An Ultramarathoner Shares Insight Into The Mental Aspect Of Running

Scott Rokis

Courtney Dauwalter should be solving crimes while kicking ass and taking names on a Netflix show. By day, she’d lift up the city she loves with her good-hearted nature; by night, she’d run every inch of pavement to keep the residents safe. Her superpower wouldn’t just be her otherworldly endurance, but also her superhuman ability to convince others that with enough kindness and perseverance we can fix our fractured world.

Back in reality, Courtney Dauwalter may not be solving any crimes, but she is inspiring just about everyone she meets. Dauwalter is an ultramarathon runner who’s pushing the limits of the human body and our brain’s capacity for endurance. Through her running, she’s teaching all of us that we too can do the impossible.

Dauwalter has been running since her high school days back in Minnesota. After a move to Colorado to study and then teach science in middle school and high school, she got deeper and deeper into running as a sport in Colorado’s high altitudes. Eventually, she decided to take that love of running to the next level. Dauwalter left the world of teaching behind to focus solely on her running career. Marathons turned into 50k runs which turned into 50-mile runs. Then 100k. 100 miles. Then more. Last year, Dauwalter ran the Moab 240 Endurance Run. It’s a breathtaking race through Utah’s backcountry over mountains, through canyons, and across deserts.

She won that race. By a lot.

Dauwalter crossed the finish line ten hours before the next racer came in. To put that in marathon terms, she won the race by more time than it takes her to run two marathons. It was a feat that is hard to put into relatable terms — hence all “superhuman” preamble.

We sat down with Dauwalter to talk about how someone trains for running 240 miles over 55+ hours. And we were surprised to learn that one of the most elite athletes on the planet needs beer and quesadillas too. Sometimes even on the trail. We also found Dauwalter’s positivity downright infectious. She makes running the most accessible it’s ever been. You’ll want — maybe even need — to go out and run after reading her words.

Paul Nelson

Let’s start with a basic question. What’s an “ultramarathon” and where do you run them?

Ultramarathons are running races that are any distance longer than a normal marathon of 26.2 miles. They can be on a trail, road, track, or a combination of surfaces. Typical distances are 50km, 50 miles, 100km, and 100 miles. But 200+ mile races are becoming more common! There is a whole other category of ultramarathons called “timed events” where runners do a short loop as many times as they can in a certain amount of time — 24 hours is the most common time frame for those races.