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December 26, 2018

CITIUS MAG Athlete of the Year – The Case For…Courtney Dauwalter

We’ll be announcing our CITIUS MAG Male and Female Athletes of the Year on Dec. 31. Over the next few days, our bloggers will be making cases for their own respective picks before we vote as a team. Here’s Stephen Kersh on Courtney Dauwalter.

Every time I’m looking for a book to read from my bookshelf, my eyes wander towards my never-been-opened copy of Infinite Jest. It provokes me with its density, its challenge, its general acceptance of impossibility to get through. I respect the hell out of the book and, at the same time, am utterly unwilling to accept the burden of the challenge into my life.

Courtney Dauwalter is not me and, therefore, is very much willing to accept the burden of any challenge into her life. She does it in a way that might make you queasy, scrunch up your face and say, “Really? Why, though?”, and consider the unique possibility reading Infinite Jest is less of a task than doing what Dauwalter does on a far-too-regular basis. Dauwalter may not have the speed of Molly Huddle, or the World Marathon Major titles of a Des Linden or Shalane Flanagan, but she absolutely makes you question what the mind and body are capable of, and that’s why she’s my pick for the CITIUS MAG Female Athlete of the Year.

According to my shoddy internet research, Dauwalter has won at least nine races in 2018.

Her most mainstream and well-known result came at the career-defining Western States Endurance Run in June. Her 17 hours and 27 minute clocking is the second-fastest time ever on the course and she beat a handful of world-class men. Hell yeah, Courtney.

A couple of months later, and a couple of dubyas down, she raced the Tahoe 200. Two hundred fucking miles. 49 hours and 54 minutes later, she narrowly missed the overall win.

Approximately five weeks after that, she did a “Devil Takes the Hindmost” style race called the Big Backyard Ultra. She ran 279 miles on a roughly four-mile loop and placed second overall. Doing some quick arithmetic and looking like she raced about 27,000 miles in 2018 and usually won or got second. That’s pretty badass. 

(Editor’s Note: As far as sportsmanship goes, there is no greater class act that Courtney. She got a lot of pre-race attention after a profile on her ran in The New York Times ahead of the Desert Solstice 24-Hour Run. Unfortunately, that was not her day but she did stick around and cheered on Camille Herron, who went on to set a world record in the event. It’s not the most popular event in running but the United States’ 24-hour squad of women is going to be strong at next year’s world championships.)

I’m a sucker mind-bending, reality-altering forays into finding some sort of human limit. And while I don’t think Courtney Dauwalter has found hers, I laud her for all of her expeditions in 2018. Almost makes me want to crack open that damn book.

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