- Human Interest
Meet GTD Swimmer Katherine Clarke
by Suzi Green
Katherine Clarke, 68, swims with the Gulf Coast Pirate Swimmers in Pensacola, Fla. She’s lived there for 20 years, but she and her retired airline pilot husband of 47 years are originally from Louisiana. Though she has a degree in medical technology, she was fortunate enough to be able to stay home and raise their five children. Most of them are scattered around the country, but one daughter and grandson live at home and another daughter and granddaughter are close by. She’s happy to be able to spend time with all of them—they love being close to the water and the beautiful white sand beaches.
When they moved to Pensacola, Clarke could barely float. Her husband wanted to become a SCUBA diver, and not wanting to be left on the dock, she thought she should learn how to swim. She had a friend who swam at the local junior college, and she was invited to join. Eventually, both Clarke and her husband became certified divers. Her husband confessed that the real reason he wanted to learn to dive was so that he could clean the bottom of their sailboat.
When not swimming, diving, enjoying white sand beaches, or spending time with the family, Katherine enjoys traveling with church groups on mission trips. Recent trips include Monterrey, Mexico and Costa Rica. On both trips, she was able to use her medical skills she learned long ago. She feels blessed to be able to do all this, and credits swimming with keeping her healthy and active.
Katherine swims for fun and fitness. She’s in the pool three or four times a week, for about an hour or more. After a couple of shoulder surgeries, she stays away from butterfly. Her coached workouts are generally about 2600–3000 yards. She swims with the, who practice at Pensacola State College. Their group is actually enrolled in a continuing education class called Aerobic Swimming. One of her first competitions was at Spring Nationals in Hawaii. Her husband went with her, and they mostly went for the destination. There were about nine from the team who went. Because there are not generally a lot of swimmers in her age group, she generally places well and earns lots of points for her team. Sometimes she has been the high point winner for her age group!
Although she lives near the water, Katherine is not a big fan of open water swimming. She has tried a few, but has since sworn off them. She was stopped a couple of times by course monitors for going the wrong way, and she doesn’t particularly care for sharing her swimming space with jellyfish.
Katherine heard about GTD from teammates. They have a chart at the pool where they post their distances. Not all swimmers participate in GTD, but they do keep track of yardage. She was hoping to swim 240 miles this year, but knee surgery will probably keep her from reaching that goal.
Katherine thoroughly enjoys the camaraderie that the team offers. Not only is it a great exercise, (What other sport can you do with bum knees?) but the team enjoys breakfast together every Friday morning. They travel to Auburn every February for a meet, and characterize themselves as “Revelers with a swimming problem”. Their motto is “The last one alive wins”.