Member Spotlight: Dr. Mark Smitherman
Dr. Mark Smitherman is ahead of his time. A doctor of internal medicine for Morton Plant Mease, Dr. Smitherman is a long-time open water swimmer. This sport is growing in popularity and will be featured at the 2012 Olympic Games. Participants gather in outdoor bodies of water – oceans, lakes, rivers – and battle the elements in exciting and unpredictable races.
Dr. Mark Smitherman (left) and long-time friend and
Dr. Smitherman first jumped in the water at the Clearwater YMCA at age 7. He’s been swimming ever since. He swam on competitive swim teams through high school and continued during med school on a Masters Swim Team with 20 fellow swimmers.
One of those swimmers was long-time friend John Connelly, a YMCA of the Suncoast Board Member. Both gentlemen challenged each other in the pool and decided to expand their skills by training for their first open water event, St. Petersburg’s Hurricane Man.
The Hurricane Man was a 2.4 mile open water swim in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the beginning of Dr. Smitherman’s journey. He set his goals higher and completed a 3.1 mile swim in Sarasota, working his way up to the annual Swim Around Key West race, a 12.5 mile swim around the island.
This past April, Dr. Smitherman tackled his longest distance yet. He raced in the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, a 24-mile swim from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the Courtney Campbell Causeway – a distance two miles longer than the English Channel! Stormy conditions on race day required swimmers to end the race at mile 19, but Dr. Smitherman still plans to move forward with more miles in the water. In the coming months, he’ll train for his next event and continuing to swim at the Y.
“The Y is a great organization that is needed in the community to keep values up and provide direction and solid principles,” said Smitherman. “To me, swimming at the Y is something fun and relaxing to do when my work can be so nonphysical; it’s a great balance to each day. It’s worth it!”
Inspired by Dr. Smitherman’s story? Join us at one of our branch locations for open swim or swimming lessons. And be sure to tune into open water swimming and many other sports during the London 2012 Olympic Games, beginning July 27, 2012.