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Forty hours of non-stop swimming for Parkinson’s

On 26 July 2016, Adam Ellenstein staggered out of the water at SS Sicamous Heritage Park a little more than an hour before midnight. He had been swimming for 40 hours and 47 minutes, during which time he covered the entire 105km length of Okanagan Lake in Penticton, Canada.

The swim, which was wetsuit assisted, is currently under consideration for a Guinness World Record, but that wasn’t the main motivation behind the swim. Ellenstein is using the swim to raise awareness and funds for research into Parkinson’s disease.

“During the most challenging moments, my admiration for my aunt, Susan Scarlett, and her commitment to live well with Parkinson’s, was the motivation to continue,” says Ellenstein. “Each stroke was a demonstration of my love and support of Susan.”

Ellenstein, who is 39 and currently lives in Michigan, came up with the idea of VictorySwim105 to raise awareness and support to benefit those with Parkinson’s disease through a partnership with the Davis Phinney Foundation. Scarlett was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease last autumn.

Though weather conditions were pretty ideal throughout his nearly two-day swim, Ellenstein battled colder-than-anticipated water temperature (between 16 and 21 degrees) and growing fatigue in his left shoulder, according to Adam’s wife and crew chief Amelia Ellenstein.

“We had estimated that Adam would take approximately 60,000 strokes during the swim,” she said. “His left shoulder, in particular, suffered from extreme use, causing him significant pain. To manage this pain, he swam with one arm for the last 13 hours of the swim.”

Scarlett, who swam for a time with Adam on Monday, said the Davis Phinney Foundation’s two defining themes resonated with her and her nephew.

“They are ‘Live Well Today,’ and ‘Every Victory Counts,’” she says. “When you have Parkinson’s, simple activities that one takes for granted, like putting on socks or picking up a cup of coffee, can be real challenges. The Foundation encourages those of us with Parkinson’s to recognize our daily ‘Moments of Victory,’ and celebrate all that we can accomplish.”

Canadian author and open water swimmer Patricia Filteau says the swim is also a tribute to the Okanagan First Nations peoples of Canada who allowed this passage through the waterways of the ancestral and modern day Syilx speaking People.

Find out more

Image © Chip Scarlett

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.