For the latest episode of the mini-series Faces Behind the Races, presented by Race Roster, the Endurance Town USA podcast host Samantha Pruitt traveled to Moab, Utah, to sit down with the successful race director, endurance adventure athlete, professional coach, small business owner and wilderness survivor Danelle “Nellie” Ballengee. Their rich conversation touches on Nellie’s growing up, how she discovered her love of sports and outdoors, then finding herself directing races, surviving a near-death trail running accident and ultimately coming through it all with her return to racing, owning a restaurant business and building a family.
Included in her personal accomplishments, Danelle holds the female speed record for climbing all 54 of Colorado fourteeners in fourteen days, fourteen hours and forty-nine minutes. She won several hundred events in various endurance sports, including one of the most punishing iconic endurance adventure races in the world, Primal Quest, a 400-mile self-navigated team adventure race over water, mountains and dangerous desert terrain.
Danelle’s life turned upside down when in December 2006, she went for a trail run, slipped and fell 60 feet, shattering her pelvis and breaking her back. She survived two nights and three days in sub-freezing temperatures with her dog Taz, who eventually led the Search and Rescue team to her remote location. Reflecting on the accident, Danelle says, “It slowed me down and forced me to really appreciate life, all I have and what I had accomplished in my athletic career. It made me really think hard about the bigger perspective of life.”
Since 2011, Danelle directs the Moab Trail Marathon. “I came up with this loop, which ironically, part of the loop was on the route where I fell. And I think a part of my motivation for including that course segment was to prove to myself that I didn’t do anything stupid, it was truly just an accident.”
Danelle still competes in trail and adventure events, but her priority at this time is raising her two sons, Noah and Will, then giving back to the outdoor sports world she loves so much.
To hear more episodes from Faces Behind the Races mini-series of the Endurance Town USA podcast, including professional Race Directors and athletes Krissy Moehl, Doug Thurston, Ian Adamson, Maria Burton, Luis Escobar and Samantha Pruitt, download the Endurance Town USA podcast by visiting the website or by subscribing “Endurance Town USA” on your favorite podcast device.
About Endurance Town USA
Endurance Town USA is a state of mind, where listeners escape their daily grind and connect to their community of like-minded people, exploring their best selves through endurance sports. We dive deep into the story of WHY our guests use the common thread of endurance to weave their world. Through endurance sports, our storytellers are transforming their lives, the industry and the community at large.