4. Danelle Ballengee – The Runner
Danielle Ballengee, from Evergreen, CO, is a world-renowned adventure racer and one of the top trail runners in the US. “She had won the Pikes Peak Marathon four times. She had raced up all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in less than 15 days, faster than any woman in history. She competed in 441 endurance events (races that took from an hour to 10 days to finish) since 1995 and finished in the top three in 390 of them. Three times she was part of a four-person team that won one of the most punishing endurance events in the world, Primal Quest, a 400-mile trek over land and water, mountain and desert terrain. She had earned six "US Athlete of the Year" titles in four different endurance sports. She had kept going when others had told her she had to stop. Now, she couldn’t move.”*
The two-time Adventure Racing world champion and her dog Taz started a typical 10-mile run near the Amasa Back trailhead south of Moab on a cold day in December. Halfway through, Danelle slipped on a patch of ice and tumbled 60 feet down 3 rock faces crashing from a 20 foot cliff to the rocky canyon floor. The fall shattered her bones and leaving her legs clinging to her torso by soft tissues.
For five hours, Danelle dragged herself along the bottom of the canyon. But the sun went down and with temperatures below freezing and only Taz to keep her warm, Danelle decided to fend off hypothermia by doing crunches every five seconds… all… night… long. The next day when the adrenaline had worn off Danelle was in excruciating pain. She made several attempts throughout the day to continue the trek but could no longer drag herself out of the canyon.
The second night in the canyon was even colder than the first. When the morning came, all Danelle could do was yell for help. But after two days and two nights in the canyon, she knew she probably would not emerge from the canyon alive. Finally she began to reflect on her life. The realization that she would never see her family and friends again prompted a last desperate cry to her dog to go find help.
Suddenly, for the first time in two days, Taz left his master’s side and took off down the canyon. By this time rescuers had been alerted Danelle was missing in the general area. Given 20 square miles of treacherous canyons to search, prospects were grim. That is, until Taz emerged from the canyon just after the search party arrived and led the rescue team directly to her side.
“Given the degree of her injuries, the doctors told Danelle she might never walk again. On May 12, less than five months after her fall and only nine weeks after she started walking again, she completed the Adventure-Xstream adventure race in Buena Vista as a solo competitor, biking, paddling, running and navigating her way to the finish line of the 60-mile course in less than 12 hours.
She entered under the team name of ‘How’s This for Rehab?’”