The Longing Lab

Professional Ultra Runner Hillary Allen on finding value in yourself beyond performance

January 30, 2023 Season 2 Episode 8
The Longing Lab
Professional Ultra Runner Hillary Allen on finding value in yourself beyond performance
Show Notes

Episode 8: Hillary Allen explains how longing, through the lens of perfectionism, can positively fuel athletes or destroy them.

Hillary Allen is a professional ultra trail runner for Brooks and a gravel cyclist for Scuderia Pinarello. Hillary has raced all over the world excelling in a discipline known as Skyrunning. She earned the nickname "Hillygoat" for her ability to run fast on steep and technical terrain. Over the course of her career she has racked wins and course records from the 50km distance all the way to 100 mile trail races. However, in 2017 Hillary had a life-threatening accident where she fell 150 feet off of a ridge-line during a race in Tromsø, Norway, breaking 14 bones and being told she would never run again. After an intense recovery period, she not only returned to running but she’s back on the podium again! Hillary  has her masters in neuroscience and physiology. 

Connect with Hillary at

In this episode, (in order) we talked about…

*The relationship between longing and endurance sports

*Her life-threatening 150-foot fall at a race where she was ranked number one

*How the accident changed her relationship with perfectionism

*How talk therapy helps rewire our brains
*Her struggle in college with an eating disorder

*Techniques to personify characteristics like fear and perfectionism

*The hardest part of her recovery: comparing herself to her former self

*Falling in love with the process, not just focusing on the goal

*“Death before DNF”

*How longing has motivated her training and racing

*The importance of perpetually being in the present moment


“As an ultra trail runner and gravel cyclist, I have this insatiable curiosity to determine the limits of my potential as it relates to travel on foot in these 100-mile races through the mountains or on two wheels through the gravel roads...” 

“With one step the ground gave way beneath my feet and the horizon was spinning upside down….I remember the world slowing down….I remember hitting the side of the mountain several times before I passed out along the way.”

“I remember longing to know if I was ok. I knew I was moving my legs, so I wasn’t paralyzed. But I’d never seen that look of fear in faces I knew before. I was convinced I was dying. I remember asking in the helicopter if I was going to be ok…There was an unbearable since of urgency.”

“I want to be excellent. I was faced with the reality that that might not happen ever again.”

“(Perfectionism) can be my biggest asset and my worst enemy.”

“I was holding myself up to a standard that wasn’t realistic, in particular for my body, and for anyone in general. I was able to realize it was unhealthy. It was exhausting to live inside my mind.”

“We are in this world where we are defined by our last best result….Something that has helped me (as a goal oriented person) is to fall in love with the process. Each day is an opportunity to be my best.” 

“I’m asked the question, ‘Is it really worth killing yourself, literally or figuratively, to go after a goal?’…To me that’s an invitation to ask, ‘WHY do you want to do something? Is it for interval validation or external validation? How far are you willing to sacrifice parts of yourself to reach the goal?’”

“Knowing that, regardless whether you finish or not, you’re still a worthwhile person, is very difficult….It's the ultimate wisdom and freedom to be able to walk away from something knowing you’re not a worse person for not finishing said task." 

Hillary's timeless mantra: "Believe in the best athletic days ahead of you."

 Let's connect: