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Portland woman finishes 25-mile marathon swim down the Willamette River

Angie Williamson dedicated the 14-hour marathon swim Saturday to promote safe and clean river access for all Portlanders.

PORTLAND, Ore. — On Saturday evening, Angie Williamson finished a marathon swim on the Willamette River that was more than a year in the making.

Williamson swam 25 miles in the Willamette River, an effort that took about 14 hours.

She got into the water at 5:30 a.m. at Clackamette Park, where the Willamette and Clackamas rivers meet. She swam north, finally finishing a little after 7 p.m. at Kelley Point, the confluence of the Willamette and the Columbia rivers.

She's swum the route once before, but this time, she partnered with three nonprofits that embrace the Willamette: the Human Access Project, Black Swimming Initiative and Willamette Riverkeeper

And this time, she did it by the book, using Marathon Swimmers Federation guidelines.

"it was a good day all around," Williamson told KGW right after she finished. "I had an amazing crew of friends all around me making sure I had enough to eat and didn't get run over by boats, so that's a plus."

Her goal was to promote safe and clean river access for all Portlanders. 

"It takes a village to nurture safe swimmers, a clean river and public access to that river. That's why she's dedicating her swim to a trio of nonprofits that work on those causes," said a news release promoting the effort.

"I like a challenge, but I also love the Willamette," she said. "It's an incredible river in that it runs through so many communities."

Williamson trained all winter for this moment, swimming up to 40,000 yards a week to prepare.

She completed a trial run of the swim in summer 2021. She describes the trial on her blog as her first ever marathon swim. 

But that time, she used a safety buoy and she swam parts of the route with groups. Those disqualify a swim as a "marathon" under the rules of the Marathon Swimming Federation.

This year, she completed the challenge by the book. She had observers and the whole swim was documented.

This way, the swim counts as a qualifying swim for other high-profile ultramarathon swims she could attempt in the future, such as crossing the English Channel.

She also raised money and awareness, with donors encouraged to visit and donate to Lowe Willamette Swim's website.

The three organizations she promoted are all close to her heart. 

Williamson has volunteered at Black Swimming Initiative swim clinics since 2020 and serves as the group’s outreach and development coordinator. The organization supports water safety and swim classes for Black athletes of all backgrounds, abilities and lifestyles.

Human Access Project is a grassroots advocacy group dedicated to helping people recreate on the Willamette. Williamson first swam with their River Huggers swim group in 2017.

Last but not least, Willamette Riverkeeper does work to protect and restore the river she loves.

Williamson said she goes to a "special place" when she does a marathon swim.

In the end, a tired Williamson arrived at a special place too, greeted by friends and even some strangers spending a day in Kelley Point Park.

For her, it was mission accomplished.

"It was a great day," she said. "I don't think you could ask for more in your backyard."

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