The first and last two hours of the swim are the hardest, according to Edie Markovich. Other than those, there are another eight hours of near-constant movement. “Low-key,” she calls it.
The “low-key” event, “Outswimming Hunger,” features the 15-year-old college student swimming 25 miles at the Verdugo Aquatic Facility today, from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. In the first charity-related swim event she’s held, Markovich is asking people to bring non-perishable, packaged food to the pool deck; donations will later be sent to the Burbank Temporary Aid Center.
She’s also accepting monetary donations online, which will be relayed to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Some donors will also swim in a lane near Edie as she makes her laps.
“During the pandemic, I’ve definitely seen an increase in food insecurity throughout [the] local community and the greater Los Angeles area,” Markovich said. “I do these marathon swims a lot of the time for personal achievement [and] personal challenge, and I wanted this time to be different and I wanted to do it for a greater cause.”
Markovich, a sophomore philosophy major at Cal State Los Angeles, said she started swimming when she was six months old. Though she’s the only dedicated swimmer in her family, she spent much of her time at the beach. She eventually started training with the L.A. Tri Club — which is sponsoring her event today — and had her first marathon swim last August.
That swim, which had her cross the Santa Barbara Channel, was more than 12 miles long. Though she describes it as “absolutely, insanely difficult,” it was quickly eclipsed in September when she circumnavigated Manhattan Island in New York, an aquatic journey of roughly 28.5 miles.
But while this is far from Markovich’s first time distance swimming, today’s event will mark her longest in a pool, which has its own challenges. While pool water is significantly warmer than ocean water, it can be difficult to be in chlorine for an extended period of time.
And as a distance swimmer, Markovich said she needs to be able to keep her mind off how much of the swim she has remaining, which can be challenging in the environment of a pool.
“When you’re in the ocean, it’s really an adventure more so than a swim challenge,” she explained. “The depth is thinking of being eaten alive by sharks, it’s thinking about not getting hypothermia — and so it’s really different in the pool, because I have to resort to other aspects of my life to think about when I’m swimming.”
Markovich said she wants to emulate open water conditions as much as possible, meaning that when she takes breaks, they’ll only be for about half a minute for a drink of water or a bite of a granola bar — and she’ll be treading water as she does so. Her preparation today started at 3 a.m., when she woke up to eat breakfast and stretch.
But she was upbeat this week. On Sunday, she trained for six hours. The practice went very well, she said, and served as a major confidence-booster.
“I’m not nervous at all. I’m actually super excited,” she added.
The teen explained she chose to swim today at the Verdugo Aquatic Facility because she trained at the pool for her other long-distance events. Now, she’s returning for her latest one.
Barbara Howell, the CEO of BTAC, praised Markovich’s creativity and efforts to raise awareness about food insecurity. About 45 new households come to get groceries from the food pantry every month, she added.
“A lot of people don’t think about this,” Howell said. “We’ve had a lot of people that suddenly had it on their radar over the last year, because with the furloughs and the layoffs … they are having to search out resources.”
Markovich said she was thankful to the city of Burbank and the L.A. Tri Club for supporting her swim. But despite her excitement and confidence for today’s event, she also acknowledged she’s bearing a responsibility.
“[There’s] definitely a lot more weight on my shoulders to make the swim,” she said.
To donate to “Outswimming Hunger,” visit events.com/r/en_US/event/edie-markovich-25-mile-swim-fundraiser-burbank-march-801796.