Runner crawls for 10 hours in the wilderness after breaking his leg on trail run

John Carroll

From Runner's World

A runner who broke his leg on a trail run crawled across snow, rock and ice for more than 10 hours before being rescued.

Joseph Oldendorf, 26, was running in the Olympic National Forest, in Washington state, US, when he slipped on ice at about 5:45 on Friday, Feb 21. The fall broke his tibia, which became detached from his ankle. Unable to walk and with no mobile phone signal, Oldendorf began to crawl back along the trail on his hands and knees. He was wearing only his running kit – shorts, a top and a light jacket – and temperatures soon fell well below zero.

In an interview from his Seattle hospital bed with KIRO-TV, Oldendorf said: ‘I had to crawl on all fours, and my knees – it’s a rocky, snowy, dirty, wet trail – and after a while, my knees were just raw. So, I had the idea to put my shoes over them so I would at least have some traction and a little bit of protection, but they’re still really messed up.’

He added that thoughts of his family kept him going. “I don’t want my family to hear I died in the wilderness,” he said. “I think it’d be unbearable.”

After crawling for about seven hours, he finally got phone service and called 911. However it was far too cold to stop moving and wait to be rescued, so he continued to crawl down the trail for more than three hours, when he was found by rescuers after a four-and-half-mile hike. They splinted his leg and used hot packs, foil and extra jackets to help keep him warm. At around 7am on Saturday, Oldendorf was airlifted to hospital by a US Coast Guard helicopter. He has since returned home and says he will be out on the trails again when his injuries heal.

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