Pippa Turley: The Race of Her Life

Posted by on Oct 01, 2010 | 4 Comments

Having religiously done lots of ‘heat training’ in NZ to prepare for the forecast 26 degree temperatures, Budapest was plunged into a cold, wet spell. There was even some doubt over whether the swim section would be cancelled as it was teetering on the 14 degree minimum.  I suppose, for us Kiwis, it was what we’d been used to having had to train all through winter!

However thankfully, after getting over our mammoth 44 hour journey during the five day preparation period, the water warmed up to a ‘pleasant’ 16 degrees and at least, for my race, it was dry.

What wasn’t so good was the fact that I had to force porridge down my throat at 4:30am on race day as the only transportation to race start was at 5am, despite my race not starting until 8:55am. So I had a fair bit of twiddling my thumbs to do without succumbing to the nerves of the big occasion!

Once the hooter went off, all those early mornings and hours of training was finally being put to the test. What a shame my goggles kept filling up with water and I had to stop about ten times to empty them. I later realized that was just because I decided to place my goggles under, rather than over my hat to avoid them being knocked off in the melee, but that millimeter of difference cost me time.

I came out of the swim in about 26th position (out of 56 in my wave), and sprinted to transition whilst attempting to take my wetsuit off! The transition area was literally a bog because of all the rain, so I decided not to put my cycle shoes on until I was out of it and on to the road. My bike ride was my strongest discipline and I managed to claw my way up the field to 22nd place.

Back into the bog to rack the bike and out again on to the road for the run. Thank goodness I kept my decision to put my trainers on outside of transition as the athletes who didn’t do this suffered terribly from blistered feet running 10km with heavy, wet, muddy shoes.

We ran along the River Danube and into the city. We ran over the famous Chain Bridge and up the cobbled streets around the Basilica. It was a beautiful run course, but one I didn’t really appreciate at the time!

My head was focused and I was digging deep. My two friends, one of whom died earlier this year and left 10 year old twins, and my other friend, who, unbeknown to me, had sadly passed away 24 hours before my race, were never far from my thoughts. My 43 year old friend and step-cousin Karen had died of cancer – she’d been diagnosed with bladder cancer less than a year ago which subsequently spread. I knew it had become inoperable, but the family decided not to tell me she’d died as it was so close to my race day. Susie, another old friend, was 47 years when she died of a sudden heart embolism – this was a shock as she was a former British Army officer, fit, and had just come back from a family skiing holiday.

In my race plan my coach had wanted me to write down what I would be thinking about at certain stages of the race, and I had written down Karen and Susie’s names when I knew it would be getting tough. Thanks Susie and Karen, that one was for you – you couldn’t do it, but you got me through the run to the finish in a personal best time.

– Pippa Turley


  1. Annabelle says:

    Thanks so much Pippa for sharing your story with its triumphs, hard times & sadness.

  2. Martha says:

    Pippa you are a real inspiration to us all. It must have been tough getting that news prior to your race, but in some way you got through, and as you said you are doing what others can not. Its tragic to hear all these otherwise fit healthy people dying, it puts life in to perspective for us still here. So important to follow those dreams.

  3. Sarah says:

    Congratulations Pippa for getting through those various obstacles! And condolences on losing your friends – I’m sure they would have been very proud of you 🙂

  4. Ian Free says:


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