Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
My name is Nial D. Funchion. I have been swimming long distance swims since my lifeguard days with the Chicago Park District. 1992 I took a risk and successfully completed the English Channel. The training was raw. The swims effort went beyond places within to reveal traits I never thought existed. The swim was a platform to expose the intangible. I crawled away from the water and onto France in complete personal victory that words, even to this day, have a difficult time accurately describing. Since that moment I knew I would be back to further investigate those traits and possibilities. Always time well spent. Since my Channel swim, every swim after for the next 20 years had its own syllabus and personality to get its point across. The time line is as follows: 1992 English Channel (Fastest American Time of that year), 1995 The “Jim Moran” route across Lake Michigan (ended up being in total darkness to cure a phobia and approximately 26 miles), 1998 back to England to take a shot at a record but fell short, 2003 Swam The Shoreline of Lake Michigan (we dubbed it the 31/31 swim because it ended up being 31 miles in 31 knot winds). 2004-2009 I took part in smaller swims (Big Shoulders) and consistently swam out to the Water Filtration CRIBS in Chicago prior to roll call (a distance of 7-8 miles round trip). 01 November 2010 I decided to focus on swimming the Straight of Gibraltar. The time line was set, the window was secured and 07 October 2011 completed the mission is 3 hours 50 minutes, approximately 12 miles.
For the last 22 years I have been a member of the Chicago Masters Swim Club with structured workouts held at the University of Illinois under the direction of Coach Paul Moniac (also the Head Coach for the University team). It is here that the inspiration rekindles spirits. The members on that team are by far my personal heroes and mentors. They have carried me several times in my life at difficult moments. I’m very proud of being a part of that group.
The earlier swims in my life have been personal quests and personal victories; an investigation of sorts. Along the way there were stories from total strangers that carried me along the journey and picked me up when needed and inspired me when I lost my vision. I benefited from these unidentified, unpredicted, and unselfish gifts. The awareness that I received was that my life, those traits in action, gave back. It was a surprise to me. The PLATFORM of long distance swimming, going from one point on a map to another, became a source of hope…it meant something , it inspired someone. My life, in a given moment, gave someone hope, carried someone, reached out. I say this so modestly and humbly with a sense of relief and peace.
Being on the Chicago Police Department for the last 18 years I have experienced enough to say that the human spirit takes casualties. Members may survive to retirement but at a sacrifice. Attending funerals in particular started to affect me, it started to become a disturbing routine. While at a benefit for a partner I became aware of a group called wwwBrotherhoodforthefallen.org that sends two uniformed officers to the funerals of slain officers nationwide and also helps financially in these moments. This was patrolmen supporting patrolmen, carrying each other, caring for each other. The two officers sent from Chicago to a funeral are representative of 13,000 officers on the CPD that are right there with you in spirit. It is a very spiritual connection, the same connection I have experienced in swimming from shore to shore. Not everyone can fit on the boat but everyone has a front row seat. I swam the Straight of Gibraltar to raise awareness for the Brotherhood For The Fallen and have received letters, COP BLOG postings, little whispers of encouragement, and media coverage of all sorts. It has been inspiring for me personally but with absolute honor, humility and reverence I say that swimming between Spain and Africa had “nothing to do with swimming”.
I am focusing on the “Triple Crown” in the upcoming years. I will be creating a BLOG, www.BeyondBreakwalls.org, to capture those stories of inspiration and to share a journey. It is a journey inspired by Hero's.
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