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Delmont man tackles chilly North Channel for grueling swim

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 2:03 p.m.
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With successful completion of a 21-mile swim in the 54-degree North Channel on Thursday, Aug. 29, Darren Miller became the first person to complete each of the seven swims of the Ocean’s Seven challenge on the first try.
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Some of the conditions Darren Miller, of Delmont, must swim in are extreme – during the winter and spring, he regularly takes ice baths to prepare to swim in cold conditions.
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Marathon swimmer Darren Miller speaks to a group at Seton Hill University. Miller, who works in finance at PNC Bank in Murrysville, hosts motivational speaking engagements across the region.

Update: Miller successfully completed his swim around 1 p.m. EST on Thursday.

Darren Miller spent most of his summer dreaming of ice baths, cursing the warm weather. After all, a summer in western Pennsylvania isn't the best way to prepare to swim 22 miles in hypothermia-causing waters.

Instead, Miller has spent the past two weeks trying to acclimate his body to the 55-degree waters of the North Channel for a gruelling swim this week.

The final notch in his “Ocean's Seven Challenge” belt, the stretch of water connecting Northern Ireland with Scotland requires plenty of planning.

“If the stars, moon and tides align, I'm going to get a shot to swim across,” Miller, 30, of Delmont said earlier this month. “I'm doing nothing but eating, sleeping and being in the water to get used to the cold as long as possible.”

Miller has a two-week window to complete the swim, beginning today, Aug. 28. He decided this week to make the attempt within the next two days.

Miller left Pennsylvania in mid-August with the hopes of becoming the first American man to complete the Ocean's Seven Challenge — a series of endurance swimming challenges that includes some of the most difficult stretches of open-water.

If he is successful, Miller said, he would be the first person to complete all seven marathon swims on the first attempt. Only three people have completed the Ocean's Seven.

Historically, it's the North Channel that tends to give swimmers trouble, he said.

“It's a challenge unlike any of the other six,” Miller said. “It's very trying on the body.”

Regardless of how the swim turns out, Miller has goals for when he returns home. He wants to create the “Three Rivers marathon swim” in 2014, an event that he hopes would draw members of the global open-water swimming community to Pittsburgh to tackle its three rivers. Miller gave that swim a dry run earlier this month.

He said proceeds from the Three Rivers event would benefit his Forever Fund, a nonprofit group that benefits those struggling to afford the cost of infant cardiothoracic surgery at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

He plans to continue his work in finance at PNC Bank in Murrysville as well as his motivational speaking. He aspires to share his story in more corporate settings.

“I'll do whatever I have to do get that out there, merging the lessons I've learned in the corporate world with the ultradistance world,” Miller said. “I believe my experiences can strike the hearts of others who want to make a difference to find a calling in life to do something extraordinary.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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