Even though Haley Chura swam competitively at the University of Georgia as part of a National Championship winning team, she followed the same path that most adults find themselves on when they leave college life behind and move into the busy professional world.
She was working hard to build a career that she loved but had not made room to continue in sports. Through a combination of events, she reconnected with her love of swimming through a local swim club, Dynamo, and her boss challenged her to run a marathon with him.
The first day I went running I ran a mile and walked home, says Chura.
Even though it wasn’t a stellar start, Haley began to realize with consistency and hard work you can improve at something and she found herself really enjoying that process.
After running her marathon, where she ended up beating her boss by a minute and continuing to swim at Dynamo, the next natural progression was to triathlon where she spent 4-years racing as an age-group triathlete before taking her pro card at the end of 2012.
She went on to win New Orleans 70.3 in 2013 and then Ironman Fortaleza Brazil in 2014. Life as pro was working out well for Haley.
Three weeks out from Kona 2015, Haley was training in the North Georgia Mountains. After 48-miles with a friend, he turned around and she had 2-miles to go before she planned to make a pit stop at a local gas station.
‘I looked up and it was a beautiful day, then I looked down at the time and was thinking, ‘wow, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. I’m crushing it today and this feels so good. Then I remember looking ahead and thinking, this car is AIMING for me. And then my next thought was, this car just hit me.
The impact broke every tube in her bike and she suffered significant injuries to her lower leg (injuries that took over a year and a half to heal) but emotionally, the timing of the accident was devastating. Just three weeks before the Ironman World Championship and at a pivotal point in her career.
The event had a huge impact on my triathlon career because I was pretty hurt. I had to make a choice, do I want to continue with this. A part of me just thought, this never happened when I worked in a cubicle, says Chura.
Through some time working with a therapist and a supportive community, Haley decided to continue as a professional triathlete. She knew she had to make some changes in order to stay in her career. She moved to her parent’s home in Montana and began to train primarily on the trainer.
I moved home for a few months before getting my own condo in Bozeman, Montana. I spend a significant amount of time training indoors because of the weather, but also because it’s safer and more time efficient, though I do still enjoy getting outside during the summer. I miss Atlanta and the triathlon community, but I was able to visit several times last year and love getting to see people at races.The move to Montana was a good choice for Haley's career. 2017 was a comeback year for her with three finishes at five 70.3s including wins at Ironman 70.3 Buenos Aires and Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene, a third-place finish at the Ironman South American Championships in Florianopolis, Brazil, a ninth-place finish at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, and an 18th place finish at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
But just as important as racing, Haley has discovered a calling to help bring equality to the sport of triathlon. She is the co-host of the IronWomen podcast and involved in initiatives to help women who might have a fear of moving up to the professional level make that transition.
Listen to an interview with Haley here
Get her the Ironwomen podcast here