"She freaking made it." That's what the note posted at 3:14 p.m. to the Google map on her website, where Diana Nyad's journey had been tracked in yellow dots and time stamps, said. Thirty-five years after her first attempt, Nyad did it -- she reached the shores of Smathers Beach in Key West Monday, after pushing off from Havana on Saturday. This was her fifth try, and her fourth in three years.
The 64-year-old swam 111 miles and now holds the world record for swimming the farthest without a shark cage.
Throughout the day, people gathered in increasing numbers on the beach, waiting eagerly for Nyad. They held up flags of many stripes - American, Cuban, Conch Republic, and rainbow.
Once she reached the shore, Nyad was welcomed with signs and cheering and of course, conch-blowing.
Her lips and tongue were swollen from the saltwater, and her speech was slurred, but she was in good enough shape to revel in a dream fulfilled. "Everybody, when I failed these last few years, said: oh, but the journey was so beautiful, and you had so many life lessons. I said, yeah – you can get all of those and the destination. This time I got them all."
Diana Nyad is also a journalist, a radio journalist at that -- she's been a contributor to NPR and Marketplace -- a fact which has been making those of us in the newsroom re-evaluate our gym memberships.
You can also listen to Nancy Klingener's interview with Robert Siegel on NPR's All Things Considered Monday.