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Take, for example, Dunedin triathlete Holly Pawson (27), who is about to head to Mexico to compete in the ITU World Triathlon Championships.
Seven years ago, Pawson broke her back when she fell from a tree while on holiday in Samoa, and soldiered on until she knew the full extent of the damage.
Just over a year ago, the keen sportswoman decided to return to competitive sport, but was injured when she was hit by a car while cycling only two months later.
Her wrist was in a splint for four months, her hip and knee still give her grief from the collision and her back, which has a permanent spinal fracture, also took a hit.
But Pawson, a medical laboratory scientist for the Southern District Health Board, is not a person to make excuses, or to complain about being hard done by.
Rather than mope around, she turned to swimming to keep up her fitness, and gradually returned to cycling.
Many would have accepted defeat, but Pawson was not having a bar of it.
In February, before she had even returned to proper running, Pawson achieved what she had set out to do upon her comeback — complete the half distance Wanaka Challenge triathlon, which she finished in 6hr 18min 26sec.
"I sort of just winged it when I did the running. I was basing the whole race on fitness I had from other sports, so it wasn’t particularly comfortable for me, but I’ve got a really high pain threshold and I’m very competitive with myself. I’ve just got to get it done."
Pawson was a keen mountain biker and swimmer before her back injury, so triathlon made sense.
She decided to take the sport up about a year ago, but admitted to having her doubts.
"You hear all these incredible stories about people who have overcome various challenges, both physically and emotionally.
"For me, it’s been a really difficult time but there are people who are doing far greater things.
"So I was like,‘Well, let’s give it a go’. But I was really concerned, mainly about the running and whether or not that would exacerbate the neural pain and other symptoms that I get."
It took Pawson almost three years to return to full health after her back injury, which will always need to be managed.
But there is no stopping her enthusiasm.
She is out training in all weathers and speaks glowingly about her new sport, which she took up in November.
"Everything was working towards that Challenge Wanaka half. I didn’t think I would get as into it as I did.
"I get hooked on these things and it’s such a great group of people that do it and are involved in it.
"It becomes a bit of a lifestyle. As long as you’re not obsessed about it [it’s OK], because you don’t want to be one of those people who all they do is talk about triathlon, so I’m trying to not be that person."
Unbeknown to Pawson, the Wanaka triathlon was an ITU qualifying event, and her time was good enough to see her selected for the New Zealand 25-29 age-group team for the World Triathlon Series grand final in Consumel, Mexico, next month.
"It’s a great chance for us. We don’t get paid to do triathlon but we’re really passionate about it, and we get to put ourselves up against the best in the world in a pretty incredible setting.
"I’m really excited about watching the elites just as much as I am about racing myself."