Turia Pitt is having a good year. In May, the Australian athlete defeated doctors’ predictions that she’d never run again by completing the 140-mile Ironman Australia triathlon. Then, on Sunday, she completed another grueling Ironman, this one in Hawaii. Now the 29-year-old powerhouse is being honored by the Australia and New Zealand edition of Runner’s World magazine as cover star of the November issue.
But none of these are Pitt’s biggest accomplishments. Her most significant feat to date would have to be her victorious battle for her own survival. In 2011, Pitt was competing in an ultra-marathon in the Kimberley region of Australia when she and other runners were trapped in a raging bushfire. Pitt sustained life-threatening burns over 65 percent of her body, according to the BBC.
An official inquiry into the devastating disaster — which left four others severely burned — revealed that the organizers of the 2011 race had failed to put proper precautions in place in the event of a bushfire, according to the article.
Pitt persevered. She stayed in the hospital for 864 days and endured more than 100 surgeries in the aftermath of the horrific event. Then, when she felt she’d recovered enough, she got right back on track — literally. “Competing in Ironman has ultimately showed me that I literally can do anything I put my mind to,” the determined Ironwoman said on her blog. She told the BBC, after completing her second Ironman, that she’s had to make some adjustments to her wardrobe in order to compete.
“Because of my burns, I can’t regulate my own body temperature, so I’ve had to make some adjustments, or use standard tri gear in different ways,” she told the publication. “I’m going to need things like cooling sleeves and white suits so I don’t overheat.”
Runner’s World announced Pitt’s placement on its cover in a Facebook post, which read, in part, “Our November issue featuring superstar athlete @turia.pitt is on sale today! We couldn’t wait to share this one with you. We can guarantee that once you’ve read our feature on the amazing Ironwoman @turia.pitt, you’ll be inspired to set some major goals yourself.”
Accomplished athlete. Ironman warrior. Burn survivor. You’d think the inspiration ends there, but Pitt is even more than that. According to her website, she’s also a prolific motivational speaker, having recently delivered an inspiring TEDxTalk, “Unmask Your Potential,” at Macquarie University in Sydney. In it, she discusses lying in a coma for about a month. She reveals that she actually “died” on the operating table three times but was revived. And that she had to learn to walk and talk again, “and even how to wipe my own behind,” she jokes. “What I’ve learned on my journey, though, is that the strength of the human mind — of our minds — it’s astonishing. Its ability to overcome adversity and its capacity to fight back — it’ll amaze you.”
As a humanitarian, she has organizing a trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal in May 2017 to raise funds for Interplast, an Australian nonprofit for which she has already helped to raise $1 million. The organization “sends teams of volunteer plastic and reconstructive surgeons, anesthetists, nurses, and allied health professionals to provide life-changing surgery and medical training in 17 countries across the Asia Pacific region,” according to its website. (No big deal, by the way: She has already trekked the Great Wall of China and the Kokoda Track, and she also conquered the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.)
The announcement of Pitt’s appearance on the cover of Runner’s World has drawn 1,300 reactions and a slew of supportive comments. “This is awesome. I hope your push towards diversity continues so beauty in all forms can be appreciated. She is beauty!” one commenter wrote. “Eyes are beautiful. Heart of a warrior. Body of steel,” another added. A third wrote, “So much admiration for this beautiful woman.”