In Havana, Cuba, while preparing for three days and three nights in the sea, Diana Nyad calmly drank water and ate spaghetti with garlic and olive oil before getting into bed and doing a couple of crossword puzzles. On Sep. 2, 2013, at the age of 64, Nyad successfully completed the more-than-100-mile swim from Havana to Juno Beach, Florida, the first person ever to do so without a protective shark cage.
On Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 Nyad came to Marlborough School to share the story of her journey during an All-School Meeting. She explained that because she’d tried and failed to swim from Cuba to Florida four times before, she faced friends and family who told her that her dream was admirable but impossible.
However, Nyad did not give up on her dream and continued to train.
“Once your will was set and you have decided something, you’d be surprised about how strong the human spirit is,” Nyad said.
Nyad’s latest journey from Cuba to Florida was not all fun and games. She suffered swollen lips and multiple jellyfish stings on her tongue, but she continued to strive for her goal. Her 35-person team helped her finish her goal by feeding her bits of pasta and casting a white streamer during the day, or red lights during the night, to help Nyad stay on course.
“When things start going wrong, and your body starts weakening—your shoulders are hurting, you’re vomiting—it doesn’t matter. You have set in iron that you are going to put the left arm over again and then the right arm over again,” Nyad said.
While Nyad’s strength and endurance were admirable and inspiring, some students reported feeling inadequate after hearing her talk.
“It made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough in my life,” Taylor ’14 said.
Meanwhile, many student athletes were completely awed by her speech and accomplishments.
“You always hear about never giving up on your dreams, always persevering, but she has a huge example and the story to back it up with. She is the living breathing example of never giving up,” All-School Athletics Representative Claire ’14 said.
Many Marlborough coaches hope to take the energy Nyad gave the student body and use it to inspire their teams.
“It gives us all a perspective on how we can all work harder and that some things are not as bad as they could be. I personally left feeling pretty energized by her and pretty tired. I felt like the energy she displayed was infectious. I could tell my teams about similar things that she went through, and obviously aspiring towards your dreams is something that we should all do and try to achieve,” Head Swim Coach and Assistant Water Polo Coach Peter Lambert said.
Nyad showed the Marlborough community how we can all achieve our goals, even if we have to become a little selfish to do so.
“First of all, I think that she is an absolute inspiration not only to female athletes but all athletes. The things that she’s had to overcome in her lifetime, not just athletically but personally,[are] just incredible. For the students to [hear her] explain her life’s journey is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is really special,” Strength and Conditioning Coach Lindsay Yocum said.