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Reflections from our Bookshelf: Out and Back

Out and Back
By: Hillary Allen
Reflection by: Austin Taylor


Why I read it?

Admittedly, I read this book looking for inspiration and a little help pushing myself as a recently revived (and badly out of practice) runner. But what I’d hoped would serve as a distraction from the pain of running a few miles at a time for exercise, quickly turned into something more. As cheesy as it sounds, the author’s battle back from seemingly insurmountable injuries provided me with a much-needed shift in perspective when dealing with life’s everyday challenges.

What is it all about?

In 2017, Hillary Allen (nicknamed the “Hilly Goat”) was one of the fastest rising stars in the world of Ultrarunning, specializing in a difficult and dangerous form of mountain-trail running known as Skyrunning. That year, she was ranked #1 in the skyrunning Ultra series when a misplaced step during the Hamperroken Skyrace in Tromso, Norway sent her flying 150 feet down a jagged mountain crevasse. Miraculously, and thanks to quick action on the part of other runners in the race, she survived the fall – but with two badly broken arms, two crushed or displaced vertebrae, several broken ribs, and severe breaks throughout both of her feet. Her injuries left an incredibly bright and vibrant person who normally divided her time between running and teaching neuroscience classes completely dependent on others. Allen underwent multiple surgeries on her arms and feet and was told that she would likely never run again – at least not at any competitive level.

What caused me to pause?

Hillary Allen had every excuse to give up – to fall prey to the depression and frustration that set in after her accident and to feel sorry for herself. Who would have blamed her? But, despite months of excruciating pain, learning to walk (and then run), again, she never allowed the process to overwhelm her. There were certainly dark moments, but she kept a shockingly positive outlook and was determined to find a way back to the things she loved – teaching and running. She exhibited an inspiring level of perseverance without coming across as overly cheerful. The way she tells her story is real and raw, qualities that really draw the reader into the narrative.

How will this book change my habits or influence me?

While it might seem an atypical source of professional motivation, that’s exactly what this book has been for me. There’s the obvious “if Hillary Allen can overcome such obstacles, surely, I can accomplish _______,” but I’ve taken more than that from her story. I’ve made subtle but intentional efforts to appreciate things more, both at work and at home. I enjoy working with our clients and I make myself take time to imagine what I’d do if I were unable to do that. I don’t take my abilities for granted or squander the time I have with my family. Even while performing routine tasks at work or chores at home like cooking and cleaning, I remind myself that I’m fortunate to be able to do those things for myself and for others.

Add this to your reading list if …

You find yourself in need of a healthy shift in perspective. This book just may motivate you to take the next step in pursuing a passion or chasing a seemingly out of reach career goal. It reminded me that we’re often stronger than we think and more capable than we give ourselves credit for – difficult does not equal impossible.

Pickle Rating: 5 out of 5!

Shannon Dermody

Shannon DermodyTEST

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