On Aug. 6, 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel. Her time was 14 hours and 31 minutes, breaking Charles Toff’s record by two hours and 23 minutes.
Swimming the English Channel is a truly difficult undertaking. The channel is only 20 miles wide at the point most swimmers tackle it. However, when you combine the tide and the little waves that batter and bruise a swimmer, throw in the rain, cold and darkness, and add the jellyfish with those long, stinging tentacles, you really have a formidable challenge.
There are lessons from Gertrude (Trudy) Ederle that need to be mentioned. In the field of human endeavor, most of the time those on the sidelines admonish the participant to hang in there and see it through. In Trudy’s case, however, those accompanying her — her father, her sister, newspapermen, photographers and her trainer, William Burgess, an Englishman who had finally conquered the channel after 18 previous failures — were encouraging her to throw in the towel.
She was frozen, exhausted, battered and sickened by the 11 hours of effort, but she never complained or showed any signs of faltering. When Trudy was three miles from her goal, the channel was buffeting her furiously, and at that point, her father and trainer called on her to quit, lest she be injured. Soon after came her classic reply to echo around the world: “Quit? What for?” Trudy staggered ashore and into the history books.
There’s an old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough keep going.” Trudy teaches all of us quite a lesson with her accomplishment. If we learn from it, then I will see you at the top!
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