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My Support Story: Philipp Bosshard is the Ultimate Comeback King

Sometimes, you need support when you least expect it. Inspirational Swiss runner and athlete Philipp Bosshard suffered catastrophic injuries in an accident, but has since found the strength to compete. Now, he’s planning to participate in Ironman Florida.

 

A 3.9km swim. Then a 180km bicycle ride. Then a 42.2km marathon. The Ironman triathlon is widely – and rightly – thought to be one of the most challenging one-day sporting events on the planet. Now consider competing in an Ironman just six years after you suffered serious burns to 88% of your body. 

  

Meet Philipp Bosshard. In November 2020, he’ll be heading to Florida to battle through one of the oldest and most well-known and longest-running Ironman events in North America.

 

As he reveals in the Q&A below, there’s only one reason he’s even able to consider such a race, nevermind be targeting such an impressive finish time (4:30, in case you’re asking): and that’s the support he received during his recovery. Family, friends, doctors, physiotherapists and others – they all gave him the strength and determination that’s driving him on to new heights.

 

None of us run alone. But all of us can take inspiration from those around us. Get ready to be seriously inspired by Philip.

   

 

You have a passion for the Ironman Triathlon, why is that?

 

An Ironman Triathlon is the ultimate discipline for all triathlon enthusiasts. And I want to tackle it more than any other competition. I’m aiming to take part in Ironman Florida this November.

 

Why Ironman Florida? 

 

Because of my accident, I have limited perspiration. So I need to be careful about temperatures and humidity. My body just can’t do triathlons in the hottest places. The Ironman in Panama City, Florida, will be ideal for me. The air should be about 66ºF (19ºC), the water around 71°F (22°C). The early sunset will also create cooler temperatures over the long race.

     

 

This is because of a pretty serious accident at work, right? Can you tell us what happened?

 

I worked in civil engineering and during a welding job a spark ignited the oxygen around me. Then my whole body caught fire. All my clothes burned. 88% of my body was burnt. Parts of my skin had burst open. I could barely understand what had happened. I was in shock. I knew only that either the end had come, or something life-changing had taken place. Luckily it was the latter. 

  

That must have been very difficult to overcome?

 

The doctors gave me barely any chance of survival. I think they said 9%. But my mind stayed strong. My determination was able to fight back against the pain, somehow.

 

After the initial trauma and shock, my biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to get outside and be active again. That was so sad to consider. I’d loved extreme sports all my life but I knew, as I recovered, that I wouldn’t be able to do everything again.

   

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Who supported you along the way?

 

My family and my friends, no doubt about it. They were so important. Without them I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. The courage and energy I got from them was unbelievable.

 

Then, of course, the intensive care team, who did everything they could to get me back to a fulfilling life. And all the doctors, the nurses, and especially my sports physiotherapist, Francesca Brenni. They all gave me strength. Or, even better than that: they believed in my own strength. That was a special experience. That changed me. Maybe more than anything. Knowing that people believed in me. 

 

What drives you on to do more?

 

I think it’s a lot about self-perception. When I focus on being and succeeding as an athlete, that defines me ­– not the person with the burns, with all that scar tissue.

 

With my sporting endeavours, it’s all about performance, personal bests, goals, and not my appearance, not how the world sees me. Sport allows me to feel good in my new skin. I am a person of movement, not a victim. 

 

As a triathlete, I get to set myself competition goals, goals that I can achieve. Faster times, new competitions – it doesn’t have to be medals. Every training session is a victory for me.

    

 

What is your running goal right now?

 

I have one big goal: to complete the marathon section of the Ironman in Florida in under 4 hours 30 minutes. That’s driving everything right now.

 

What will be the toughest challenge for you in Florida?

 

Everyone says that the course there is so flat, as flat as it gets. That means you don’t get to relax into downhills, and then focus on the ascents. It sounds strange, because hills are tough, but I think the flatness might be really hard. It will be a test of my mind, my will power. To just keep going, and going, without any kind of change in terrain.

 

What are you looking forward to out there?

 

I’ve heard that the atmosphere at this competition is great. I love meeting people at these events. Everyone has their own story. Their own challenges. Their own goals. It’s inspiring to meet them all, to learn from them all. 

 

The feeling of being in a wider community of runners and athletes is really special.

 

What gets you through the toughest runs? How do you motivate yourself?

   

When I’m really suffering – and we all do – my greatest motivation is just remembering that I can move again. That I'm free to do what I want.

 

I faced my fate, and now I can move again. That feeling of freedom is – it’s everything to me.

 

 

Philip’s interview was conducted in Swiss German, and then translated into English and edited.

 

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