Turia Pitt training for the 2019 Kathmandu Coast to Coast event Picture: Andy Baker
Turia Pitt training for the 2019 Kathmandu Coast to Coast event Picture: Andy Baker

How Turia Pitt overcame her life rut to achieve greatness

Today, Turia Pitt is thankful for her 14-month-old son Hakavai, and for her fiance Michael Hoskin for fixing the hole in the front door where a mouse was entering the house for its nightly high jinks.

Another day, it might be the cup of coffee that helps kickstart her morning, or her mum Celestine for babysitting Hakavai.

While she's far more pragmatic than religious or spiritual, Pitt begins every day choosing things to be grateful for.

"With gratitude, it doesn't have to be supermassive things. The simpler the better," Pitt says.

The former mining engineer knows she has a lot to be thankful for. Having survived against overwhelming odds after becoming trapped in a grass fire while competing in a 2011 ultra-marathon, she emerged stronger, more motivated and more determined to help others.

 

Turia Pitt will tackle the Coast to Coast multi-sport event on New Zealand’s South Island next week. Picture: AAP/Emma Brasier.
Turia Pitt will tackle the Coast to Coast multi-sport event on New Zealand’s South Island next week. Picture: AAP/Emma Brasier.

After suffering full-thickness burns to 65 per cent of her body, Pitt was still in the burns unit of a Sydney hospital when she set the goal of completing a gruelling Ironman.

With doctors telling her she'd never run again, it's testament to the enormity of her will.

In the 7½ years since her ordeal in Western Australia's Kimberley region, and despite enduring about 200 operations and many excruciating hours of rehab, as well as having just three fingers, Pitt has finished the world's toughest Ironman race - a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run - twice.

She's also walked the Kokoda Trail, trekked part of the Great Wall of China and the Inca Trail, founded her online coaching program School of Champions, fundraised tens of thousands of dollars for charity, become an in-demand guest speaker and written two best-selling books.

Her next challenge is tackling the steep 30.5km mountain-run section of the Coast to Coast multi-sport event on New Zealand's South Island next week. As an ambassador for race sponsor Kathmandu, she'll traverse river beds, rock features and bush trails in her first competitive event since giving birth to Hakavai in December 2017.

"It's an iconic adventure race," Pitt, 31, says. "Most endurance athletes would have heard of it and a lot would want to do it, I presume, as well.

"It's totally crazy - there's a run, cycle and kayak. I wish I was doing the whole thing, but maybe one day. There's so much on my bucket list … but you do need to balance it out with the rest of your life, work and family."

Turia Pitt in 2007, while running for Miss Earth Australia. Photo: Melanie Russell
Turia Pitt in 2007, while running for Miss Earth Australia. Photo: Melanie Russell

Pitt has been rising at 4am to fit in her punishing training regimen around work and caring for her son, as well as regular pilates sessions to help avoid injuries.

But the lifelong athlete wouldn't have it any other way, and stresses the importance of everyone, but particularly women and especially mums, setting their own goals.

"I've enjoyed the training," she says. "I think it's good for all of us to have something to focus on and work towards.

"I felt soft initially. The race is epic and I wanted to do it all, but then I thought about it and remembered the training involved for Ironman and that was intense with eight hours a day, and I don't really want to do that and be away from my baby. It's fine to set a goal that's reflective of where you're at in your life."

Pitt says women regularly, and wrongly, put themselves last and can fall into a rut.

Turia Pitt competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Picture: Michael Klein
Turia Pitt competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Picture: Michael Klein

It is imperative to have a goal on the horizon, whether it be fitness-related, returning to study, saving for a house deposit or writing a book.

"Before I was training (for Coast to Coast), I was in a bit of a rut," Pitt says. "I wasn't working towards anything. If you're not growing and you're not challenging yourself, you're stagnating.

"And you can feel like you're stuck. You can feel like what you want and your priorities aren't valued and so you work towards a goal.

"I tell Michael, 'I'm going for a long run tomorrow, you're going to have to have Hakavai in the morning'. If I wasn't working towards a goal, I'd just have Hakavai and play, and Michael would do his own thing.

"I don't have a problem with that, but when you start a goal, you need to put it into action. It needs to become one of your priorities - especially for women, and more especially for mums. It's important to find time in the day that's just for you."

While Pitt cautions women to set realistic goals, she's also not one for taking shortcuts or making excuses.

"You can only do what you can do - if you're a single mum or you've got no family around, potentially doing a 30km mountain run might be a stretch for you," she says. "You do have to set these goals with respect to the rest of your life.

"However, I'm a big believer in anything is possible.

"With a lot of the runs I've done, I just take Hakavai in the pram. I do have great support but I've also got a catastrophic injury that affects a lot of things that I do.

Turia Pitt is a big believer in anything is possible.
Turia Pitt is a big believer in anything is possible.

"We can come up with any excuse that we want to for why our lives aren't the way we want them to be. If you don't have a support network, you can get a running pram, you can join a running club, you can babysit someone else's kid while they go for a run and then they do the same for you."

Teenagers and children are next in line for Pitt's brand of confidence building. In April, her 2017 e-book Good Selfie will be released in hard-copy format, giving teens tools to navigate friendships, chase goals and overcome challenges and hard times.

In Pitt style, she's self-publishing the book.

"It's been a learning curve having to deal with distributors on Christmas Eve, warehousing and printers in China, but I've actually enjoyed the process," she says. "I had a vision of what I wanted the book to look like.

"I've got a great relationship with my publisher (Penguin), but they didn't necessarily agree with what I wanted, so I decided to self-publish. I also wanted to have a crack and back myself as well."

Pitt's time is also spent blogging and maintaining her entertaining Instagram account.

Her main sponsors include outdoor clothing and equipment brand Kathmandu, Super Nature Foods and Avene skincare.

 

Turia Pitt and finance Michael Hosking celebrate son Hakavai's 1st birthday. Source: Instragram/
Turia Pitt and finance Michael Hosking celebrate son Hakavai's 1st birthday. Source: Instragram/

Pitt and Hoskin still live in Ulladulla, on NSW's South Coast, where they grew up. When she is recognised in the street, most stop to tell her she's an inspiration - "a compliment I accept graciously," she says - but she does, amazingly, get the occasional knocker.

"I was at the pool once training for Ironman and a lady said I shouldn't be wearing swimmers and showing my scars," she says.

"I said to her, 'You're overweight and shouldn't be showing yourself in swimmers either.'

"I look back and I'm not proud of how I dealt with that. It was tit-for-tat and not even mature. But I can't control what people are thinking or saying or what their opinions are.

"That's the great thing about living in a country like Australia. You can say what you want, but you can't like situations for the good that they bring, and dislike them for the bad."

Pitt is similarly upfront about parenthood. Her down-to-earth blog posts about being a mum should be comfort to any new parent finding it tough.

"It changes minute to minute," she says.

"One time you're in love with your baby, and other times you might be really sleep-deprived, or you might be having a really humorous or sweet moment with them and the next minute they might be in a bad mood, and that makes you feel like you might be doing something wrong.

"But overwhelmingly it's the best thing I've ever done."

Hakavai, meaning "dance of the water" in Pitt's Tahitian heritage, turned one in December. Pitt says he's a born explorer who likes to eat broccoli and foie gras.

"Maybe the next one will be completely different. We'll have more (kids), but not sure when," she says.

Turia Pitt meets Nicole Kidman and Anna Wintour. Picture: Michael Klein
Turia Pitt meets Nicole Kidman and Anna Wintour. Picture: Michael Klein

Likewise, a Pitt/Hoskin wedding is on the cards, but the timing isn't set.

After Coast to Coast, the family of three will enjoy some downtime in New Zealand before Pitt returns to France with Avene.

She's scheduled for more reconstructive operations, is working on another book about happiness and will continue her speaking engagements.

She'd also like to start doing workshops tying in with School of Champions - her seven week, seven-step online coaching course that has helped people run marathons, get out of debt, climb to Everest Base Camp and lose weight.

"I'm all about making an impact in people's lives," she says. "I think you can talk to people for an hour and you inspire them, but I don't know if there's long-lasting changes that come off the back of that.

"It's the best feeling (to see people's progress). I love it when people do School of Champions who can't run at the start and sign up for a half marathon.

Or they've always had this awesome business idea but never had the self-belief and they do the course and suddenly they're selling organic blueberries.

"People quit their jobs, move countries, learn new languages.

"For me that's inspiring. Life's short. Don't take each day for granted."

 

KATHMANDU COAST TO COAST IS ON February 8-9 ON NEW ZEALAND'S SOUTH ISLAND. coasttocoast.co.nz

 

GOOD SELFIE IS OUT IN APRIL, RRP $34.95, VIA turiapitt.com

 

 

megan.miller@news.com.au