I’ve always admired marathon runners.
There is something about people who are able to push themselves through physical and mental limits, in the face of exhaustion and uncertainty, that really inspires me.
Maybe it’s because I get a cramp in my side after a few minutes of light jogging.
Or maybe it’s because I admire marathon runners’ ability to transcend their physical and mental states to accomplish larger goals.
And then you have the rock stars of the already-rockstar-marathon-running group. The ULTRAMARATHONERS. These are the people who, according to our handy friend Wikipedia, have ridiculous abilities to run for hours and hours:
“An ultramarathon, also called ultra distance, is any sporting event involving running and walking longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.219 miles.”
Athletes around the world compete in ultramarathons on all types of terrain, running through streets, forests and mountains by themselves or with a team of people. It’s quite an amazing feat.
Meet Turia Pitt, one of these ultramarathon runners.
Turia was born in Tahiti. Her parents moved to the South Coast of New South Wales when she was three. After double majoring in engineering and science, she landed her dream job – working at the Argyle Diamond Mine.
She and her partner Michael were loving life.
On a tragic day in 2011, Turia’s life changed forever.
While running in an utlramarathon in Kimberley, Australia, she was caught in a brushfire. As she fought to stay alive, over 65% of her body was burned.
And here’s what she has to say about what happened.
Video courtesy of 60 Minutes
This interview was conducted 8 months after she was burned in the brush fire. It’s difficult to grasp the amount of physical pain Turia must have been in while waiting 4 hours for help to arrive.
When help did arrive, the outlook for her survival was not good. But somehow, she managed to hold on, defying her doctor’s prediction that she wouldn’t make it.
To recover from this near-death experience:
Turia has undergone 100 surgeries.
She has spent 864 days in the hospital.
That’s almost 2 1/2 years in a hospital bed.
“I can never get my old life back. It’s gone, along with my fingers, my old face and nose, the smooth skin on my arms, legs and neck; gone also is the way the world looked at me. The way strangers look at me now is different to the way they looked at me before the fire.”
There will always be people who will look at Turia differently. But it’s quite clear that how SHE sees HERSELF defines her – not strangers’ whispers or stares.
“I stared death in the eye and I came out on top. What was it that made me survive? It’s my ‘never give up’ attitude.”
3 years later, Turia is a motivational speaker who travels the world sharing her story. She still runs. She does yoga. She has her sights set on earning an MBA. And she calls herself a “survivor, motivationalist, published author, surfer and mining engineer.”
One thing Turia doesn’t call herself? A victim.
“We all have that inner strength, but rarely do we get the chance to see how incredible we truly are. I’ve had to claw my way back into life — learn to walk, to talk. All the things I had taken for granted before became seemingly impossible tasks.”
She shares her story in her book, Everything to Live For: The Inspirational Story of Turia Pitt.
Despite being burned all over her body, she wears dresses that show her skin, goes to parties and enjoys life.
In July 2014, she graced the cover of Australian Women’s Weekly, redefining beauty and strength on the cover of a magazine. I applaud Australian Women’s Weekly for taking a step toward embracing all forms of beauty in the media.
And her partner, Michael, has stood by her every step of the way.
I admire Turia. I am inspired by her ability to endure such intense physical, mental and emotional pain.
Despite this tragedy, she calls herself “the luckiest girl in the world.” Despite having burns all over her body and losing her fingers, she says that things “could have been a lot worse.”
She embodies what it means to find perspective. She refuses to be a victim.
In a society obsessed with outer beauty, Turia won’t hide her face. Instead, she stands tall and faces crowds all over the world, reminding them that they have inner strength to overcome things they couldn’t possibly fathom overcoming.
What would happen if each of us showed this kind of fortitude and determination when overcoming our own obstacles?
Today, I’m going to see the world through Turia Pitt’s eyes.
Eyes that refuse to look down in the face of adversity.
Eyes that are wide open and willing to look beyond physical and emotional pain to make the best of life – no matter what happens.