The list of women athletes I admire is long. When I was 10, I wanted to be FloJo—I remember watching her break her own world record and win the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in the 200 meters. In high school, I played varsity soccer, so for me, there was no one who could handle the ball better than Mia Hamm.
After the death of a close friend, I turned to long-distance running, and somehow found myself chatting it up with Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor a couple of weeks before my first marathon.
She was nice enough to give me some tips for how best to handle the 26.2-mile monster. I also have a bunch of friends—Robin, Chiara, Sheila, and NSQ to name a few— whose monikers mean nothing to you, but whose dedication to their sports and athleticism constantly leave me in a state of awe.
And then there is Diana Nyad—a hall of fame swimmer, born and bred in New York City, who attempted to swim the 103 miles between Miami (my hometown) and Cuba for the fourth time earlier this week. While Nyad was forced to end her swim early, there is much we can learn from her.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. It may have been over 30 years before Nyad would don a swimsuit after her first attempt to cross the Straights of Florida in 1978 didn’t go as planned, but she did indeed try again. Half of the battle is building up the courage to follow your dreams. One thing is for sure, Nyad will never have to wonder ‘what if?’
See the success in your setbacks. Let’s face it, things won’t always go as planned. In Nyad’s case, stings from box jelly fish and tropical storms pushing her off course made it too tough to complete her swim. But, I’d hardly call this a failure. Why don’t we look at the fact that she braved the open seas for over 60 hours and swam halfway to Key West—that in itself is an accomplishment!
Age is just a number. In the last couple of years we have seen women, particularly those considered past their “prime,” take on incredible athletic feats. A 41-year-old swimmer clutching the sliver medal in the 2008 Olympics—check! A 60-year-old runner who is kicking butt and taking names on the local running scene—check! An endurance swimmer, who at 62, (she just turned 63 on Wednesday. Happy Birthday Diana!) is constantly pushing her body to the limits to do what others deem as impossible—check!
Any way you slice it Diana Nyad is an inspiration. (Did I mention Nyad still holds the world record for the longest ocean swim—102.5 miles from Bimini in the Bahamas to Jupiter, Florida?) I hope I have half of her tenacity when I reach her age. (Want to learn more? Check out this awesome documentary on Nyad.)
So, to all the amazing women out there, I implore you to continue to follow your dreams. And in the famous words of Doree from Finding Nemo—just keep swimming!