An injured Dan Churchill walks back on the Leadville trail with his eyes downcast.
Centr Team

The injury was big. Dan’s comeback was bigger.

Centr Team

It’s August 2023. Dan Churchill, the Centr expert who never stops moving, is taking on one of his biggest challenges yet: a grueling high-altitude race in the Colorado mountains.

After months of training and anticipation, he was on a high and ahead of the clock… until a split-second lapse in concentration led to him exiting the race on crutches.

How did it all go so wrong? And how did he make a comeback in record time?

We asked Dan about his injury, how he fast-tracked his recovery and what the experience taught him.

Dan Churchil, runs along a path on a gravel hill,  beside a mountain lake,  under a  blue, cloud-filled sky.

Dan trained for 6 months – in sweltering heat and bitter cold – to take on his biggest challenge yet.

Take us to the place your injury happened, Dan. How would you describe the Leadville Trail 100 Run?

The Leadville 100 is one of the hardest races in America. Not only are you running 100 miles (160km), it’s done on a trail, not a nice, flat road. Leadville is a part of Colorado that can have all four seasons in one day. It can be sweltering hot, it can snow, it can rain, you name it.

To make it even more difficult, the race begins at 10,000ft elevation – so your body is under immediate strain as there’s less oxygen for it to use.

It’s an out-and-back race, where you go out 50 miles and then come back. For every step you take, you know you’re going to have to repeat that step on the way back. So if you’re going downhill on the way there, you know you’ll have to go uphill on the way back.

This is all just to set the tone of how hard it is. Only 42 percent of people in 2023 finished the race, which is pretty standard.


At the beginning of the 100-mile Leadville race, the only way was up.

That sounds hardcore. What was your training like to prepare?

I trained for six months, which included 100km runs (about 56 miles), trail runs, runs with weighted vests, runs in the heat, runs in the cold, working at altitude, even running parts of the actual race itself. It’s grueling on the mind and incredibly time-consuming.

Leadville is time-capped, so if you don’t make it back in 30 hours, you’re disqualified. That means you’re running or at least moving non-stop for 30 hours, so to have the fortitude to get through that you have to run a lot in the lead-up.

How was your race tracking before the injury?

I was coming out of a checkpoint about 2 hours ahead of where I needed to be, so in a really good position at the 38 mile mark. Spirits were extremely high.

The checkpoint I stopped at is known as Twin Lakes, and it’s the last one you can do with your team before turning around at the halfway point. All the checkpoints are around 13 miles (21km) apart, but at this point you don’t see your team for about 26 miles.

It’s also one of the hardest parts of the course, as you’re going up Hope Pass, which gets up to about 21,000ft elevation. It curves so quickly and it’s remarkable to see the challenge that lies ahead of you. Despite all of this, my body was feeling good.

I went from the highest of highs… to bitterly disappointed and emotionally exhausted.

Dan Churchill runs out of a grove of pine trees, down a gravel hill track.

Dan was tracking well, but his focus was flagging…

We’re feeling the tension. Describe the moment – what happened?

I’m being hard on myself, but I was mentally fatigued. Others might say I was unlucky.

Everything is uphill and you feel so heavy, except for this 100m section where you can go fast. I didn’t notice a rock on the ground. I rolled my ankle on that, heard a huge snap, then crumbled and buckled. I didn’t know exactly what had happened but knew it wasn’t good.

I was in a lot of pain, but mostly I was frustrated. I’d worked for months to get to this point and knew if I came down the mountain, I was effectively quitting, because I wouldn’t be able to get back up.

I kept moving, but my leg was ruined and I couldn’t continue at a good pace. I rolled my ankle again as I was trying to make up time. I wasn’t going to stop, but I knew I wasn’t going to make the halfway point in time on one leg and a busted ankle.

I went from the highest of highs, feeling extremely stoked and in a position to come home having met my goal, to bitterly disappointed and emotionally exhausted.

I also had a crew that had taken time off to come and support me. I felt guilty, to be honest. So not only do I have this emotional guilt and mental strain, but this physically throbbing balloon of an ankle that couldn’t move properly.

We’re amazed that you kept going at all…

I’d done something similar playing rugby years before, so I had a feeling about what had happened. I was in so much pain, but the adrenaline partially masked it.

So you’re telling yourself ‘I’m not quitting’, but you did exit the race, right?

I was determined not to quit, but rather to get timed out. I kept going until I was told by the referees my body couldn’t go any further.

That could definitely be seen as a stupid thing to do, but I had made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t quit.

Dan Churchill, bends over, on crutches, at the end of his Leadville 100 journey.

After reaching the highest of highs, Dan left the race on crutches feeling “gutted”.

You’re in the middle of nowhere, in race terms. How do you get out?

Because you’re at the halfway point, your team can’t get to you. They didn’t know until they got word that I was injured. So after they finally heard what had happened, I got in the shuttle that took me all the way back, and they were unbelievably supportive. They got me crutches and looked after me. But I was gutted.

It’s rare for me to say this – I knew I needed to be around people, but I didn’t want to be.

Wow, that’s definitely not the Dan we know and love. When you finally saw a doctor, how bad was the injury?

I got diagnosed with a grade 2 ATFL tear. Your ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) connects the ankle bone to the top of your foot and helps prevent the rolling of your ankle in a certain direction.

A grade 3 is a full rupture or tear. With a grade 2, you’ve pulled it a decent amount. I’d rolled my foot enough that I’d caused that ligament to stretch, so it couldn’t prevent my ankle from rolling further.

The doctor was pretty surprised that I’d managed to walk on it for more than a kilometer, let alone 21.

Dan Churchill, surrounded by his support crew, sits in a chair and eats some food while at an aid stop during the Leadville 100.

We’ve never seen our favorite foodie look so unhappy while eating.

New York doesn’t seem like the easiest city to have an injury in…

The flight back to NYC sucked. I hate relying on others, I like doing things by myself and being independent. And I hate having to inconvenience people needing them to look after me. So back in NYC, I couldn’t do much. If I wanted to go get something, I couldn’t. You don’t have a car to get around, you have the subway or a bike – which is not convenient when you’re injured.

It wasn’t an ideal place to be in, but the benefit was that it limited my ability to have distractions. I could only do one thing, which was to recover from the injury. This was a massive eye opener. If I’d been back in Australia, I might have gone to the beach to relax, but in this case I couldn’t.

What did your rehab plan look like?

The doctor said it would take 10-12 weeks, but I was back to walking within 3 weeks, back to running in 5, and back to full training in 8 weeks. So I beat expectations, which I think is a testament to my determination and persistence.

It’s the type of injury you have to rehab immediately. You have to put pressure on the foot and strengthen the joint to make sure you don’t roll it again.

So every day when I got up, I did ice and heat therapy, red light therapy, resistance band strengthening work, mobility work, compression, strapping and repeat. I used my Centr foam roller and massage stick (that thing is crazy good) and diligently stuck to the plan.

Strength training played a massive role in my return-to-play plan, too. All those small stabilizing muscles needed to be rehabbed.

I did everything, every day, multiple times. There was pain, but I knew based on my own education and training what to look out for. The pain didn’t deter me. I was encouraged by movement and strength.

Then three months or so later, I was back to the point where I did the New York City Marathon and ran a personal best. That’s pretty cool.

Dan Churchill, in the Centr fitness studio, sits on a yoga mat and massages his outer calf with a massage stick.

Dan gets to work with the “crazy good” massage stick, available as part of the Centr Recovery Kit.

How were you sleeping throughout this process?

My sleep was pretty bad, not because I couldn’t get to sleep, but because I would twitch and cause my ankle to flare up in pain. I’d wake up and crawl to the bathroom – I’m laughing thinking of my girlfriend Milena waking up and seeing all of that happen.

You’re our go-to food guy. Tell us what role nutrition played in your recovery.

I was super persistent and dedicated to doing what was needed, including my nutrition. I got a lot of greens and anti-inflammatory foods in – in fact, I even have a recipe to show for it.

My Poached Salmon with Turmeric Coconut Broth was a go-to at the time because it’s quick and easy to make, it’s nourishing and, most importantly, it’s delicious.

The turmeric, the polyphenols in the coconut, the omega-3s in the salmon – they’re all anti-inflammatory. Those fatty acids and the fiber also support your immune system, which is what you need to get back to fighting fit.

Someone holds a bowl of Centr's Poached Salmon withTurmeric Coconut Broth.

Try Dan’s Poached Salmon with Turmeric Coconut Broth to support healing and recovery.

Did you add any supplements to your diet to give your body an assist?

I had doubled down on AG1 (a greens powder) and took turmeric every second day to counter inflammation, which I found really helpful.

I also boosted my calcium intake and collagen (via bone broth), which is great for your bones, joints and tissue.

But I know our dietitian Angie will be reading this, so let me remind you that not everyone will get the same benefits from supplements. Make sure you read Angie’s guide before you go clear out the supplement aisle.

On a scale of staying cool to totally losing it, how stir crazy did you get when you couldn't move around?

Being immobile, not only are you relying on other people, but you kind of feel like a slob. There’s only so much your mind can tolerate when you’re sitting still – if it’s the middle of the day and it’s sunny outside, you want to be outside, you want to socialize.

There’s a huge aspect of social health that I was missing out on, and I was going super stir crazy.

I tried watching a couple of series – I even started Game of Thrones – but I just couldn’t do it. I ended up watching more sports documentaries and more cooking videos, believe it or not. I doubled down on pasta-making classes.

A photo of Dan's injured leg, with an ice pack and elevated on a cushion on a couch in a living room.

POV: You’re recovering from an injury and trying to get into Game of Thrones

Were there any unexpected benefits to being forced to slow down?

It made me appreciate movement. I love reading, it was nice to do more of that. I can get distracted by being able to move so much, so it allowed me to be more thoughtful about things – and to work on my upcoming cookbook!

So you were back to running in 5 weeks. Can you describe the first run for us?

My first fully recovered run, I actually recorded it because I was so happy. It was a sunny day on the West Side Highway in NYC. I was wearing a black t-shirt and decided to just take it off, I was so elated.

Sure, that’s why you took it off…

I got a few high-fives from people who recognized me and had been following my journey on socials. Seeing the amount of in-person support was a big surprise.

Have you changed up your training in the wake of this injury?

I haven’t changed it a lot, but have added a few injury-based maintenance routines. I also train my mind – I read a bit more before I start running to get in the right headspace.

If you could travel back in time to 2 minutes before this injury, what three words would you use to warn yourself?

Look down, now!

Are you planning to revisit the Leadville 100 in future?

Yes, definitely tackling Leadville again!

We wouldn’t expect anything less. After this experience, what would you say to Centr members who are injured?

Dealing with injury sucks. You’re battling the inability to be your full physical self, especially if you’re on a journey to be greater. But it gives you the opportunity to focus on things you may have been neglecting.

Take this time to double down on other areas of health: reading, meditation, cooking, maybe trying one of my recipes.

While physical health is a huge part of our overall well-being, it’s not the only thing. So if something is preventing you from being at your peak physical health, focus on what you can do at this time, and you’ll learn a lot about yourself.

And always watch out for rocks.

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