How narrowly escaping death changed trail runner Adam Campbell

TR met up with the Canadian elite runner two years on from his terrifying 200ft mountaineering fall

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In August 2016 Canadian elite trail runner Adam Campbell broke his pelvis and spine on falling around 200 feet in a rock-climbing accident. Such was the fall that, as his climbing partners went down to find him, they were expecting they were going to retrieve a dead body.

A month later, while still in hospital, he entered the ballot for the Hardrock 100, one of the world's toughest ultras, convinced there would be very little chance he would be able to complete it.

In July 2017, he did what would have appeared unimaginable to him as he hurtled towards almost certain death in the Canadian mountains 10 months earlier - he crossed the finish line in that 100-miler. It took him 33 hours - more than six hours longer than when he had been third two years earlier - but just finishing it - his T8-T11 vertebrae still held together with pins - meant so much.

The powerful story is told in the 14-minute film In Constant Motion (see below). It had a special screening last night at the Arc'teryx store in Piccadilly, London, when Campbell himself was on hand for a Q&A session and run afterwards. Trail Running also had the chance to interview one of the most inspiring - not to mention luckiest - people in the sport. 

Life-threatening events usually end up being pretty life-changing and one of the biggest effects the accident at Rogers Pass had on Campbell was on his outlook towards trail running. He is still good enough to have finished third in the Lijiang SkyView Adventure 65km in China recently, but he admits he will never get back to where he was.

However, that matters little to the still competitive Campbell, who explains that one of the biggest lessons he has learned from the accident and recovery is "if someone were to tell me tomorrow I could win UTMB or Hardrock or Western States or something like that but I could never run again - or I could run every day for the rest of my life and never race again - the choice would be very easy - run every day.

"Before [the accident], if it were, I could win the Olympic gold medal in the marathon and never run again, it would be 'maybe'! "It’s just the general joy of moving that’s my drive."

He adds: "Before, competition was my focus. I’m always going to be a competitive person, that’s difficult to take away... It’s seeing what I’m capable of every day and also just accepting it - I tried my best today and that’s great... So I think I maybe developed some patience through that whole process and just a deep appreciation, I think rather than focus on the things I wasn’t able to do, it was being appreciative of what I was able to do and accept that."

 Canadian trail runner Adam Campbell at the Arc'teryx store in London last night

Canadian trail runner Adam Campbell at the Arc'teryx store in London last night

As for those challenges, many of them involve running - "it will always be my favourite form of movement," he says - but he is becoming more drawn other branches of mountain sport. But of course now it is with a much more careful approach.

As he has been travelling around the world promoting the Arc-teryx-supported film, he has been delighted to see how much it has been inspired others. He says: "A lot of people who have had accidents in the mountains have reached out to me and so I’d had quite a lot of communication around that… people who have had injuries have reached out… That was one of my hopes with the accident that people could learn from it. I gained a lot from the accident and it’s too bad it took something so traumatic to gain so many lessons and insights… so if you give just a little bit back it makes a big difference."

See a future edition of Trail Running for more from our interview with Adam Campbell.