A Major Milestone: Swimming Over 5,500 miles in the Merrimack Y’s Pool

My Y Story: Martha O'Neill


YMCA member Martha O’Neill knew she was close to a milestone, one that many of us would be in awe of! As an avid lap swimmer, Martha has been using this form of exercise since her college days to unwind, decompress, and stay healthy. In May of 1987 she started swimming at the now Merrimack YMCA when it was The Club, a private health club, which our YMCA association acquired in 1992. Recently, Martha thought she was close to hitting the 5,000 mile mark, but after some recalculations, she was further along than expected.

She’s been recording her lap swimming for decades. “I did more miles than I thought!  I keep a weekly calendar and that’s where I write miles down as I swim. I initially thought I was 50 miles short of 5,000. I went back 15 years in my calendar and re-calculated. I’m 540 miles ahead of what I expected!,” she said.

Martha has logged nearly 5,500 miles of lap swimming at the Merrimack YMCA indoor pool. This does not include miles swam at the Nashua Y or other pools!

“I joined The Club when it opened . Before that I swam at the Sheraton Tara (in Nashua). I came back to this area in 1982 to practice law with my father and uncle. At that time, the Nashua Y had limited hours for lap swimming.  I was anxious for a pool to open in Merrimack. It’s closer to home for me and I’ve belonged ever since.”

When chatting about the Merrimack Y, she says: “It’s convenient for me. I live about a half mile from there. The hours are good. I like the facility in Merrimack. The staff at the desk and the pool are all really nice and friendly. I like the large locker room. I pretty much just swim. That’s why it has worked for me. It’s a nice pool.”

During these pandemic times, she has been thankful that the Merrimack Y has been open. She shared that her condo has a pool, so she swims outdoors in the summer, also. “Last summer the Y was open and our condo pool did not open. I was thrilled that the Y opened the pool when they did. I assumed it wouldn’t be open. I’ve had absolutely no concerns of swimming at the Y since it reopened. The Y has done a great job with the reservation system for lap swimming. The facility is clean. Other situations have made me uncomfortable (certain restaurants and other facilities), but I’m very comfortable at the Y. Last summer would have been miserable without the pool being open. This summer has not been great for outdoor pool swimming, so I have been swimming indoors at the Merrimack Y most of the time this summer, too.”

Staying healthy is a priority for Martha. “I really like swimming; that’s what I do. I’ve been swimming year round since was in law school. I learned to swim as a kid at Nashua Country Club. They opened that pool when I was four or five and my parents joined right away.  My parents didn’t know how to swim and they wanted my sister and me to learn. I also took lessons in the winter at the Nashua Y and lessons at Girl Scout summer camp. “

Martha has been running or swimming year round to stay in shape. “I do one or the other most days, but now more swimming than running. I got into swimming year round when I was in law school. There was so much studying to do, but I could justify taking time to run or swim.” She attended law school at Georgetown University and swam at a public pool three blocks from where she lived on Capitol Hill, as well as the university’s pool “That’s really the point in my life when I got into swimming or running regularly,” she added.

“I exercise to maintain good health, but a lot of it is to unwind and clear my head from the day. It’s a lot like shower time when you get good ideas when you shower. I get good ideas when I’m swimming.” Although she has always kept track of her distances, she didn’t set out to his any mileage milestones. “I used to swim 2 miles at a time, when I was younger. I have been swimming 1.25 miles at a time for many years. It takes about an hour. I’m slow and steady. I didn’t swim competitively and I’m still not interested in swimming competitively. I just do it to get exercise and clear my head,” she shared.

Martha is principal attorney at Clancy & O’Neill Law Firm in downtown Nashua, specializing in probate administration and estate planning, where she started her law practice in 1982. The firm was established by her grandfather Frank B. Clancy in 1910. When he passed, Martha’s father and uncle took over the practice. Her uncle Frank B. Clancy, Jr., started in 1947 and her father Thomas E. O’Neill started in 1948. Martha is very involved in civic and charitable work. She is a member of Rivier University’s Board of Trustees; Solution Health Board of Directors, President of Mary A. Sweeney Home Board of Trustees; Clerk of the Nutt Hospital Fund  Board of Trustees; and Member of Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua Foundation Board of Trustees.

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