LWV League of Women Voters of California
Contra Costa County, CA November 7, 2000 Election
Smart Voter Full Biography for Diddo Ruth Clark

Candidate for
Governing Board Member; Contra Costa Community College District; Trustee Area 2

This information is provided by the candidate

Facing Issues - a Parable for the Pursuit of Excellence

I have a dark water phobia. The biggest fear I've ever had is dark water, but the biggest compulsion I've ever had is to face that fear ... so I became a marathon swimmer. I was ALWAYS afraid of getting into dark water. I was always afraid when I was IN dark water. I ALWAYS wanted my boat to come closer. I ALWAYS felt high after finishing a marathon swim because I had done the most difficult thing I could imagine.

In 1982, when I was 32, I entered the first annual swimming race around Manhattan Island. I gasped with revulsion and chill as I slipped into the black and yucky water. Even wearing goggles, I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I was terrified. My fear filled me with adrenaline. THAT'S one of the things that kept me going for 9.5 hours - for what Sports Illustrated reported to be 31.3 miles. Years later, at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, I saw a movie about the first Manhattan race. There was token coverage of the FIRST male and female finishers. More of the movie focused on me. I was the LAST finisher in the first Manhattan race, but I was the one who was totally happy to have swum all the way around Manhattan Island.

I felt so good about that first Manhattan race, I trained hard for the second one. In 1983, 9 of us veterans from the first Manhattan race competed in the second race. I was the FIRST veteran to finish; the ONLY veteran to improve; and I improved by 44 minutes.

Inspired by the results of the second Manhattan race, I trained even harder, swam around Manhattan a third time, improved my time by almost 2 hours over my second Manhattan swim, and broke the women's record with a time of 6 hours, 52 minutes, and 15 seconds. I am the MOST IMPROVED Manhattan swimmer of all time. Shortly thereafter, U.S.Swimming sent me a National Record certificate and that's how I learned that the Manhattan-Around-the-Island-Swim is an official national record event.

I competed on the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation circuit and set local records for swimming Bridge-to-Bridge (from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge), the Pt. Bonita Swim (10 k in S.F.Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge mid-way, from the tip of the Marin Headlands to San Francisco's Aquatic Park), and Alcatraz (4 swims in one day from Alcatraz to San Francisco).

Messages. I've given talks to service clubs and schools on "Marathon Swimming as a Parable for the Pursuit of Excellence." My message is that marathon swimming itself is not important, but some of the lessons in it are. Marathon swimming is much more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. The biggest factors in my completion of the first Manhattan race were my belief that I could do it and my determination based on that belief. It's mind over matter and the power of positive thinking. I NEVER overcame my fear of dark water - but I embraced it; I learned to harness my fear; and I used it as fuel. For me, marathon swimming represents: perseverance, finding power in my weakness, and - most of all - addressing issues.

copyright Diddo Clark 2000

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