In Ultrarunning, This Woman Often Beats the Men

Courtney Dauwalter runs 200-mile races, often beating men
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2018 4:40 PM CST
In Ultrarunning, This Woman Often Beats the Men
Stock image   (Getty Images)

There are runners, and then there’s Courtney Dauwalter—a star of “distance running’s lunatic set,” as the New York Times puts it. The 33-year-old ultrarunner routinely participates in races that exceed 200 miles. Since 2011, she has tackled 51 ultra races, Deadspin reports, winning 11 of them and being the first woman across the finish line in 27. Her ability, the Times writes, demonstrates that “ultrarunning is one of the few sports in which women appear able to hold their own against men.” Evolutionary biologist Heather Heying concedes that men are, for the most part, stronger and faster. But, she says, ultrarunning is about stamina. “It begs the question,” she says, “is there something going on for women … that gives us a psychological edge in extremely long-term endurance events?”

Martin Hoffman, an ultrarunner and former researcher for the Western States 100-mile race, chalks up Dauwalter's success to the fact that few people participate in 200-mile races. “If you have the best trained male and female ultrarunners competing against each other, the men will always win,” he tells the Times. Research on 200-mile races, however, is too sparse to draw any conclusions, Heying says, adding that mental strength and pain tolerance are important equalizers. They seem to be for Dauwalter. “I put myself in situations where suffering is going to be involved and hope to be able to tap into the mental piece every time that physical pain becomes too much,” she says. (The ludicrous Barkley marathons will break you.)

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