Monday, June 14, 1999
BY WES ALLISON
Times-Dispatch Staff Writer
The swirling cross-currents in the Chesapeake Bay fought him hard, and his legs suddenly gave out soon after he plunged into the water, but Beeba Exton finished the race, and he finished it jubilantly.
"I was an athlete again," Exton said yesterday morning after the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. "I got to compete. MS patients don't do a whole lot -- I just wanted to prove that you don't have to just sit back and take it."
Exton, 54, of Henrico County, has been training for yesterday's mile- long swim for months. Along the way, through pledges from friends and strangers, he has raised $4,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Exton was diagnosed in 1982 with MS, a progressive disease that eats at the central nervous system and frequently leaves its victims unable to walk. Exton can barely walk. Fewer than 100 yards into yesterday's race, he said, the lower half of his body was racked with pain, leaving him all but unable to kick the rest of the way.
Exton said he usually he swims a mile in a pool in 44 minutes.
Yesterday, it took him 1 hour, 11 minutes to finish the race, held at Sandy Point State Park in Maryland.
Exton, a former college football player, said he loves athletics and loves to compete. Even though his first goal yesterday was to finish, not to win, he couldn't help being "ticked at my time." But, he said, a fellow competitor noted that his time was better than those of some of the other 250 swimmers. "And it was certainly better than the thousands of people who didn't enter," Exton said the man told him.
"I'm exhausted," said Exton. "It was great."