The importance of having a friend and a goal

Bill Leonard, Bronson Athletic Club Member

Last September, a good friend of mine that swims with the Kalamazoo Masters Swimmers asked me if I was interested in the Mighty Mac Swim (MMS) in August of 2019. I have been a member for years at the Bronson Athletic Club (BAC), and had been swimming off and on, with no real overall goal. After looking into the MMS, which was described as “… an epic 4-mile swim across the beautiful Straits of Mackinac,” I decided to make this a bucket list goal, and it eventually changed my life.

With accommodating hours and no swim time limit at the athletic club’s pool, my swimming went from a couple miles a week to over 7 miles. My laps changed from short distances to long distance freestyle. As the race approached, I even did some lake swimming at the South Haven beach. Through my training, I even lost 16 pounds! The BAC community is very courteous, and other swimmers would ask me about the race and offer encouraging words throughout my training.

On August 11 at 5 a.m., 350 swimmers boarded a ferryboat in St. Ignace and were anchored 400 yards off Mackinac City Beach.  When the race began, we jumped off the boat and swam to shore to cross the starting line and began the 4+ mile swim north along the east side of the bridge.  At the start of the race, the temperature was 69 degrees with very little current. However, that quickly changed as we began fighting 2 ft. waves with whitecaps, colder water temperatures and significant current moving from Lake Michigan toward Lake Huron. The current made it very difficult to swim in a straight line and 40 swimmers had to be rescued by the Coast Guard or volunteer boats.

Thanks to my good friend and training at the BAC, I finished the Mighty Mac Swim. With a sense of accomplishment, I stumbled out of the water where I was greeted by my family and my friend. As crazy as it sounds, I am waiting anxiously to enter the race again in 2020. So much for checking MMS off my bucket list!