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Women’s History Month: 10 women ultra runners who shine



Courtney Dauwalter is the GOAT.

By Henry Howard

 

What better time to celebrate some of the most inspirational women ultra runners than in March, Women’s History Month?

 

This list is intended to highlight a collection of women ultra runners for their inspiring contributions to the sport over the years. The approach is slightly different than my annual list of the Most Inspirational Ultra Runners of the Year, which is published in December. For my 2023 version, I increased the total number and separated the list into one for women ultra runners and another for men ultra runners. The fifth annual list from 2022 is published here. My previous compilations include the 2021 list here, the 2020 version here, this one from 2019 and the first installment in 2018.

 

Women ultra runners who inspire


But right now, as a way to honor Women’s History Month, here are some women ultra runners who are worthy of following:


Katie Asmuth, who has multiple top 10 finishes at Western States.

Katie Asmuth: The Western States top 10 finisher has had back-to-back injuries at the coveted race that have derailed her return to running. Still, she glows with positivity that is so uber inspiring.


Just the other day on Instagram, she posted a photo of her smiling while on an indoor bike. “Over here just chugging away! 🚴‍♀️In an era of instant gratification, patience is undervalued. Well- I’m here to play the long game. I’m training hard on the bike, focusing on strength work and PT- but it’s still going to be a bit before I toe a start line. AND still staying crazy motivated!”

 

Candice Burt: Just this past week the architect of North American 200-mile races received confirmation of her world record for consecutive days running an ultra. Starting in 2022 and finishing in May 2023, Burt completed at least a 50K run for 200 straight days. A little more than five years ago, I profiled Burt. The headline to the story says it all, “What drives Candice Burt.”

 

Courtney Dauwalter: Just a few weeks ago, Dauwalter repeated her victory at Transgrancanaria’s 128K race in 15:14:54, an hour ahead of her nearest competitor. In 2023, of course, Dauwalter completed her personal triple crown, winning Western States, Hardrock and UTMB with a couple of months. GOAT? Yes. But her popularity goes beyond her race results as she is one of the kindest humans on the planet. (Here’s a look back to our interview a few years ago.)

 

Stephanie Flippin: As an Asian-American female, she believes her presence in the elite and professional space can inspire others and create meaningful change. “What am I actually doing to make meaningful change in the sport?” she wondered. Flippin is helping to create the change she envisions as she discusses topics through her social media, writing contributions, and as podcast co-host of Making Strides. The podcast focuses on experiences of underrepresented and marginalized communities in the sport of running.


Michele Hartwig: The race director, runner and owner of Ornery Mule Racing (OMR) is anything but ornery. I’ve had the pleasure of doing several Hennepin Hundreds, among the OMR races. Hartwig puts the wants and needs of runners first. As an example from our interview, she reflected back to when COVID forced the first race cancellations. “My first gut instinct was that I felt sad for the people that had trained for Earth Day and for Kettle. And I had to tell them that they couldn't run the race.” This year, I am highlighting one race director every month to promote those who do so much for the trail and ultra running community. First up this year was Hartwig.


Camille Herron set 12 world records in the six-day Lululemon FURTHER project.

Camille Herron: She is no stranger to world records but what she just achieved at the Lululemon FURTHER project was absolutely incredible. She ran 560.33 miles (901.7 kilometers) in six days, breaking a dozen world records in the process. Her career has been marked by ups and downs. In fact, she even had to come back from a harrowing car accident just a few short years ago. Like the others on this list, she also shines a bright light on the community and uplifts others.

 

Jacky Hunt-Broersma: What do you do for an encore the year after setting a world record for consecutive daily marathons? If you are Hunt-Broersma, you set out to break another world record to raise awareness about the disease that took your leg but propelled you on a running journey. As I write this, she is about three weeks away from establishing a new Guinness World Record for consecutive half marathons with 250 days. Last Aug. 1, she celebrated her 21st year of being cancer-free by starting the streak with the goal of reaching 5,250K or 3,262 miles. The distance represents the number of people who are diagnosed with cancer every day.

 

Sally McRae: The “Yellow Runner” was an easy selection for this list for her relentless positivity, contagious laugh and incredible performances. In 2023, McRae completed her own Grand Slam of 200s in less than six months, including the Cocodona 250 in May where she finished in fourth place. She then finished Candice Burt’s trio of 200s, with her cumulative time being the best among women and fourth overall. Beyond her results, McRae is a powerful force in the ultra running community, sharing her inspirational story freely, being an engaging guest on podcasts and offering strength training tips on her channels.

 

Van Phan, a member of the club of runners who have finished more than 100 100-milers.

Van Phan: Better known as “Pigtails,” Phan is a member of an elite club, runners who have finished more than 100 100-mile races. She achieved that distinction by finishing the Hamster 32-Hour Endurance Run in Bellingham, Wash. Phan, who began running ultras in 2003, has finished more than 400 of them and over 620 races of a marathon or longer, with a goal to reach 1,000. Of her 100-milers, she has won more than 20. We talked about a range of topics in this interview from a few years ago.

 

Leah Yingling: At the Lululemon FURTHER project, Yingling completed 400 miles, second only to Herron’s world record performance. Beyond her elite running skills, Yingling also possesses the ability to offer depth as a commentator in the sport, a passion that inspires runners of all levels and more. Once she recovers, she will be back to training and looking at another top 10 finish at Western States. When not racing or offering commentary on a podcast or other media, Yingling has a demanding career as a biomedical engineer. For all this and more, she is a wonderful athlete and human worth following.

 

Feel free to share your thoughts on this list, or let me know what other women ultra runners you would like me to feature on RunSpirited. For all the ways to reach out to me and follow me on my socials, check out my LinkTree page.

 



 

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