Nothing Great Is Easy

Nothing Great Is Easy

Nothing Great Is Easy are the well-known words written on the memorial to Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to successfully swim across the English Channel in 1875.

135 years later and those words still ring true – very true for marathon swimmers, the modern-day adventurers of the sporting world. Risk and danger as prevalent in marathon swimming as swimsuits and goggles. Risk of hypothermia. Risk of hyperthermia. Risk of running into venomous Portuguese Man o War.

Risk of being attacked by sharks. Risk of getting blown off-course by tidal flows, currents and winds. Risk of being battered into submission by waves and winds.

It is ever-present and never-ending.

Unclothed with nothing but a swimsuit, cap and goggles, marathon swimmers put themselves in harm’s way every single time they go in the water. Unlike land-based endurance athletes, they often cannot see where they are going or have any idea how long they have swum or the number of hours to the finish. For these reasons, marathon swimmers are like the pioneers of yesteryear when mankind was exploring the world and adventure was a way of life.

This is the situation that Diana Nyad placed herself. To swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida, she had to face risk and plan to minimize it wherever and whenever possible. Like Columbus finding his way to the New World over 500 years ago with the Queen of Spain’s support, Diana was hoping to find her way from Cuba to Florida with the support of her sponsors and CNN sharing her story en route utilizing modern technology.

But behind every success, there are multitude of failures, false starts, unplanned circumstances, unexpected situations and unsuccessful attempts.

This is where Diana found herself after a year of hard training including a courageous 24-hour swim back in late July. She put in the mileage, she organized a professional team of dozens, she raised the capital, she found the media outlets to share her story in real-time. She did all the right things.

But Mother Nature had a different timetable.

After completing her longest training swim and then tapering for two weeks, Diana was ready to go in early August. Then, hurricane after hurricane rolled through the Caribbean Sea. The seas continued to be rough and bumpy for two straight months – constantly dashing her dreams that had captured the attention of people young and old. For a 61-year-old – even someone of Diana’s physical prowess and psychological composition – to dream of a swim of this magnitude was unheard of. Undreamed of. But the dream was born deep within Diana and through force of personality and uniquely driven, Diana set the course map and plan to swim somewhere between 50 – 60 hours in the tropical venue.

No shark cages, no sun protection, no one but her braving the elements. Stroke after stroke, mile after mile, hour after hour … and day after day. Her dream was not going to come easy, but Diana was prepared to delve into the depths of pain and despair over 60 hours to realize her dream.

Currents, she could deal with. She just rode them to their conclusion. Waves, she could deal with. Up and down, left and right. She had always had an iron stomach. But cold – even when the water was 77°F (25°C) – was too much to handle when you have to swim non-stop through three straight nights. Shivering would have started on the first night and severe hypothermia would have squelched the swim by the second night.

So she announced her plans yesterday on CNN (click here). “A feeling of helplessness. I’ve been up against a wall. Now we’ve had to postpone it all the way until next summer.”

As we envision Diana standing on the shores of Cuba next year, looking forward to swim towards her homeland of America, we are profoundly reminded that Nothing Great Is Easy.

Copyright © 2010 by Open Water Source