A lot of trips to Tennessee revolve around visiting Graceland or the Grand Ole Opry. But last week Golden's Courtney Dauwalter went down to the Volunteer State with an entirely different kind of …
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A lot of trips to Tennessee revolve around visiting Graceland or the Grand Ole Opry. But last week Golden's Courtney Dauwalter went down to the Volunteer State with an entirely different kind of goal: to keep running one 4.1-mile lap an hour for as long as she possibly could.
That goal was fulfilled on Oct. 20 when, over two days after embarking on her first lap, Dauwalter completed her 68th loop to become the last runner standing at the 2020 Big's Backyard Ultra race — and thus its American winner.
Held in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, this year's Big's Backyard Ultra matched 13 American runners who had to start a new lap at the beginning of each hour that would then be finished within that hour. Lap after lap, repeated until there was only one runner remaining, who is the winner.
Dauwalter completed her 68 laps in 56 hours, 52 minutes and 29 seconds to tie 2019 champion Jonah Steene for most laps completed in the event. The 68 laps was one more lap than Dauwalter did in 2018, her only other time competing in the race when she finished second behind Steene.
But while Dauwalter was thrilled to win this year, she said the highlight of an event like Big's Backyard Ultra is seeing how far she can push herself to the limits as a runner.
“It's technically a race but really when you are out there it just feels like you are helping each other go farther then any of you have gone before,” said Dauwalter. “And that's pretty cool to be able to lift up the people around you and get the boost of energy from them as well and just keep lining up.”
That curiosity dates back to Dauwalter's first road marathons, which she ran in after college and was “surprised to have survived.” But that surprise soon turned into a desire to see what else she was capable of, which led her to compete in her first 50k, a 31-mile race.
While Dauwalter has hardly slowed down since, this year was a particularly eventful one for her as she also attempted to set a new record for completing the 567-mile Colorado Trail in August. Although Dauwalter was unable to complete that journey after ending up in the hospital with bronchitis, her time on the trail still made for a rewarding experience
“It was really cool to just be out there and trying to move out there as best I could,” said Dauwalter. “A lot of times I would be up on a ridge or on saddle between two peaks and it was just breathtaking so while it didn't end in Denver like I hoped it would I learned a lot from just having that multi-day experience and covering 309 miles and being at altitude that much.”
As for the Big's Backyard Ultra, Dauwalter said the challenge is as much mental as anything.
“I didn't try and prevent getting tired,” said Dauwalter. “It's about staying calm and staying in the moment and not worrying about how many more days you might be out there running or what things are starting to hurt a little bit. Just problem solving and patience and then putting one foot in front of the other.”
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