Wednesday, March 11, 2020

In honor of #InternationalWomansDay, we’d like to recognize Marilyn Bell. Back in 1954, she was the first woman to finish the course around Absecon Island, NJ, that today’s Around the Island Swim is based on. Bell, a Canadian distance swimmer who also went on to swim across Lake Ontario and the English Channel, will be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame this April.

From all of us at the 2nd Annual Jim Whelan Open Water Festival, featuring the 55th Around the Island Swim, CONGRATULATIONS MARILYN!!!

Interested in being a part of the legacy of this event on Aug 9? Participant spots are still available (both individual & relay team), as well as sponsorship opportunities. Visit to learn more!

From Marilyn: Heartfelt thanks to all associated with the Jim Whelan Open Water Festival & 55th Around the Island Swim.

My memories of the 1954 Inaugural Swim are very special for me. It was my first marathon and no one expected a woman to finish, especially this 112 pound kid who was afraid of fish.

Shortly before the start I was told by several of my burly male competitors that I looked like a mascot! However, it was the voice of Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel and the Official Starter of the race that gave me courage that morning. Her message to me was, “No one believed that a woman could swim the English Channel but I did. Now you Marilyn will swim around this island and then you, too, will swim the English Channel!”

Each time I passed a male swimmer Gertrude’s voice gave me a smile and the motivation to continue. That day I swam on the shoulders of a giant and when I reached Steel Pier only six men were ahead of me.
I’ve shared this story with countless swimmers whom I’ve mentored over the years. And I know it’s a story that can be told about our friend Jim Whelan who spent his entire life mentoring kids and adults in and out of the water.

As I am inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame I will be remembering and sharing this honor with my Coach Gus Ryder, Winnie Roach Leuszler, First Canadian to swim the English Channel, Gertrude Ederle and all those who inspired and mentored me along the way.

Dream it! Do it! One stroke at a time!

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