College of Charleston Staffer Completes 40-Mile Swim Challenge

Faculty Staff News

Sara Stevenson '13 (M.P.A.) takes the plunge into a four-day, 40-mile open-water swimming adventure in Arizona.

Imagine going for a swim. Not a leisurely plunge in a community swimming pool, but a 9.5-mile swim in an open lake. The next day, you decide to swim 9 more miles in another lake. After completing a 17-mile open swim on the third day, you finish off your four-day swimming adventure with a light 6.2-mile night swim in a fourth lake. 

Sara Stevenson ’13 (M.P.A.) doesn’t have to imagine. This is her world.

Stevenson, a research protections and compliance officer in the College’s Office of Research and Grants Administration, recently completed the four-day, 40-mile open-water S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge in Arizona. The event consists of swimming across four lakes (Saguaro, Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt lakes) and is considered one of the most difficult multiday swims in the world.

Sara Stevenson and Brian Lanahan
Sara Stevenson and swim buddy Brian Lanahan

Stevenson was able to experience the course a few years ago when her swimming partner Brian Lanahan, associate professor of teacher education, participated in the S.C.A.R. challenge as a competitor and she was a member of his support staff. After that experience, she vowed to compete in the event as a swimmer one day.

“I really wanted to go back and set my sights on building myself up to do that race,” says Stevenson. So, they switched things up this year. This time around, Stevenson was a competitor in the water and Lanahan was supporting her from a nearby kayak.

RELATED: Read more about Lanahan and Stevenson’s swimming partnership.

In the end, she was one of 55 racers to finish the 40-mile open swim. Her finishing time was 20 hours, 20 minutes and 46 seconds.

Despite the cold water, windy conditions and exhausting days, she was able to enjoy the moment. 

“Being out in Arizona was kind of cool,” she remembers. “There were canyons and cacti all around. In a way, they kind of look like a cheering section.”

Stevenson is not sure what her next big challenge will be, but it will be one that she will enjoy.

“I do this because I love it and because I find a lot of joy in it,” she says. “I do it because this water is beautiful, the scenery is gorgeous and the people around me are supportive.”

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