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by Linda Shoenberger

November 1, 2008

GO THE DISTANCE (GTD) is turning 2 in January and it has proven to be a very popular personal fitness event. The credit goes to the 600+ swimmers currently participating and a lovely lady named Mary Sweat.

Mary single-handedly personalized this fitness event with her proficiency and charming personality. If you meet her in person you will be tickled pink by her infectious laugh. Over the last 2 years she developed detailed tracking charts and designed awards that fly off the shelves when people reach their goals. And yes, she does personally print and mail certificates of achievement to each individual.

Evidently the beauty of this event is that anyone of any age, fitness level and speed enjoys it! The milestones are 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 365.25 (average mile a day), 400, 750, 1000, 1250 and 1500 miles.

Current awards are a GTD certificate with Distance Milestone Achieved, swim caps, logo patches, distance patches, shirts, coffee mugs and stickers. Since the event has taken off, members of the fitness committee are working on more designs for the awards and an expanded selection of apparel colors for the online store at

All this is, of course, is inspired by the enthusiasm of the participants and the backing of United States Masters Swimming. As of January 1st, 2009, GTD 2009 will have online tracking where participants can log into their My USMS page (members only section) and log their workouts, distance, etc. as opposed to submitting an email at the end of each month to Mary. Entry for GTD is free. Participants purchase whatever goodies they desire.

Mary says the best part of GTD is the personal stories she gets from participants: “Last year we had some GTD Xtreme Swimmers. Many folks asked me about them – do they work? Do they have families? How do they swim that much? So…I decided to ask! A new feature ‘GTD Highlights’ was then created in March ’07 as a way to share stories from our participants because inquiring minds wanted to know.”

“Another time, a participant ordered his awards for achieving 100 miles. He added in a note, ‘you will never know how proud I am.’ I responded with a congratulatory note and then promptly received a response from him saying, ‘Mary at the end of my GTD, I will tell you something about me I hope will inspire others.’ Well, of course, I wasn’t going to wait until the end of the year to find out! So I sent another note begging him to tell me his story! Oh my! He shared his story in his next note. He said he is an above-the-knee-amputee. So that was one of the reasons he was so proud of his accomplishment. His story took my breath away.”

“Another example,” she continues, “is the MAD CAP (Mile a Day) distance milestone of 365.25 miles. Not only was the concept suggested by one of our participants, he even designed the swim cap!” (Believe me the exclamation points are necessary. This is how enthusiastic Mary is!!!!!)

So as you can see, this event continues to expand with ideas generated by the participants and members of the Fitness Committee. And we hope you’ll join us in this wonderful event as it grows and evolves. Visit us on the USMS website under the heading Health & Fitness in the upper bar and click on Fitness Events. If you have any questions please email me at or Mary at