Belief. Undying belief is all mankind has needed to reach heights deemed previously unreachable. Since making our universal debut, mankind has set the bar sky-high with no intention of being satisfied sitting amongst the clouds. No, the stars are our muse while our true goals be vested in whatever lies behind them. As long as there is belief, there is reason; if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Martin Strel is 62. He is old. He is overweight. He is far from what many consider athletic.
He also holds the five Guinness World Records for marathon swimming.
Martin Strel has reinvented the term ‘limit’ in the second half of his life. In his old age, Strel has accomplished legendary feats considered impossible by marathon swimmers before him. His playing field are the rivers – the longest in the world – five of which he has conquered gloriously.
Strel has successfully swam the Danube in 58 days (1,867 mi.), the Mississippi in 68 days (2,360 mi.), the Paraná in 24 days (2,484 mi.), the Yangtze in 40 days (2,487 mi.), the Amazon in 66 days (3,273 mi.) and has no intention of ceasing there. His next victim is the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon.
Strel began swimming as a young boy. Growing up in Slovenia with an abusive father, water was his safety. He would jump in to a river near his home to escape his father’s hand. As he grew old, his connection with rivers remained. He looked upon the flowing water as a companion.
However, his escape wasn’t always the protecter he knew as a boy. During his many voyages, Strel felt in full force the wrath of the rivers he was attempting to conquer. As he fought the stream, the rivers fought back. Strel’s injury report consists of suffering flesh-eating viruses, stomach infections, and terrible hallucination-causing brain infections due to filthy rotten rivers. Some of them were so debris-filled, lifeless bodies floated downstream. He was attacked by piranhas in the Amazon and has the scars to prove it. He was struck by lightening and left unconscious in the water for over a minute. He even lost upwards of 55 pounds in less than a two-month span while swimming the Mississippi. Nonetheless, he trudged onward.
Many question how a man can swim for weeks at a time without grinding his muscles to dust. Strel’s answer, is meditation. He claims to have reached a peak of pain and exhaustion so excruciating he felt compelled to quit; but not before finding serenity. Strel found a way, through meditation, to deflect any twinge felt while swimming. His belief in himself and refusal to fail numbed the agony of marathon swimming.
Stories like Martin Strel’s bring to light the power of belief. Legendary tales of ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things all begin with the same thought: there are simply no limitations to what humans can accomplish. History has shown, with belief and ambition, anyone can defy human limits.
Image created by mrjackmartin