For Diana Nyad, swimming for over 50 hours wasn’t matter of talent, it was all about heart.
“I decided this year to use a mantra and I think a lot of people can relate to this in their own lives, whatever they’re pushing through,” Nyad, the 64-old who became the first to complete the 110-mile open-water swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, told Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America.” (Watch the interview here.) “… The phrase I decided to use is ‘Find a way.’ If something is important to you, and it looks impossible and you’re up against it, just step back for a minute and say, ‘Really? Do I have the resolve to think of every nth degree to get through this?’ And most times we do.
“People give up too quickly. I said that on the beach when I came out. I didn’t have much energy…but the first thing I said when I looked around, because those people aren’t from the world of swimming, they don’t care about the world record. It wasn’t an athletic event, it was a moment of human spirit. I said to people, ‘never ever give up.’”
Nyad, completed her dream on her fifth attempt, and stepped ashore to instant accolade as an example of just what an AARP member can accomplish. Her only problem Monday, she said, was a mouth battered by the mask she wore to prevent the jellyfish stings that derailed her 2012 attempt.
“Honestly the worst thing … I’ve got some real bad lacerations from the sea water and the jellyfish mask,” she said. “I had to bite onto it, so I’ve got some interior mouth saltwater issues. That’s really the worst of it. I’m feeling pretty darn good.”
In the middle of her second night in the water, she realized how close she was getting to accomplishing her 36-year dream of becoming the first to make the open-water swim without a shark cage.
“We saw the lights of Key West in the night, so we knew we were making it. I had 15 hours to think, 15 hours to stroke and think about this journey. So many people discuss the journey and the destination. … The destination was always my vision of the palm trees and the shore. But the journey – I didn’t make it … for the last few years – and that journey was thrilling. It really was. The discovery, the people, the looking inside at what you’re made of. But to finally get to the destination, I’ll tell you, I was euphoric yesterday.”
She wasn’t the only one.
Sally Jenkins: For Nyad, age is just a number