Mary Margaret Revell-GoodwinAthlete
Raised in Shafter and a 1955 graduate of Garces Memorial High School, where she was valedictorian. She overcame contracting polio and valley fever as a child to forge a sports career in swimming major bodies of water and running ultra-distances throughout the world.
Her first major successful swim was crossing the 16-mile Mackinac Straits in Michigan as the bridge across the Straits was being built.
From there she went immediately to the Straits of Gibraltar. To prepare for that she swam the Bay of Algeciras. During her swim of the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain to Morocco she met a pod of whales, a huge rowboat-sized turtle.
Revell-Goodwin followed that by heading for Istanbul where she did four major swims in Turkey. One of the biggest obstacles she faced in Turkey was seeing first-hand the problems women face in a culture where women do not show themselves in public, especially in shorts or swim suits.
Her biggest goal was swimming the Straits of Messina, the body of water between Sicily and boot of Italy. This was the first time a woman had even attempted not only to swim from Sicily to Italy but also swim back to Sicily. The swim was broadcast by radio to all of Italy and hundreds of Sicilians mobbed the street and the beach to greet her return.
Revell-Goodwin went on to do other swims. Of note was swimming the Sea of Galilee, a dangerous swim because Syria occupied the Golan Heights above the sea. The swim was held at night so the activity did not draw gunfire. She was the first woman and first American to do this swim.
She returned to the U.S. and went to work for the U.S. Navy to help with environmental and ocean policy matters where she remained for 13 years. During that time she returned to Bakersfield to see her parents and ran a 10K race she described as too short. At 45 she retired from the Pentagon and decided super runs were in her future.
Three years later she was the first woman and first American to run all of Japan from north to south, 2,000 miles that took 62 days.
After completing the Japan run, Revell-Goodwin wanted to become the first woman to run “in the shadow of the 14 highest mountains of the Himalayas.” Only two British men had done this.
Accompanied by her dog, a German Shorthair Pointer named Velia, she completed the run in four months, running anything from a 10-K to a marathon or more each day. She and Velia had to overcome weather that ranged from blistering heat to below freezing cold.