After three years of racing Ironman triathlons as a pro, British athlete Fiona Ford was having the season of her life—she’d finished fourth in Ironman France and felt poised to push through to the next level, all the while building a thriving coaching business.

Everything changed in an instant during a training ride on June 23, 2012, when a car pulled out suddenly in front of her. Thanks to quick thinking and years of bike-handling practice, Fiona was able to avoid colliding with the vehicle—but she still flew off her bike and hit the pavement, sustaining a broken collarbone, sacrum, several vertebrae, and pelvis, among other injuries.

It was a long road back from the hospital room, where doctors told Fiona she’d likely never run a marathon again, to a podium finish in Kona in 2016. In her own excellent book on the topic, Back on Track—and in this week’s episode—she explains how she got there, one difficult step, online search, and therapy visit at a time. 

Applying the same diligence to her rehab and recovery as she did to her training and racing allowed her to unlock her true potential, she said. The result transformed not only her career but her view of humanity and the hidden potential in all of us.

Fiona told us:

  • How injuries are viewed in triathlon, and how coaches work to reduce the risk (4:52)
  • Exactly what happened during her crash, and how her training and racing history helped her make life-saving decisions (5:41)
  • The reactions of the athletes she coached to her accident—including some who passed out when hearing about it—and why they inspired her to write a book about her experience (10:21)
  • How she translated her coaching and training approach to setting new goals for her recovery (12:17)
  • Why being a multisport athlete can be an asset in recovering from injury (15:34)
  • The struggles she faced when coming off pain medications, and the advice she gives athletes on the topic now (22:53)
  • When she decided to reach out for cognitive behavioral therapy, and why she’s glad she did (28:12)
  • Why and how she decided to return to competition (33:37)
  • Her secrets to conquering the pain of the marathon, including strategic walk breaks and mental shifts (43:53)
  • What injury taught her about the human potential, and why she no longer puts limits on herself or her athletes (47:56)


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