This is a story you will want your friends and family to read.
A little less than a year ago I received a call from my friend Julie Boskovski. Julie is 43 years old and lives on Long Island in Bay Shore, New York. She is a school teacher, and along with her husband John, has three children. She is a very caring and fun person, but at the time she called me she was going through a very difficult period of life and was not feeling very good about herself. That part of the story is not mine to tell…it is what she did next that is simply mind-blowing.
Julie had decided she was going to participate in a couple of upcoming events. One was a triathlon that was taking place on Long Island in the early summer of 2011 and the other was a swimming event that just happened a week ago. At the time Julie called she was out of shape (she had recently gained 22 pounds) and asked me if I would help her stay on track with her nutrition and work-out regiment to prepare for the events. Her belief in herself was at a major low-point. This story is not about my help. I did virtually nothing except give a little guidance on eating and supplements. We spoke a few times in the next month and then I did not hear from Julie again until three days ago. What she did, she did on her own, with the help of some coaches, the support of a few friends, and God.
Julie has always had a difficult time with swimming. It does not come easy to her and she is very fearful of things in the water, such as sharks, which frequent the open water near her home. The swimming event she signed up for is called the “Maggie Fischer Memorial Cross Bay Swim” and is a five and a quarter mile swim across the Great South Bay in Long Island. She had done a triathlon before, but the one she was going to do this time had a one mile swim. A major challenge for her. She trained hard and completed the triathlon which is a great accomplishment in itself, especially since she struggled mightily with the one mile swim. However a much bigger challenge awaited her in the Cross Bay Swim.
Swimming five and a quarter miles is akin to running a marathon as it relates to endurance. Lots of people do marathons. Very few people do this kind of swim…especially in a body of water that is very close to the point where it meets the ocean and has strong currents (and Julie is not a big person) and can be very rough. Its much easier to simply put on your running shoes and go run, than it is to swim multiple miles a day in open water for training…hence why most people don’t do it. Not to mention…swimming for distance is incredibly difficult.
Julie had a goal and she was willing to endure any level of pain and tears to train for it.
Julie trained for hours a day. Some days she swam for six straight hours! The bay was full of jelly fish, so she would often come out of the water, with welts covering her arms from jelly fish stings. Remember, this is a woman who admittedly is not a good swimmer. She struggles with proper form and she is slow (these are her words not mine:). But Julie had a goal and she was willing to endure any level of pain and tears to train for it. The Cross Bay Swim has a time limit on it. If you have not completed the swim in four hours, they pull you out of the water.
she was so far behind the time schedule that she wouldn’t make it.
Less than a hundred swimmers showed up for the race. Again, think of a marathon where thousands of people show up to run. This is a daunting thing to attempt for even an elite athlete. By the end of mile three, the patrol boats were telling Julie’s companion kayakers (everyone has to have an escort for safety) she was so far behind the time schedule that she wouldn’t make it. But Julie kept going. Her swim coach jumped into the bay to swim next to her and encourage her to finish her stoke and pick up the speed. Can you imagine what it must feel like to swim for two hours and have someone start telling you that now you need to swim faster? She reached a point after the four mile mark where she could no longer feel her legs, but she kept kicking them. Julie refused to quit. No amount of pain or fatigue or jelly fish was going to make her quit the race. She didn’t care about winning the race against other swimmers…she was only trying to win the race against doubt, fatigue, fear, pain…and jelly fish.
Finally, three hours and fifty six minutes after she got in the water, Julie Boskovski crossed the finish line. She was the last person to finish. And she was first in the hearts of every person in the race and of virtually an entire community. Most everyone in the race, and most of the community knew Julie’s story. She was THE winner that day.They knew how hard swimming was for her. They knew what personal challenges she had to stare down. When she came out of the water, throngs of people were on the beach celebrating and rejoicing for her and with her, including most of the other swimmers who had stayed to cheer her on and witness her incredible will and commitment to persevere. She had kept her head in the water, water that she feared, for almost four hours, as she swam freestyle every stroke of the way. I can’t imagine swimming freestyle for five and a quarter miles. I am in awe of Julie. I am humbled by her level of perseverance, commitment, persistence.
She was THE winner that day.
Thank you Julie for sharing this with me and allowing me to learn from you. Thank you for showing us all what we can do if we put our whole hearts into it. Thank you for being willing to go beyond what you, and others, thought were limits. Thank you Julie.