006: St. Vincent's Swim Across the Sound, New York, 15 miles.
2007: Santa Barbara (Calif.) Channel Swim, 20 miles.
2008: Strait of Gibraltar, Spain to Morocco, 11.2 miles.
2010: Charleston peninsula, I-526 bridge to bridge, 16.25 miles.
2011: Lake Memphremagog, Vermont, 10 miles.
2012: Molokai Channel, Hawaii, 26 miles.
2013: Cook Strait, New Zealand, 17 miles (she did not finish).
Charleston's most accomplished marathon swimmer Kathleen Wilson heads to her big swim of the year - of all places, North Dakota and Minnesota - on Saturday.
The Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test, aka END-WET, is a down-river swim ultra-marathon on the mighty Red River from rural North Dakota into East Grand Forks, Minn.
Since 1997, Wilson has participated in 13 marathon swims, including the English Channel, the Strait of Gibraltar and Hawaii's Molokai Channel. She completed all but her last, the 17-mile Cook Strait in New Zealand, in March 2013, when she was stopped because of symptoms of hypothermia.
Despite the fact the Red River swim will go with the flow, it will be challenging because of the distance, 36 miles, her longest attempt ever. Her longest swim, to date, was Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, in New York, which was 28.5 miles.
"The Red River swim is one put together by a couple of adventure enthusiasts from the Grand Forks area," says the 50-year-old Wilson, who also is a Charleston City Councilwoman representing James Island.
"This is the third year for the Red River swim and the previous distance was 27 miles. With no particular reason, they bumped it to 36 miles. Oh well, what's the equivalent to another marathon or so? "
It will definitely a different challenge for Wilson. Earlier this week, Wilson says officials were thinking of canceling the event due to conditions caused by heavy downpours.
"The river is rolling and obviously the concern is that a swimmer could be swept away n a troublesome spot, regardless of swimming ability," says Wilson, noting other dangers from debris in the water and stormwater runoff pollution from roads and farms.
As a precaution, officials are requiring swimmers to wear safety devices, essentially a bright orange flotation device on a leash attached to an ankle.
Knowing the chilly temperatures of the river and coming off of the bitter experience of not finishing her last week, New Zealand's Cook Strait, Wilson has been doing what many athletes in other sports don't: fattening up.
"I feel horrible with this extra weight right now but am glad that I took it seriously and gained it," says Wilson, noting that she was about to eat another Dove ice cream bar.
"The water temperature was 64 this morning (on Wednesday). While that is close to English Channel/Cook Strait degrees, fresh water always feels colder than salt at the same temperatures so it would feel even colder to me. "
The swim starts at 9 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) on Saturday. She expects the swim will take her nine hours.
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.
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