In September 2011, I was trapped by a grassfire during an ultramarathon.
This is what I remember.
I remember the hot Kimberly sun beating down, burning my already burnt skin.
I remember accidentally sitting on a bull ant nest. Staring in confusion as the ants started swarming across my legs.
I remember trying to drink some water but spitting it out because it was boiling hot.
I remember seeing bits of my skin stuck to the rocks and spinifex.
I remember the small group of us, banded together. The guys trying to construct some shade for Kate and I, a parasol of fluoro material lit up against the sky.
I remember thinking about Michael, my Michael. I remember telling myself “Think of his warm face, think of his honey voice, think of his golden skin. Keep thinking about Michael”.
I remember the bubbling feeling of panic as the hours dragged on. Wanting to be rescued. Needing someone to tell me everything was going to be okay.
I remember the sun starting to set, the heat starting to dissipate, the breeze becoming cold.
I remember saying “I don’t know if I can stay much longer”.
And then, I remember salvation.
The tch-tch-tch-tch of a helicopter racing across the sky.
I watched as it landed and balanced precariously on one skid. The boys helped Kate up, and she limped her way to the helicopter.
And tch-tch-tch-tch, off the helicopter flew.
For a while I worried it would not come back.
But it did.
Once again, the boys got to work. They helped me to my feet and I lurched my way to the helicopter. I couldn’t hear anything over the noise of the rotors.
I don’t remember anything else from the ride. I didn’t remember Paul Cripps, the pilot. Not until I met him again, six months later.
But he was my saviour.
He had rescued me from a literal life or death situation. He had removed me from the blistering sun, the ants, the dry spinifex. He was flying me towards help, to doctors and nurses and hospital air con and a glass of cold water.
I also didn’t know how dangerous it had been for him to fly down the gorge to us. That balancing the chopper on one skid was the result of sheer gutsiness and extreme skill.
Today, 10 years on, life is a lot less dramatic and a lot more mundane ??
Michael and I have had two beautiful boys.
I spend my time interviewing other people who have done hard things on my podcast Turia Pitt is Hard Work, and helping Mums learn how to love running in my program Run with Turia.
And Michael is now – of all things – a helicopter pilot!
The result of years of study and training.
I’d like to think it was the dramatic role Paul played in evacuating me that inspired him or maybe he’s just living out every man’s wildest dream.
Whatever it is, I’m of course going to take credit ??
And, ten years later, I want to say thank you for supporting us, and for following our story.
Truly, thank you.
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