The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 7, 2013

It’s a bird, it’s a plane ... it’s a super dream

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News & Eagle

— I always wanted to be Super.

Not super, but Super, with a capital Supe.

I wanted to be one of those card-carrying, spandex-wearing, world-saving, crook-catching, evildoer thwarting superheroes who came to life in the pages of my comic books.

Superman, Batman, the Flash, the Green Lantern, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Spider Man and Captain America were particular favorites, but I never met a superhero I didn’t like.

I received an email the other day touting a new book that posed the question, “If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?”

In her new book, “The Swing Theory,” author Stacey Watt has written of different characters in a business setting, like The Juggler, who balances numerous projects at once but can’t focus on any on thing, or The Speed Demon, who is driven and goal-oriented, but doesn’t spend enough time sweating the small stuff.

That’s all well and good, but I always wanted to be able to fly, to bend steel with my bare hands, to lift a refrigerator with one finger, to walk through walls, to run like the wind and to breathe underwater.

Instead, I find myself with rather limited abilities. I can fly, but only with a ticket. I have trouble bending aluminum foil, and not only can’t lift a refrigerator, but can’t stay out of it, either. I walk into walls instead of through them and the only thing I do with wind is to break it, and I have trouble holding my water. Besides, spandex makes me look like a malformed sausage.

Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Agingman.

OK, so it’s not the superhero ideal, but it’s the best I can do.

Or is it? After watching the recent exploits of Diana Nyad, one has to wonder.

Diana Nyad is an author, a journalist, a motivational speaker and a long-distance swimmer.

She has written three books, including a biography of former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, has hosted public radio programs and has contributed to the CBS news program “Sunday Morning.”

But she is best known for her long-distance swims. In 1974, she set a record by swimming 22 miles in eight hours, 11 minutes. In 1975, she swam the 28 miles around Manhattan island in seven hours and 57 minutes. In 1978, she attempted to swim the approximately 90 miles between Cuba and Key West, Fla.

She failed.

She tried again three more times, in August 2011, September 2011 and August 2012.

She failed each time, thwarted by exhaustion, dehydration and painful jellyfish stings.

On Aug. 31 of this year, she entered the water to make one more try.

The fifth time was the charm. Accompanied by a 35-person support team, swimming without a shark cage but protected from the jellyfish by a full wet suit, gloves, boots and mask, Nyad swam approximately 110 miles in about 53 hours.

The protective mask helped her stave off jellyfish stings, but it caused her to swallow large amounts of sea water, which caused her to vomit almost constantly throughout her journey.

When she emerged from the surf upon reaching her destination, Nyad could barely stand, much less walk. But under her own power, she made it to dry land, completing the quest she first began 35 years ago.

Diana Nyad is 64 years old.

Her first words upon reaching the sand of Smathers Beach were, “We should never, ever give up.” Don’t ever say you can’t do something. What you’re really saying is you lack the will.”

Then she added, “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”

Neither are you too tall, too short, too young, too fat, too thin, too anything.

Diana Nyad never let anything stop her, not miles of turbulent ocean, not stinging jellyfish, not the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her stepfather and her swim coach.

Diana Nyad is Super, with a capital Supe.

And she has inspired me to pursue my dreams. Can you give me a hand with this spandex?

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at