HAPpy People - Leah Middlebrook

October 7, 2016


Meet Leah Middlebrook, River Hugger and HAP Board Member, interviewed by Christina Malango.



How did you learn about the River Huggers and start swimming with the group?

On Facebook, of all things! The call for River Huggers appeared in one of those random You Might Like items that creeps into your news feed. That was three years ago and it was love at first plunge. :)

Did you have a particularly memorable Hugger moment this year?

It was great having the involvement and support of the families. I loved Rory's videos, and it was so neat that Jim had his kids paddling with us.

What open water swim did you enjoy the most this year?

Oh wow...this year was so fabulous that it's really hard to say. Last year, the Tilikum Crossing swim was the clear favorite. I'd had my eye on that bridge for months, thinking how cool it would be for the Huggers to participate in the inauguration. This year, the evening swims, slightly longer and more challenging, were great when I was able to get there. But the a.m.'s remain so special.  

What advice do you have for people wanting to involve their families and dogs in swimming in the Willamette?

The one piece of advice I get serious about is safety. Rivers are so powerful and unpredictable. I did have one swim this year where I had to get out and walk back to the Fire Station dock, and that taught me quite a lesson. Families and pets should always have the appropriate safety devices.

What are your hopes for next year's River Hugger season?

Yay for adding Tuesday swims! The evening group was so awesome and it had its own character. Let's keep building! Also, I would like to figure out how to do more outreach into a wider spectrum of Portlanders. I'd love to expand our ranks. 

What do you do when you’re not swimming? 

I'm a distance runner, an avid x-c and downhill skier, a cat lover, and, yes, a professor of 16th/17th century literature. I also read and teach a lot of poetry.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?

Walt Whitman: "It is the flag of my disposition, of hopeful green stuff woven!"

What do you think about when you are swimming?

Just...swimming. Sometimes, I sort of start laughing because I cannot believe we are doing it. That gives me so much joy --swimming in a pod, with people I don't know, or only know because of swimming in the river. That is just so awesome.

If you could swim anywhere in the world where would it be?

HERE!!!! With at least two sandy or pea-gravel beaches for general use, but also from the Holman, which is (shhhh...) a teeny bit my favorite dock.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure after you've had a long swim?

Stale Red Vines. I keep a box stashed under the driver's seat of my car. Chomping on one or four on the way home is bliss. Then it's back to the cottage cheese. 

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