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Retired Maine nurse becomes oldest woman to swim Sea of Galilee

In April, at 71 years old, Pat Gallant-Charette became the oldest woman to swim the Sea of Galilee.

WESTBROOK, Maine — At 71 years of age, retired Maine nurse Pat Gallant-Charette of Westbrook continues breaking records and defying the odds. 

Gallant-Charette just returned from another record-breaking swim in Israel, where she became the oldest female to swim the length of the Sea of Galilee. 

Most days, people can find Gallant-Charette at the Wesbrook Community Center, where she spends nearly two hours swimming laps, preparing for whatever marathon swim is next on her list. 

Currently, Gallant-Charette is preparing for the Stillwater 8: Eight challenging lake swims. Despite an Oprah article featuring Gallant-Charette hanging on the wall outside the community center pool and one swimmer taking time to congratulate her, one would never know she is a six-time Guinness World Record holder, mostly because she is so tethered to Earth. 

"I'm out for these swims to have fun and to show that as we age, we don't have to really slow down, that if you enjoy something, go for it," Gallant-Charette said with a smile. 

On April 26, Gallant-Charette swam 13 miles lengthwise across the Sea of Galilee in 8 hours and 22 minutes. Her son Tom Charette acted as her support crew as he has been on several of her marathon swims, fitting because he was the one who encouraged his mother to get in the water in the first place. 

When Gallant-Charette was in her 40s, she didn't consider herself an athlete. But after swimming the Peaks to Portland one time, that all changed. 

"I just fell in love with the sport of open water swimming," Gallant-Charette said. 

One of her secrets for marathon swimming comes right from her backyard. Early in her marathon swimming career, Gallant-Charette found that popular powders and gels marketed for athletes made her sick. That is when this born and bred Mainer started experimenting with maple syrup.  

"I found that, for me, maple syrup mixed with Poland Spring water is ideal nourishment during my marathon swims because the syrup itself is very rich, it's organic, but it gives me the calories and energy I need," Gallant-Charette explained.

Her love of marathon swimming has taken her worldwide and earned her more than a dozen record-breaking honors. 

In 2019, she was the first Mainer to be inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. Despite the accolades and honors, the real reason she continues swimming is the joy she finds in each stroke. 

"I believe if people will just get out there and try something new in life that they may find, it's going to bring them down a road they never expected. And for me, the road was marathon swimming," she said. 

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