by Larry Carroll
As the summer officially descends upon us, the ultra-running community is asking itself one question: Which will be hotter in the next few months, the temperature on the trail or Courtney Dauwalter?
For those paying attention, the Colorado-based 34-year-old has strung together twelve months of running that are becoming the stuff of legend. It began with a dominant Western States 100 win in June of 2018 that was more than 2 hours faster than the 2017 Women’s winner. Now, as the Western States is on us once again, observers are left wondering how she’ll bookend this year of dominance.
Will she beat everyone at the Western States, both female and male? It certainly seems possible, as she has done exactly that in nearly a dozen other ultras, and last year’s 17:27:00 time would have made her competitive with many past male winners. Will she turn the race into a laugher? Also possible, as a 240-miler in Moab, Utah once had Dauwalter finishing 10 hours ahead of second place.
For many athletes, winning the Western States and then training for the next would be enough. But in between the two, the former high school science teacher has never stopped running — or winning.
A few weeks after the Western States, she ran a 50 miler in Squamish, British Columbia. She then returned to Colorado for the Continental Divide Trail Run a week later, finishing first in the 50K.
Those were likely just warm-ups, however, for the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run, which took place in September. All she did was destroy the previous women’s record by 18 hours, running a race whose requirement is that it be finished in 100 hours — while doing it in less than half that.
Then came Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra. Taking place in October, Dauwalter made headlines by covering a distance of 279 miles in three days. The brutal Tennessee-based event has one basic rule, as simple as it is punishing: The last one running wins. After 68 hours of running without sleep, she found herself alone with male competitor Johan Steene, ultimately settling for second place.
After taking a break for the holidays and admittedly doing a lot of sitting, Dauwalter roared back in February with New Zealand’s Tarawera Ultra. Posting a start-to-finish women’s win, she dominated the 102 km race and celebrated her 34th birthday shortly thereafter.
Next up was March’s Behind the Rocks Ultra in Moab (1st place), April’s Madeira Island Ultra-Trail (1st place) and June’s Mueller Marathon in Divide, Colorado (also 1st place).
Dauwalter has indicated that, following this year’s Western States, she has plans to tackle many other big races and give the 24-Hour World Championships another shot. The next question on the minds of observers, then, seems to be an obvious one: Could her upcoming 12 months be even more impressive?
Photo credit @ Lavaredo Ultra Trail