People don’t call Hillary Allen the “Hillygoat” for nothing: She has quickly proven her ability as a fast runner in the mountains, especially when the trail turns towards the sky. Originally a tennis player, Allen didn’t take up distance running until grad school, when she needed an outlet to clear her mind while on her degree in neuroscience. She linked up with a few local runners and never looked back, quickly achieving podium results in long distance trail races. Since then, her running has taken her to races around the world, where she continues to rack up podium finishes and set course records, while maintaining a humble attitude and great sense of humor while doing it.
“you’re going running again today?” “Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” “Wait, you’re going how many hours today?!”
I was living a life perceived as mad. My family didn’t understand, most of my friends thought I was crazy, sometimes I didn’t even understand why I running so long. But I longed to be outside, moving and feeling the mountain air. It didn’t matter what they thought. Everything made sense when I was moving, running, grinding uphill and playfully jumping downhill. The questions, the ridicule, the doubt were silenced in my head as I focused on my methodical breathing, or the sound of dirt underneath my feet. The silent moments spent alone taking in the landscape; that was my world.
I haven’t always been a runner, let alone an endurance mountain athlete. The transition to a life focused on the outdoors has been met with skepticism, in particular by my family or friends who don’t share the same passions. They were confused with my obsession and questioned the benefits of long distance mountain running. But when I run, everything makes sense. My mind is clear and I am connected with the world, my heart, my thoughts. It is the place where I feel most at home in my own skin, where I can challenge myself, learn, grow and become stronger. It’s a deeply personal form of self-exploration, yet it transcends into every aspect of my life, making me better. It’s unexplainable and complex; this desire to run extreme distances through technical terrain, over high-mountain passes through unexplored territory. Is it mad? Some days I think it is. When I’m suffering and battling through the pain, the desire to stop, the raw state of my body exposed to the relentless mountain. Is this life mad?
No. In fact, it’s the opposite. In those raw moments I find strength. I find the power within myself to continue and face any challenge that comes my way. That’s powerful, rewarding and beautiful. This madness, is not really madness at all, but a steadfast desire guiding my heart, mind and soul to a greater purpose.