Turia Pitt, badly burned in marathon fire, talks mental resilience

  • 20/03/2018

Turia Pitt was running an ultra-marathon in 2011 when her life changed forever.

Partway through the race she became caught in a grass fire and suffered severe burns to 65 percent of her body. She spent a month in hospital and had to relearn how to walk and talk.

The 30-year-old Australian athlete also had to come to terms with a dramatic change in her appearance, and wore a mask for two years after the accident. But she's not one to sit around feeling sorry for herself.

"The reality is bad. Stuff happens to people every single day and I don't think that's interesting," she told The Project.

"I think how I've rebuilt my life and how I've reinvented myself. I really think that's where the magic is."

Recovering from her severe injuries took a long time, and there were times she grappled with self-doubt.

"The first time I had to learn how to stand was so excruciatingly painful, I just thought, 'I can't even stand up by myself. How am I going to be able to walk again, compete again, go back to work, have a family?'"

Ms Pitt realised the path to healing physically and emotionally had to be taken one small step at a time. She's since become a voice for the power of mental strength.

"I realised early on that I couldn't think too much about what my future looked like because there was such a giant gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. I literally just took things one day at a time.

"When I woke up in the morning I'd just focus on what I was doing that day. When I went to my room that night I would congratulate myself and say, 'Well done, Turia, you've made it through another day.'"

The toughest part of recovery wasn't getting used to her new face, but feeling diminished in her physical abilities, which she says she always based most of her confidence in.

"Lying there in a hospital bed with my physical abilities completely stripped away, of course I didn't feel like me. The more I regained my physical abilities and the stronger I got, the more I felt like me and the more confidence I got.

"The change in my appearance is kind of irrelevant because my confidence and my self-belief has never relied on that."

Ms Pitt will appear at the Auckland "Courage, Connection & Badassery" event in June.