Hillary Allen, the voice of resilience
Touch death and the desire to run again. The endurance runner who defeated destiny with words and willpower
The sky can become a chasm in a few steps, in a few seconds. The clouds, barely touched, can become crevasse, fear, pain, darkness. It’s right there, in the dark mountainous bowels of the Trømso Hamperokken Sky Race, where everything can become a tragedy, where a life can change by changing that of others as well.
Hillary Allen is an international endurance runner and North Face athlete. In 2017 she was at the top of the prestigious Sky Running World Series, then, on the sharp Scandinavian heights, she slipped off a steep rocky ridge, miraculously remaining alive after falling over 150 feet.
Less than a year later, after numerous operations and intense rehabilitation, she tied her running shoes again and came back to skim the sky at maximum speed. The story of this Colorado athlete is a story of courage and resilience: a tale that she has decided to tell in a book, ‘Out and Back’, finding in writing a means to help herself and others.
“Writing is a safe place for me. I have a master’s degree in Neuroscience and through my studies I have discovered the power of this action. During the long recovery I wanted to be honest with myself, with the process I was going through: writing was cathartic, it became therapeutic. The apex of this process was when I came back to Trømso for racing again: that’s why I dedicated the last chapter of the book to that experience”
Survival, the power of self-confidence and passion, the ability to bend adverse opinions and conditions. ‘Out and Back’ page after page transcends autobiography, becoming an intimate metaphor of human strength, of the battle against limits and fears, of the acceptance of them.
“I think my favorite chapter is ‘The Power of Belief’. Given my critical condition, sometimes I thought it was useless to tell myself that every day should be a better day. But this mantra has accompanied me for a year, it has accompanied every little detail of my daily life. I believe that the ability to believe in yourself is there, inside you, even if you can’t see it: it’s hidden, like the roots of a tree, but it’s what gives strength to that tree to grow. I’ve never completely lost this component, I just had to find it again. I’ve faced dark times, I’ve worn the cast for three months, I’ve lived through pain, but that spark of ‘belief’ was finally ignited when I reurned to running for the first time: thirty, simple, seconds were enough. A few months later I won the Lavaredo Ultrarail and it was incredible”
Hillary’s relationship with running and with that natural context is also incredible: an element, the natural one, that has never ceased to be the cornerstone of her life. A deep love, generated already in her childhood, thanks to excursions in Colorado and campsites around the USA.
“On the trails I practically learned to walk. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and my parents introduced me to the natural beauty of the United States from an early age. I’ve always loved running out there. I live my sport as a form of communion with nature: in those landscapes I feel insignificant and, at the same time, I am connected with myself, with the world and the people around me. When I have to train I don’t think about fatigue, I think about spending a day in the mountains admiring and respecting Mother Nature”
A respect that in Hillary’s words extends itself to human nature, to the intimate existence of men and women who, distant from each other, are united by the desire and strength to overcome challenges and adversities.
“I think we, as humans, are the most resilient species. We just have to discover it and use our challenges to improve, to grow. On this path I’ve discovered a lot of myself, I’ve opened myself to vulnerability, I’ve found unknown strengths and attitudes. I don’t really like talking about a ‘comeback’: the reality is that a completely different woman emerged from this personal ascent”
A woman who today, in addition to competing at the highest levels of endurance run, combines her sporting activity with university teaching, the role of coach and a notable activity as a blogger.
Between social posts and personal works, Hillary has built around her a positive community, interested in personal growth, as well as sports.
“In my blog I deal with topics such as athletic and mental preparation, physical and emotional recovery and ‘positive self talk’. My story doesn’t have to be a story of physical recovery, I want it to be a testament to human resilience. For me it’s about people first, in all walks of life, from teaching to coaching. The messages, letters and closeness I received from people all over the world were the driving force that inspired me to be a voice”
A voice stronger than the tragedy. A voice that deserves to be heard.
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