Hopkins grad Dauwalter hits another level with 100-mile race win in France

Courtney Dauwalter, a former Hopkins High School star, took ultrarunning to new territory over the weekend in the French Alps.

Dauwalter won the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, part of the world's biggest ultramarathoning event, completing an unprecedented trifecta by a man or woman in the sport: She now has won three consecutive prestigious 100-mile races: Western States in California, Hardrock in Colorado and, on Saturday, the UTMB, which emanates from the town of Chamonix.

At age 38 already a legend in the sport, Dauwalter continues to rewrite running history — and it has people buzzing in Minnesota's broad community of road and trail runners.

Dauwalter attempted one of her first 100-milers on the Superior Hiking Trail in 2013. She finished second in the Superior 100 among women and seventh overall.

Busy in advance of next weekend's Superior races, including the 100, director John Storkamp is moved as much by her mental game as her improbable endurance. He told the Star Tribune in an e-mail that her recent run of success has "as much, or more, to do with her mastery of her mind and the openness of her heart than her physical ability.

"What people love about Courtney is that she is a real-life superhero who will take time to speak with you. She carries herself in a way that puts others at ease. Trail and ultrarunners from Minnesota love Courtney. One of the big reasons is that she routinely acknowledges where she came from."

That kind of inspiration can resonate with new runners, too, and on other surfaces.

Charlie Mahler, Twin Cities Marathon communications manager, said it's a positive whenever Minnesotans (or former Minnesotans) do remarkable things.

"Even if a 100-mile race isn't on someone's bucket list, knowing the seeming limitlessness of human ability and drive can inspire any runner."

The marathon, 10-mile and related Twin Cities in Motion races are Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

While he was preparing for his grand fall event, Storkamp was aware that Dauwalter was making news out on the trails, and now in the Alps.

A New York Times feature Aug. 31 lent perspective to her recent achievements, including her victory at Western States in June when she broke an 11-year-record by a woman by 77 minutes. Dauwalter crossed the finish line in 15 hours, 29 minutes and 33 seconds, bringing comparisons to another ultramarathon stalwart from Minnesota: Scott Jurek, who grew up in Proctor, Minn.

From the Times: "It would have won the men's division of Western States — arguably the most competitive 100-mile race in the world — every year from 1978 through 2009. Scott Jurek won Western States seven times (most recently in 2005) but never once ran as fast as Dauwalter did this year. She beat a 1994 Western States record set by Ann Trason, who won the race 14 times, by more than two hours."

Dauwalter couldn't be reached for comment, but she told in an interview Sunday that the weight of previous 100-mile races didn't hamper her.

"I wanted to race it like it was my only race of the summer. It's sort of what my approach was with all three of them. Not have, you know, an excuse queued up, not be thinking of the fatigue that might still be there. But just give it everything I have."