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Unbreakable Spirit

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When Hillary Allen toed the starting line of the Sur les Ducs de Savoie (TDS) trail race in Courmayeur, Italy, on the morning of August 29, the previous two years of her life flashed through her mind.

How could it not? The previous 24 months had included extreme highs and lows, from the joyous euphoria of winning international trail races to the dark despair of severe, potentially career-ending injuries.

Oddly, the jagged elevation profile of the rugged, 147-kilometer TDS race that she was about to tackle closely mimicked the peaks and valleys of her collective physical, mental and emotional self during that time. Appropriately, given her relentless and meticulous resolve, the TDS race was going to be the longest and most difficult race of her career and, perhaps just as appropriately, she wore a contrasting race kit that included a bright orange technical T-shirt that matched her typical exuberance and a pair of black shorts that, at least metaphorically, represented the darkness she had been through. Her stoic expression was also a reflection of the cognitive dissonance of the moment, with just glimmer of her excitement peeking through a nervous smile.