Endurance athlete Nyad ending long walk in Cape Elizabeth

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Diana Nyad and Bonnie Stoll have dedicated their lives to “epic” experiences. Now, they’re offering that same feeling to the masses.

Between 120 and 160 participants from across the globe are following Nyad and Stoll as they travel up New England’s coast from Boston to Cape Elizabeth in the second annual “EPIC EverWalk.”

The group departed from Copley Square Sept. 10, and will arrive at Fort Williams on Sunday, Sept. 17. Each day, they’ll cover an average of 20 miles, stopping each night in some of New England’s most scenic towns and cities.

“New England is one of the jewels of the world,” Nyad said Sept. 9. “A lot of (participants) have never been to New England.”

One hundred and twenty people registered for the entire 132-mile trek, but Nyad said between 30 and 40 more participants will join for 5-, 10- or 20-mile segments.

Nyad – an author, journalist, motivational speaker, and long-distance swimmer – grabbed the world’s attention in 1975 when, at age 26, she swam 28 miles around Manhattan. Four years later, she upped the ante, swimming 102 miles from The Bahamas to Florida.

However, her most “epic” swim was in 2013 when, at age 64, Nyad became the first person to swim the 111 miles from Cuba to Florida without stopping or with the aid of a shark cage in what was her fifth – and final – attempt.

The swim took Nyad just shy of 53 hours and was made possible with the help of Stoll – her physical trainer, handler and friend.

“In all my years as an athlete, never had I worked with someone who knew motivation (like Stoll),” Nyad said.

The duo – who described themselves Sept. 8 as two “golden retrievers running and training together” – met in the 1980s on the Professional Racquetball Tour, when Stoll was one of the top women players in the world.

Nyad recalls watching Stoll and thinking that she wanted to train with her.

“She was the fastest, strongest athlete I had ever seen,” Nyad said. The two hit it off instantly and have been training together ever since.

“We joke all the time about how, when we first knew each other, (almost) 40 years ago, we could’ve never imagined doing this (walk) together,” Nyad said. “(Together) we go from sport to sport and dream to dream.”

In 2016, the endurance mavericks led a smaller group of about 35 on a 124-mile walk from Los Angeles to San Diego.

Their plan is to continue the tradition each year, with routes from Vancouver, Washington to Seattle, Washington, and Key West to Miami, Florida – to name a few.

“We’re going to cover the whole globe,” Nyad said.

A goal of Nyad’s and Stoll’s is for their website, EverWalk, to become the “hub of worldwide walking” by encouraging the masses to walk alongside them every day, virtually.

Through EverWalk Nation, anyone can sign up online and become part of Nyad and Stoll’s movement by pledging to walk at least three times a week.

“We’ve become one of the most sedentary countries in the world and we want to reverse that,” Nyad said. “… We want to expand globally, but we need to start with the United States.”

For now, they’re focusing on encouraging and motivating their fellow walkers as they near their Epic EverWalk New England destination.

“When we first drove the course, we decided to finish (the walk) in Portland. But then Cape Elizabeth came up,” Nyad said. “We visited and immediately thought ‘this place is magic.'”

For those participating in the walk, Nyad and Stoll provided a training plan on their web page that began in July.

“You cannot believe how tough endurance walking is,” Stoll said. “You’ve got to train.”

“Some people join for a few miles or a day and some bow out before the walk is finished,” Nyad added. “(But) almost everybody makes it (to the final destination).”

Nyad and Stoll anticipate arriving in Fort Williams around noon on Sunday and invite the public to come out to celebrate the group’s achievement.

“Everybody on this walk has a story,” Nyad said. “People become very inspired.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll, and a crew of Epic EverWalkers stop at their 5-mile mark Wednesday, Sept. 13, to take in the coastal view in Rye, New Hampshire. The group will finish their 132-mile trek from Boston on Sunday afternoon at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth.