Analysis: What’s next after Courtney Dauwalter’s historic triple crown?
By Henry Howard
I’m struggling to recall another athletic feat that was so unbelievable yet so expected.
It’s difficult to compare what extraordinary ultra runner Courtney Dauwalter has accomplished in the past 10 weeks. Let’s let the facts speak for themselves:
• At the end of June, she won the Western States Endurance Run 100-miler, setting a new course record, 15:29:34, by over an hour.
• Just three weeks later, she won the Hardrock 100 and set a course record, 26:14:08.
• After recovering, Dauwalter jumped into UTMB and won the historic European race, another 100-miler, in 23:29:14.
That’s a feat that has never been done previously. Hell, it’s a rarity to even finish all three of those races in the same calendar year. As far as winning each of the famed 100-milers, only the greatest male ultra runner, Kilian Jornet, and the legendary Krissy Moehl have done so. But they did it throughout their fabled careers, not in a 70-day span.
Still, those who follow the sport expected Dauwalter to win UTMB, as mind-blowing as the trifecta seems.
“You can’t triple unless you try,” she said when announcing she would be running UTMB. “Any time we’re given the opportunity to try something difficult or crazy, we should absolutely take it. This was totally crazy and really, really difficult, but worth it.”
It was totally worth it for Dauwalter, who completed her quest, smiling all the way through pain caves that seem to only propel her faster. (Dauwalter's engaging personality shined through in our interview a few years ago.)
As we try to process what we just witnessed — through the magic of Twitter and other digital media — here are some questions looking into the future.
What’s next after Courtney Dauwalter's historic triple crown? She holds the course records for the big three, as well as the distinction of winning the Moab 240 outright by 10 hours and other accolades. Could she be interested in attempting more Fastest Known Times? She currently has one but there are certainly many others within her grasp. Another potential draw for her would be to try once again to become the first woman to finish the Barkley Marathons.
How will her “triple crown” transcend the sport itself? There are many historic moments in running. Jesse Owens struck gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Roger Bannister recorded the first sub-4-minute mile. Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an official competitor. Each was historic in their own right and opened the door for others to break through previous barriers. Dauwalter’s legendary performance will surely usher in a wave of change to ultra running.
Will her feat inspire the next generation of women runners? The trail and ultra running community is small. But Dauwalter has crossed over to being featured in major media, from Joe Rogan’s podcast to CNN to The New York Times and others. And those appearances were before her impressive triple. All of this media attention — and more to come — will perhaps inspire a new generation of women runners who will follow their role model and seek their potential in the sport. “I was raised in a house with parents and brothers who taught me I could be whomever I wanted to be,” Courtney Dauwalter has said. Now, she may be teaching that lesson to an entire generation of girls who want to lace up the running shoes.
Who will finally beat Dauwalter in a race? At some point her historic run will come to an end, whether it’s due to an injury, strong performance by another individual or some other reason. According to Ultrasignup, Dauwalter is currently signed up for the Javelina Jundred 100K next month. If she does run the race, keep an eye on the course records, set last year. Overall, it’s Scott Traer’s 7:31:46 and Lotti Brinks has the women’s in 8:36:01.
Does this achievement cement her as the “Forever GOAT?” Dauwalter has been referred to as the GOAT (Greatest Of All-Time) previously. There are incredible women ultra runners like Ann Trason, Krissy Moehl, Ellie Greenwood, Camille Herron and others, many of whom blazed a trail for Dauwalter. But none can touch what Dauwalter has achieved. And it will be a long time until we see another Courtney Dauwalter in the sport.
For now, enjoy the ride. It will be exciting to see what she does in the months and years ahead.