Giving up was never an option for Turia Pitt.
The ultramarathon runner and engineer survived burns to 70 per cent of her body while competing at an event in Western Australia’s Kimberley region in 2011.
Today, on the eve of her 27th birthday, she spoke to Rooty Hill High School students about her recovery and the importance of imagination and personal goals.
‘‘All I do is just tell my story and people take out all sorts of messages — positive body image, the importance of having a strong relationship with someone, the importance of resilience, how to overcome adversity,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s about never giving up.’’
It was after the second check point of the race that Turia was engulfed in flames, setting her on a path that would sorely test her mettle.
‘‘After the fire passed I was still screaming,’’ she said.
‘‘It didn’t feel real. In my distressed state [my arms and hands seemed fine] and I got this huge rush of joy because I was alive.’’
Teacher Sarah Andrews said year 9 students had studied Turia’s story as part of a unit of work on resilience.
‘‘Turia is a force of nature,’’ she said.
‘‘I thought it would be amazing if the kids could meet her and hear her speak to complete their learning.
‘‘She takes triumph in the face of adversity to astonishing new heights.’’
Turia was an induced coma for more than a month and has had more than 200 medical procedures to heal and help her regain mobility.
She said being told she can’t do something has always been a great motivator — first gaining top marks in chemistry, physics, and mathematics extension when being told by a teacher she ‘‘wasn’t smart enough’’ to do well in the HSC, and running within a year of the fire after her doctors told her she never would again.
This year Turia has cycled from Sydney to Uluru, completed the 20 kilometre Lake Argyle swim, and climbed the Great Wall of China to raise $200,000 for Interplast, a charity that provides free reconstructive surgery to people in developing countries.
‘‘You don’t have to wait until something bad happens to you to find out just how bloody brilliant you all are,’’ she told the students.
‘‘Only through experiencing change can we grow and learn and really live.’’