Almost 33 years ago, Diana Nyad was pulled from the waters of the Caribbean. After 42 hours in the water, and desperately off-course, she had failed in her attempt to complete the 103-mile swim from Cuba to Key West. Shivering and delirious from fatigue, with a tongue so badly swollen from seawater that made her words almost unintelligible, she weakly protested, “Can’t I keep going?”
After 1979, Diana Nyad stopped swimming altogether. Succumbing to “swimmer’s burnout” she didn’t swim a stroke for 31 years. She went into broadcasting… pursuing a career as a TV and radio journalist, e.g. Fox Sports News, “The Savvy Traveler”, etc.
Yet, two summers ago as she approached her 60th birthday, something happened. Life, she felt, “was screaming by like a hurricane. I blink and it’s April. I blink and I’m 61.” One day while driving in Los Angeles, she looked in the rearview mirror and asked herself what she regretted most. Her answer…the Cuba swim.
With renewed vigor, she jumped back into extreme training. Last summer, she completed a 24-hour marathon swim (She sang the theme from “Beverly Hillbillies" 2000 straight times to combat boredom.) She has assembled a support crew of 25 experts, many of whom are working gratis in support of her dream. Although she has found a partial sponsor in Secret deodorant, she is $350,000 short of her desired expense goal…and is self-funding the gap.
(Here's a nice article in the Washington Post, by Sally Jenkins, that describes this adventure in greater detail.)
If all goes well, some time in June or July (weather-permitting) Nyad will slip into the water on the northern Cuban coast, and head 103 miles through the shark-infested Florida Straits towards Key West. In addition to sharks, other hazards await… e.g. hypothermia, dehydration, man o’ war jellyfish, cardio-arrhythmia; not to mention the mind-numbing fatigue of 60 hours of continuous swimming.
However, in Nyad’s view, this is a risk that must be taken again…before it’s too late.
Her own words, say it best:
“I was experiencing what millions my age are feeling these days. Disenfranchised, no longer valued, terribly worried that my best days were behind me. Yet the business of life is to live large and you can dream at any age. To me the phrase “60 is the new 40” is not a joke. We baby boomers can put truth into those words. We are far from irrelevant at 60. We’re now emotionally mature, brimming with wisdom and calm, still physically strong. This should be the prime of our lives. Training for this swim has filled me with the heartening, empowering conviction that it’s never too late to chase your dream.”
Good luck, Diana Nyad.