Monday, September 2, 2013

Congratulations Diana Nyad!

For the past three years, I've been glued to Diana Nyad's pursuit of her lifelong dream to swim from Cuba to Florida. She's attempted to achieve her goal five times since she was 28 years old. She turned 64 a couple of weeks ago.

Don't know who Diana Nyad is? Never heard of her? Leaving aside that you may live under a rock, she is a world renowned swimmer. In the 1970s, she was the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world. Oh, and she's a Phi Beta Kappa member of the Lake Forest College Class of 1973.

As I said, she's attempted this swim FIVE times. First, when she was 28. She did not make it and at the age of 30, after setting the world distance record, she quit swimming. In January 2010, she realized that her dream was still alive and well, burning deep within her. So she started training and training.

She made her second attempt at the Cuba to Florida swim in August 2011, because she wanted to prove to other 60 year olds that it's never too late to pursue your dreams. Just 29 hours after she started, she had to abandon her dream due to weather conditions and box jellyfish stings.

Just one month later, in September 2011, Diana tried again, but was again stopped because of box jellyfish and Portuguese Man-of-War stings.

Never one to quit, she gave it another shot in August 2012, this time covered in a special jellyfish suit, but that attempt failed too. Three days later and only half way to her goal, she was forced to stop due to a horrible storm that put her swim too far off course and jellyfish stings.

Just about 52 hours ago, at 9am ET (August 31st), Diana Nyad began her fifth and final attempt to swim from Cuba and Florida. Just before 2pm ET today (September 2nd), Diana completed her swim. 110 miles in 52 hours without a shark cage.

This time, the universe seemed to be on her side. According to her team's blog, the first jellyfish siting happened this morning and Diana hasn't been stung. The weather has been practically ideal, with just relatively brief storm.

Diana gave an inspiring TedTalk in October 2011. Watch it. I promise you'll be glad you did.

CNN has also done a great job covering Diana's journey.

Watch the trailer for The Other Shore, the movie about Diana's journey.

President Barack Obama congratulated Diana shortly after she arrived:

Listen to Lake Forest College Athletic Director Jackie Slaats talk about Diana Nyad on WBBM Newsradio.

Diana's pursuit is heroic. She has not only pushed herself beyond her own limits and lived to tell about it, but she's inspired millions of other people around the world to stop beating themselves up, forgive themselves for the times they fell short, and told them that dreams are ageless. For Diana, this is about proving that no matter your age, you can be your best self.

For me, she answers the timeless question that I grapple with daily: "What would you do if you were not afraid?"

What would YOU do if you were not afraid?

Congratulations Diana! Foresters around the world are celebrating your victory today!

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