Hungary For Success: Pippa Turley’s Quest Begins

Posted by on Sep 05, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Pippa Turley: temporarily stationary

Pippa Turley: temporarily stationary

It was early on in my conversation with Devonport resident Pippa Turley that I realised I was chatting to a fairly remarkable woman. I think the key moment came when she related to me the story of how she had been chatting to a friend in the UK who had just represented Britain in the triathlon and she had thought to herself: “I could do that.”

Now; there are those of us who would hear of that kind of achievement and tremble at the commitment, talent and sacrifice required to push oneself to accomplish something of that magnitude in our lifetimes. Few would respond as Pippa Turley did; particularly if you are a busy 40-something mother of three, holding down a part-time job launching Sarah Ulmer’s brand and helping to run a charity. And that’s the short list. The reader may be uncomfortably  shifting the middle age spread in their armchair and grizzling about how some people don’t know when to stop. Well, they’d be right.

So it’s unsurprising then that Pippa is off to Budapest this weekend to represent New Zealand in her age group at the Triathlon World Champs; a professional competition that also has an amateur component, in which Pippa is competing along with around 115 other amateur athletes from New Zealand. The course; 1.5km swim, followed by a 40km bike-ride, topped off with a 10km run through the streets of the Hungarian capital. Pippa is aiming to win her age group, but would be satisfied with a top 10 finish.

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Pippa, with children Charlotte and Jacob

This achievement is made all the more remarkable (that word again) by the fact that until January of this year, young Mrs Turley had not really done any serious exercise for the last seven years. Sure, she had a certain amount of pedigree; she had represented British Colleges in Netball and had qualified as a PE teacher before moving to New Zealand, but that had all been an awfully long time ago. And she had only four weeks to get herself into condition before the selection race in March.

It was a chance meeting with Bevan McKinnon – a Takapuna-based professional triathlete – at the local Devonport swim club, that provided Pippa with the opportunity to work with a trainer who had the experience to get her up to speed in time for the March race. The regime for doing so however, is not what most 40-somethings would consider desirable, let alone doable. Starting at 5:30am, Pippa trained for up to 14 hours a week to get to the point where she felt she could make a play for selection in March. She finished the race, she said, in a “terrible” time, but came within 20% of the winner’s time, enough to secure a place to wear the silver fern in Hungary. She couldn’t believe it.

So I asked the obvious question; why? “It’s a fantastic opportunity and an incredible honour to represent New Zealand.” Hmm. The sort of thing I might have dreamed about when I was 20; not achieved when I was 40-plus. Unfortunately, because of her status as an amateur, Pippa has to raise the $4-5k she needs to get over to Hungary to compete. All she gets from the New Zealand Federation is a suit to run in. However, she bears no ill will; “Life in the UK was always great but always busy – wherever you went there were traffic jams, nowhere to park and people, people, people! We lived in Surrey, slap bang in the middle of the commuter belt. We came to NZ for a quieter, less frantic life and of course better weather!”

However, as you’d expect, this is a relatively small hurdle, given Pippa’s experience in sports marketing, event management and PR. Not to mention her key role in establishing the local charity set up by Nicola Russell in memory of her daughter who died of cancer – Kenzie’s Gift. As Pippa chatted modestly about her work with the All Blacks, Linford Christie and the Stella Artois tennis tournament at Queen’s Club in London, I sensed another entire article in the making. However, we were interrupted by Pippa’s effervescent 4-year old daughter Charlotte, who asked in a tone from which one could already infer the answer; “Mummy can we go home now?” This was a busy woman, and Charlotte’s placatory gingerbread man had been “running in my tummy” for some time.

If the gingerbread man is planning an escape in Budapest in September, I suspect he would be wise to refrain from taunting Charlotte’s mum to “run as fast as she can.” Given what she has already accomplished, running down a bipedal biscuit – albeit a legendary one – sounds right up her alley.


Pippa is off to Hungary on Monday. Good luck young lady!

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