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Hillary Allen: How American skyrunner returned to the race that almost killed her

November 21, 2019

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By Ben Collins
BBC Sport
Tromso Skyrace is simply intense. When describing the course at 2014, race director Kilian Jornet confessed:You could die.
It was no denying.
At the halfway stage of this course that is 57km comes the segment: an steep, narrow shape approaching the 1,404-metre Hamperokken summit.
Throughout the 2017 race, American skyrunner Hillary Allen fell from that ridge. She was in freefall for 50ft. Then she tumbled another 100ft down the stonejust as a rag doll before going into a stop.
Here is the story of how a 31-year-old lady from Colorado returned to conduct the race which almost killed her.
It had been 5 August 2017. Allen was anticipating afun workout without the pressure. She remembers smiling, saying hello to friends and new faces across the course. One of those was a rival named Manu Par, a Spaniard who lives in Tromso.
Allen turned into a professional skyrunner at 2015 and invested in Europe. By 2017 she had been one of the athletes on the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series and decided to make Tromso her last race before heading home, where shes also a science instructor.
Found in the far north of Norway, in which mountains rise sharply from the shore, the Tromso race has a distinctive spot in skyrunning. The form of the sport moves from sea to summit.
Its path takes runners along trails, through forests, across snow and snow boulder areas, and up to the regions most renowned summits – Tromsdalstinden (1,238m) and Hamperokken (1,404m) – for a complete altitude gain of 4,800m.
Allen handed Manu Par in the start of both Hamperokkens 3.5km form. She had been choosing the right line round the rocky terrain, making steady progress. Then disaster struck.
Par has been behind when Allen fell 10 metres. It had been almost a vertical drop and he saw the mountain bounces farther down , yelling as pieces of stone broke loose and dropped. It seemed to persist as long as 10 minutes.
The worst thing was that the sound, states Par, 31. A body bouncing from the stone. It was just horrible.
Instinct took over. By scrambling down the stone to attain 15, par place his safety in danger. What he found was a pile. Her body was twisted, her arms were such as bags of bones, was a gash in her thigh.
I was sure she had been dead, he states. I didnt even think to check her vitals.
But after a few moments he realised that her stomach was shifting. She was still breathing. Adrenaline kicked in. Par swiftly called about the standard first aid he understands and is educated as a mountain guide.
Allen was at risk of falling he had to move , but since it was clear she had a spinal injury. She recovered Par and consciousness advised her not to proceed, urging her to remain awake.
You could see she was fighting to stay alive, to get what I advised her, he says. It was unbelievable. Just imagine being in this situation – most normal people would have given up
Some race photographers observed the collapse and called for help. A rescue helicopter arrived after about 25 minutes. Allens precarious situation meant it required 2 weeks to hoist her in the mountain.
Remarkably, Allen lived. She had 12 bones, including two in her back and arms, and also hundreds of stitches. Over the subsequent two weeks she had five operations and has been told she would likely never run.
But over a year she was again competing in skyrunning. Shortly after she decided that shed go back to Norway. She needed closure.
Allen cant recall what happened – whether she slipped, tripped, or even a stone broke off from underfoot. But she does remember falling.
Time slowed right down, she states. I remember the impact of hitting the ground but I do not remember the pain of it. I recall the feeling of my bones breaking up, its noise.
I was thinking:That is it, you are likely to die. I remember relaxing, even though it was a frightening instant, and thinking:Do your best to stop yourself, but only embrace it.
I handed out and when I came to I saw Manu along with another individuals rescuing me. I believed I was going to perish when I watched their faces. I had never seen this look of terror before. Then the pain hit. It arrived in waves.
It had been so intense it caused her to scream, until the pain relief occurred effect, and she was airlifted to hospital. Par and Allen seen the Following Day.
There were numerous tubes and she had been completely groggy in the anaesthetics, he says. I still thought she was likely to die until two weeks after.
It was when Allen awakened that day that the seriousness of her injuries dawned on her too.
I could not move, there were wires coming out of me, stitches and cuts anywhere, she states. I thoughtoh my God, can I even function again? Never mind
She had broken ribs and bones in her feet. She endured a lisfranc fracture and it was what jeopardised her capability to operate again. It required even though the plates in her arms remain screws that were removed.
The time Allen posted after the injury media was – an Instagram video out of her hospital bed in while recording her injuries which, still drained in the pain relief, she slurs her words.
A week later, back in Colorado, she posted another movie where she becomes tearful when describing the surgeries shes going to have.
I did not look pretty, she moans now. When I watch these I grimace. Because thats where I had been 12, but I do not care.
This has been a pact I made early in my healing. Ive mixed emotions about networking. I feel its this huge lie. The actual struggle is never seen by you.
I wished to be truthful about what happened. It was about showing friends and family I was OK, but from there on out I received amazing support via social networking.
I continued to print the good and bad moments, to document how extremely hard the recovery process was continued to be.
Allen returned home with just one limb whichtype of worked. Every tiny thing turned into a huge task – . She could not shower or go to the toilet.
Some days I did not have the ability to escape bed. Early on I wished that the accident killed me since it would have been easier.
Gradually, she found ways to cope. She even made a contraption to eat with and laughs about the number of people.
She could not use crutches so among her sponsors provided a scooter where she could bear weight. Naturally, she broke goingoff street in parks and along trails and needed to get it repaired at a bicycle shop.
She would walk within six she could operate, then after 10 she entered her skyrace because the accident – to 17 June 2018. The week after that shed the Cortina Trail race that is 48km in Italy in the Dolomites – and won it.
The notion of returning to Norway had consistently been at the back of the mind. By 2019 she was intending to race again in Tromso.
During a training run in February, an ankle broke. However she recovered in time to win the Cortina Path again. Tromso was back .
When I crossed the line at the Cortina Trail I was like:OK, I have to go back. It scares me, and it is hard, but I want to return, states Allen. I felt prepared to deal with the fear
Par and she agreed. Theyd kept in touch but it was the first time theyd seen each other as she abandoned Tromso if Allen returned to Norway. Three days before the race, they went up to the spot as well as the shape where Allen almost died.
It was sort of bizarre, states Par. We had a really close relationship through what happened but did not know each other. This was the first time we ever talked properly.
Allen wanted to know all aboutthat day. How she was discovered by Par and what he saw. They hadnt ever discussed the injury in detail – and they have not since.
Par says:It was just like a run also treatment, it was something we had to do.
Allen adds:I knew the accident was bad but hearing from Manus view was pretty extreme. For the remaining part of the day that I just didnt wish to be around anybody. I actually contemplated whether to stay for the race because I didnt need to go back there. It made me understand just how blessed Im living. This was cathartic.
Allen hadthe fun as she and Par finished the race together, talking and laughing, even about the form.
There was no doubt in my head that I was going to complete, she states. This was a burden that I had on me for two years. I feel free, liberated. I dont hold a grudge from the mountain. I spent being fearful of the place but now I see it to the pure beauty.
A self-confessed science nerd, Allen was studying for a Masters degree in neuroscience and enjoying competitive tennis but sought amore simple release. She strove trail running in 2013 andthings just clicked. She felt it was what she had been meant to do. She didnt know if she would regain to be an athlete. But with no who was ?
During her recovery she talked to a sports psychologist, that helped her create. She feels that the ordeal gave her opportunity to rediscover she has made her a better athlete and really loves running – and a person.
She has discovered a new sport (gravel riding), is trying different types of training and running farther than she is run before. In August she arrived races, the 145km Traces des Ducs de Savoie.
Its shown me what Im capable of from this new perspective ofI dont care if I win, she states.
It has given me more view, more thickness. Ive got more freedom to find what works for me, how much I can push myselfto find out more about myself and I would not trade that for anything.
Folks call me courageous. I do feel that. Yeah, I am stubborn. I like facing my fears, doing things and finding a means through, finding answers.
Hopefully thats what I am currently characterized by – my personality and integrity. Life is tough and when I can assist others face the challenges they face then surpasses anything I achieve in running.

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