This weekend I will be watching with great interest the Hawaiian Ironman. The race itself, a test of endurance, mental strength and courage is a demanding 225.8 kilometre event, which involves a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride and a 42 km run. In short, it can humble the best triathletes in the world and crush the dreams of many others who fail to finish. But regardless of what happens, it has to be said, that to complete in such an event is a thrilling and sometimes life changing experience.
Often, I am inspired by the incredible backstories of individual who get the opportunity to compete in the Hawaii Ironman. For many of us, Turia Pitt is our inspiration. She is a courageous, beautiful young women, who dares to dream the impossible. She takes an unprecedented journey lining up against more than two thousand international athletes in world triathlon’s version of Wimbledon, the Tour de France or football’s World Cup, in Kona, Hawaii.
In 2011, the ex-model, fitness fanatic and mining engineer was racing in the 100 km ultra-marathon in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, when suddenly she was caught in an intense and destructive bushfire. She suffered from severe burns to 65 per cent of her body, lost the use of almost all her fingers (through amputation) and spent over six months undergoing intense, painful rehabilitation in hospital. Many, including her doctor, told the twenty-four year old burns survivor that she would never race again! Though Turia Pitt had other plans and remembers making a vow, “I’ll show you – I’m going to do an Ironman one day.”
A year after her accident Pitt was running again and fast forward another four years later, Pitt, at 29, competed in her first Ironman event in May, 2016, in Port Macquarie, Australia. With her inspiration performance, she was invited to race in Kona, Hawaii. But that inspirational performance could not have happened if it wasn’t for Pitt’s life partner, Michael Hoskin, her family and doctors, who stood by her throughout her whole recovery, which included more than 200 operations.
Everyday, since that fateful bushfire, Pitt literally wakes up and is thankful for her life. She puts all her energy and focus into improving herself as a human being and those around her. Today, apart from being an athlete, she is a motivational speaker, author and humanitarian. Notably, she has raised tens of thousands of dollars for a not-for-profit organization called Interplast, who send teams of volunteer plastic and reconstructive surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and other health professionals around the Asia-Pacific region, to make life-changing surgery to victims.
On the eve of the biggest race of her life, she is quietly confident that her body is ready for the rigors of competition in Hawaii. On her blog, she said this of the challenge that awaits her, “I’m finding myself swinging from pure excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to sheer, pure terror about what I’m in for….I’m living proof that we are capable of more than we could ever imagine.” She also admits that even if she fails to finish the race, there is no shame in trying. Better to have tried than not tried at all, it seems is her motto.
Photo Credits: The header image of Turia Pitt is courtesy of Getty Images which is used and licensed under their embedding service. The image of Pitt making a motivational speech at Macquarie University is by flickr user TEDxMacquarieUniversity which is licensed and used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.