Robyn Benincasa’s right leg gave out with three days remaining in the 2007 Adventure Racing World Championship in Scotland. Her teammates put her on towlines to make sure they finished the grueling race. It marked the end of the line after 17 years atop the field in one of the planet’s hardest competitions. But Benincasa says the biggest disappointment was not that her career in adventure racing was done—it was coming in sixth place. That’s not acceptable “if you are good enough to come in first,” says the two-time world champion.
Benincasa isn’t one to settle for average. She quit competing in IRONMAN events because she was “OK”—her description—at them. Never mind that she qualified for four national championships in Kona, Hawaii. Benincasa became a champion adventure racer before the action caught up to her body. Not to be outdone, she then set three Guinness World Records in paddleboat competitions, one of which (moving-water racing) still stands.
Six hip replacement surgeries later, Benincasa now pushes others to be their best. She is the founder and minster of dreams of the Project Athena Foundation, a nonprofit that creates one-day athletic challenges for women who have survived medical or other traumatic challenges. Benincasa, who is nearing 20 years as a full-time firefighter in San Diego, is also an in-demand motivational speaker. She translates her stories and experiences in adventure racing into teambuilding lessons for Fortune 500 companies like Starbucks, Walmart, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, Nestle and Hewlett-Packard.
Connect got Benincasa to stand still long enough—no small feat!—to discuss it all.