Courtney Dauwalter, a dominant force in women's ultra-running, recently secured her third Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) title, completing an unprecedented triple crown by winning the Western States 100, Hardrock 100, and UTMB in a single summer. Her journey to ultra-running stardom began over a decade ago when she dropped out of her first 100-mile race, Run Rabbit Run, in 2012. Determined to finish a 100-mile race, Dauwalter signed up for another event a year later and embarked on a path that eventually led to her triumphs.
Dauwalter's impressive achievements extend beyond this summer, having dominated women's ultra-running for the past decade. Her last defeat by a female runner dates back to 2019, and in 2017, during the Moab 240, a 238-mile race, she outpaced both men and women, winning by a substantial margin. Her exceptional performances have sparked discussions and research into the leveling of the playing field between genders in ultra-endurance events.
The 2017 Run Rabbit Run victory marked a pivotal moment for Dauwalter, as she overcame temporary blindness caused by corneal edema. Despite the challenging circumstances, she finished first, showcasing her mental toughness and determination. Her ability to navigate the "pain cave," a mental space where she confronts physical challenges, has contributed to her success.
Research indicates that in ultra-endurance events, the gap between men and women narrows, and women may even surpass men in distances exceeding 195 miles. Factors such as a greater distribution of slow-twitch muscle fibers, efficient fat burning, and steadier pacing play roles in women's success in ultra-running. While these findings suggest a more level playing field, it's essential to approach the subject objectively, considering individual performances and various physiological factors.
Dauwalter, known for her carefree attitude, enjoys a well-rounded life outside running, emphasizing the importance of collecting memories and living life to the fullest. As women's participation in ultra-running continues to rise, Dauwalter remains a trailblazer, challenging norms and pushing the boundaries of what is deemed possible in the sport.