Marathon Swimmer Kathleen Wilson Survives Life's Storms

Marathon Swimmer Kathleen Wilson Survives Life’s Storms

Few – if any in America – have combined elective office with a professional music career and a sensational marathon swimming career.

But Kathleen Wilson was one of the few individuals – if not the only individual – who make this diverse trio of activities work well.

Sitting in an orchestra and playing beautiful repertoire can be glorious, but it’s a very narrow, constricted world. I saw myself losing my ability to think, to problem solve and being mired in the antics of the orchestra. I was too different: a conservatory-trained harpist with the mentality of a linebacker who dared to run for public office while swimming marathons.

One doesn’t equate a harpist with a linebacker or politician, but Wilson was indeed spun from a different cloth.

I jumped from the fire to the frying pan by entering politics. While I’m still the go-to harpist in Charleston, I was elected to my third term as a councilmember this past November. I enjoy the work tremendously. It is a privilege to have a direct hand in the future of this city. I have wonderful colleagues, an incredible mayor and we have great conversations, debates and collaborations with the issues before us. They don’t understand much about marathon swimming, but have tremendous respect for what I do. I’m also in an excellent position to work on the quality of aquatics in this area, specifically within the city of Charleston.

Between the hazards of the performing arts and taking heat as an elected official, I have no fear of the open ocean or anything in it and could write a dissertation on goal-setting and surviving life’s storms while raising a family

Her dissertation would be founded in a deep love of the open water and her obstacles are about as dynamic as the currents she faces while crossing channels. “The creation of the Swim Around Charleston have led to its becoming a non-profit with a most interesting mission.

Fear of the water is an extremely common problem with adults. In many cases, it is flat-out terror, having impacted someone for a lifetime and caused undue anxiety and inhibition

So Wilson combined her interest in the Swim Around Charleston with her love of swimming and the needs of her local community.

I have often said that this population is not under-served; they are not served at all. After the debacle with the symphony, I took an extensive course from the Miracle Swimming Institute in Sarasota, Florida and learned its incredible system of teaching adults with this fear, for whom traditional lessons do not work. We have begun teaching this system already in Charleston through SwimCalm, the Charleston affiliate of Miracle Swimming.

Although the SAC has a mission to serve aquatic interests in general, the bulk of its proceeds will assist in reducing tuition for the SwimCalm course for residents of our tri-county area so more people can participate. It is the perfect juxtaposition of the strongest swimmers helping the most vulnerable, those who have never experienced the joy of the water and what it has to offer. My hope is to one day attract and assist athletes, the land variety and both amateur and professional in overcoming fear of the water. Once again, this is all another first for South Carolina; we’re breaking new ground

Wilson is not only breaking new ground, but also planting seeds that will bear fruit for generations to come.

The water has been my stabilizer during the most difficult periods of my life. I have watched open water swimming grow and change, I’m not a swimmer who is out there to jam a bunch of swims in within a few years. But I have chosen to take my time over years, be consistent, enjoy the journey, break new ground in the water, create the Swim Around Charleston, create SwimCalm, spread this teaching, and truly make this a lifetime body of work. I know what I’m doing out there, yet I have never had the luxury of a sponsor, so I have had to work hard, sacrifice and be resourceful to plan swims and achieve results. It’s been worth it.”

For more information Wilson’s creation or visiting Charleston, visit,, and

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Steven Munatones