Out and Back: A Runner's Story of Survival Against All Odds

Out and Back: A Runner's Story of Survival Against All Odds


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In 2017, world-class ultrarunner Hillary Allen was ranked #1 in the world sky running series when she fell 150 feet off a mountain ridge, breaking multiple bones and suffering a life-altering blow to her body and athletic career. Out and Back recounts Allen's fight to rehabilitate her body, rebuild her belief in herself, and return to the life and sport she loves.

"Powerful and affecting. Hillary is an indomitable force." —Dean Karnazes, New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned ultramarathon athlete

Ultramarathon runner and North Face-sponsored athlete Hillary Athlete felt like she was on top of the world in 2017 as she competed in Norway's Tromsø Skyrace. Then, nearly halfway through the 50-kilometer race, Allen fell 150 feet off an exposed cliff ridge, fracturing her back and breaking multiple ribs, both feet, and both of her lower arms. Beginning with the dramatic story of her nearly-fatal accident and remarkable rescue, Out and Back chronicles Allen's incredible road to recovery and how she navigated the physical and mental health hurdles along the way.

With vulnerability that reveals remarkable courage, Allen's memoir is a powerful reminder that no matter what setbacks you face in life—injuries, break-ups, job losses, rejections—you have strength inside that you never knew existed. Out and Back is an amazing story of resilience that shows how someone can nearly lose everything and then work hard to heal and come out stronger on the other side. Today, Allen sees her 150-feet fall not as an accident, but as a moment of enlightenment that allowed her to reevaluate her entire life, see the beauty and importance of community, and fall back in love with nature and the reasons she started running in the first place.

Allen's story teaches you that the path forward is not always linear, that healing takes time, and that the process of rediscovery is ongoing as you reach within and find what it takes to survive—and thrive. Out and Back is an inspiring read for anyone who wants to bet big on themselves, learn how to live fearlessly, and build the courage to reclaim your life, one day at a time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781944515959
Publisher: Blue Star Press
Publication date: 04/06/2021
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 92,923
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.47(d)

About the Author

Hillary Allen is from Fort Collins, Colorado. She grew up in an outdoorsy and scientific family who not only encouraged her to pursue a career in science but also in sport. She earned a master's degree in neuroscience and physiology and structural biology from the University of Colorado. During her graduate studies, Hillary also discovered trail running and ultra-running. Her passion for the outdoors quickly led to success on the trails where she became a sponsored mountain runner for The North Face. Along with her professional running and racing career, Hillary also teaches chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology part-time at a small college outside of Boulder, Colorado. She also coaches other runners, again using her love of athletics and her physiology background.

Read an Excerpt

After my accident, I was thankful to be alive, surprised even, but that wasn’t the only emotion I experienced. I was also angry. Really angry. Why was I alive? Why did this happen to me? With all my technical experience and knowledge of the mountains, my skill level and expertise, why did this accident happen to me? I was at the top of my sport, the best in the world, and this happened to me?!

I was bitter. Confused. Running had made me feel whole and complete. And it had been ripped away from me in an instant, with just one small step. Why me? I couldn’t answer that question, which infuriated me even more. The potential end of my career loomed large—and it was something I was unwilling to accept or admit.

As a professional athlete, I had built a career on being capable, strong, and competent in my own body. And I excelled because I had always been such a strong-willed, “do-it-yourself” person. If I wanted to buy something I couldn’t afford, I’d get a second job (or a third), until I got what I wanted. If I didn’t get the grade I desired on a test (usually anything less than 100 percent), I’d spend more time studying until I mastered every inch of the material. That’s how I approached life, and it’s how I approached being an athlete too.

I’ve never been someone who desired the easy way out. I value hard work, and I believe that if I don’t get the outcome I want, it’s because I didn’t work hard enough. This ethic has value. It creates a sense of accomplishment after working hard to achieve a job well done—especially since I made it happen myself. But that internal validation and pride in my ability to do everything myself became an obstacle as I faced new challenges in my recovery.

Not only was I frustrated by my inability to work my way out of my current predicament, I was also upset over my loss of independence. I couldn’t do anything myself. Remember, I had broken fourteen bones: five ribs, vertebrae L4 and L5 in my back, both feet (multiple bones in each), and both bones in both of my arms. To say I was limited is an understatement. Of course, I couldn’t do everything myself; I needed help, and lots of it.

I required a constant chaperone and people to check in on me. Each morning I woke up and enjoyed the solitude for a few sweet moments as I did an assessment of my body. I looked over all my casts and cuts. Yep, I’m still injured, I’d think to myself. Then I would take a deep breath as I read the messages on my phone, preparing myself for the day to come.

Table of Contents

Prologue 8

Chapter 1 When My Passion Nearly Killed Me 15

Chapter 2 Why Am I Alive? 29

Chapter 3 Just Keep Showing Up 42

Chapter 4 Survival 56

Chapter 5 The Power of Belief 69

Chapter 6 Patience Takes Practice 90

Chapter 7 You Can Achieve It, Not Attain It 106

Chapter 8 Honor Your Process 119

Chapter 9 Way of the Warrior 138

Chapter 10 When You Eat Dirt 151

Chapter 11 Why I Run 167

Chapter 12 Going Back to Tromsø 180

Epilogue 198

Acknowledgments 202

About the Author 205

My Running Stats 206

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