Ali’s remarkable story

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On a Spring day in Armidale in 2014, 30-year-old Ali Flynn was getting ready for work as a fitness instructor when she suddenly experienced a severe headache that brought her to her knees and pins and needles down the right side of her body. Recognising the signs, her husband rushed her to hospital. From there she was airlifted to RPA in Sydney and placed in ICU. Ali had suffered a stroke.

Ali was young, fit and healthy, running her own personal training business, married with three young daughters and there had been absolutely no warning. Ali spent six weeks in hospital, six months at rehab and endured three years of short-term memory loss.

A milestone in Ali’s recovery came when she was lying in a hospital bed in ICU and decided she would feel “normal” again the day she crossed an Olympic Distance Triathlon finish line (1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run).

“I have no idea where that came from” she said, “but I had for some reason come up with that goal and I was determined to see it through.”

Just over two years later, in March 2017, Ali did in fact achieve her goal, crossing the finish line of the bcu Coffs Tri in 3 hours and 22 minutes.

“I still remember someone saying to me the week of the event, ‘Are you sure you’re ready?’ Maybe they were thinking I was crazy because I had never done an ocean swim before, had only owned a road bike for five months and was recovering from a broken ankle. What they didn’t know was how determined I can be once I decide to do something.”

“Running across the finish line at the Coffs Tri was the most exhilarating feeling – it’s not about whether you come first, 21st or last, the sense of pride that you get from completing something like that is indescribable and I was hooked.”

“The bcu Tri was one of the most therapeutic things I have ever done. I’m sure I cried for the best part of the 10km run. I was crying for myself, for my children (to show them you can always fight the fight, you just have to keep trying), and I was running for everyone lying in a hospital bed around the world wondering how they will ever get their life back.”

Ali didn’t stop there, completing the Pottsville Half Ironman event in February 2018 followed by the Coffs Tri in March, slashing almost 20 minutes off her previous time. She also ran the Gold Coast half marathon in July with fourteen of her clients.

Ali plans to return to Coffs Harbour in March 2019 for her third Olympic Distance triathlon and will take a large contingent of clients from Armidale with her.

Ali is the owner of Altitude Fitness as well as the Director of Altitude Health, a multidisciplinary centre offering nutrition, fitness, psychology, pilates and yoga, where staff work together to help individual clients believe in themselves, reach new heights and find their inner strength.

The bcu Coffs Tri on 2-3 March is for ages six and over with events for individuals and teams, novices and seasoned triathletes. Hopefully Ali’s story may inspire others to give it a go too. “I would encourage anyone out there thinking about doing their first triathlon to find the courage to say yes,” said Ali.

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