"Never, Ever Give Up!" Diana Nyad Swims 52 Hours from Cuba to Key West, Attaining Lifelong Dream at 64

BlogHer Original Post

I'm crying as I refresh the tweet stream flooded with excitement and encouragement for endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. She did it, swimming more than 103 miles over 52 hours, with minimal protection, after 35 years of holding this goal. A phenomenal achiever, pushing past countless barriers and failed attempts, Diana is a triumphant 64-year-old serving as testament to endurance, strength, and determination.

Diana Nyad fifth Cuba swim
Diana Nyad during her third attempt to swim from Florida to Cuba on Sep. 23, 2011. She cut the attempt short after getting stung numerous times by jellyfish-like Portuguese Man o'War. (Image: © Mike Lewis/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Fist. Pump! She threw one when she walked on the Key West shore, and we're throwing them back.

Her record-setting fifth attempt to swim from Cuba to Key West was only marginally covered by mainstream media, but her social media team kept her blog, Facebook and Twitter streams updated so we could travel on this remarkable journey with Diana.

Diana's previous attempts were waylaid by the myraid assaults of the ocean: winds, insurmountable currents, lightning storms, Portuguese man-of-war stings, box jellyfish stings which caused pain and her asthma to flare. But on this 5th attempt she prevailed, her mental and physical strength bearing down for hours to conquer more than 100 miles of the lonely, dark sea without a shark tank or even flippers.

Diana's swim is a triumphant story of survival and determination. An out lesbian and mature athlete, she's been open about her life, struggles and determination, making her accomplishment especially inspirational to so many of us. A celebrated record-holder, she had stopped swimming for 30 years. She said she then dedicated herself to the Cuba-Key West goal after feeling lost after a major breakup and the deaths of both of her parents, just as her experiences with surviving years of sexual abuse had fueled her early determination to excel.

From a great profile in the New York Times published in 2011:

To cope with the pain, Nyad became obsessed with survival stories: those of polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott, along with David Howarth’s “We Die Alone,” the story of a Norwegian man crushed by an avalanche who spent days buried under several feet of snow and who cut off his own frostbitten toes to avoid gangrene. As Nyad writes in her 1978 memoir “Other Shores,” she sought to learn from these epics how “to dig deeper and deeper into your gut until you arrive at that same core of pride and dignity that the survivors know.” Nyad chose the water as her medium. “At 16,” she writes, “I was not the best in the world, but I was damn good.”

Now Diana Nyad has given other survivors of abuse, grief, oppression, heartbreak, or the moments of doubt and regret that might accompany aging or failure another great survival story.

She did this. How many times do we give up after the first attempt, let alone after the fourth? How many times do we think our moment has passed, that we don't have enough support or the strength to endure, for whatever reason? I'm taking this story to heart as I celebrate Diana Nyad's amazing victory.

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