By Louise Hyder-Darlington
Beyond swimming, I love to write. I was happy Rondi took up my offer to write up a few words for Stage 6. While training leaves little time for writing, it provides endless hours for swimmers immersed in watery contemplation. Time to contemplate breathing, stroke, technique, fatigue, aging, motivation, fear, friendships, futures, pasts. All jumbled together. This will be my second year swimming stage 6. I swam stages 3 and 6 in 2015. I was dead last for both stages and would not have changed it for the world. I overcame challenges and pushed myself farther than I had thought possible. I guess that is why we love 8 Bridges. The memories I have from last year bring smiles, not fear, to my face, even now. The joy of hearing David coaxing me to the shadow of the second span of the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge, surprised that passing under the first shadow was not sufficient. “Just a little further Louise.” The hearty handshakes from everyone on the boat after finally clearing the Agent Orange ladder … worst part of the swim. Hearing Rondi cheering me on as I finally approached the towering George Washington Bridge. Hearing her call from far off “….you can do it Louise.” Indeed, I did it.
I return to Stage 6 this year because my husband of 32 years wanted to give it a try. As did one of my best and dearest friends as well. They have worked hard. Nailing training swim after training swim. Endless hours immersed in their own contemplation about 15.7 miles down the Hudson River. Why we do it is different for each and every swimmer. I believe this is especially true of those wonderful heroes in the arena who know they won’t be in the front of the pack. Those in the rear swimming their hearts out, terrified of that tide that will turn before they finish. I had those very same shared fears last year and I will have them again on Saturday. It is guaranteed that the river will always give us what we need, not necessarily what we want.
So I guess that is what I wanted to say about Stage 6. It is a long, long swim in one of the most beautiful rivers in one of the most gorgeous places on earth organized and populated with some of the greatest souls in the world. It is never the same swim. Each year the river presents the precious lesson that man is not in control. It is fun and it is frightening and yet we do it every year. And here is a sweet little gem of a quote by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. If you are reading this and have run out reasons; run out of dreams … cut this out and tape it to your mirror. Find that sea you have been wanting to cross, grab a friend and jump in. I promise it will be the most terrifyingly wonderful feeling in the world!
“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” Rabindranath Tagore, 1861-1941