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Ultra Runner Courtney Dauwalter: Lessons learned from a weekend of filming with Courtney

June 24, 2017

 A couple of months ago I got off the phone with Courtney Dauwalter. Referred to her by a fellow videographer in Madison, Wisconsin, I was excited to discuss her future plans of competing with the U.S. 24 Hour Ultra team. 


We talked for about a half hour, covered the basics like how she got into running, where she lives, why she runs, and how she ended up on the U.S. 24 Hour team. 

I instantly liked Courtney. She laughed a lot, was very kind and had a very comfortable way about her. I should back up and mention I'm new to the ultra scene. Before being referred to Courtney by her husband's cousin, I didn't even know 24 hour endurance races were a thing. Thus the fact I was naive enough to chat with her over the phone and be completely clueless that the month before she had set an American women's record for the most miles completed in 24 hours. 


After getting off the phone with her I did a quick Google search to look up her running record. (All of which, a good documentary filmmaker would have done before ever making the phone call. I'll blame it on a crazy schedule and too many balls in the air.) It took me one click of the 'enter' button on my keyboard to discover she was the American record holder, a fact she failed to mention during the entire conversation! Not even five minutes after I got off the phone with her, I was typing an email with the subject line, "You didn't tell me you set an American record!" But if there's one thing that stands out about Courtney from our weekend with her, this is it. Humility.


Our weekend filming with Courtney taught us some really important lessons. Have fun, work hard, invest in the people you love and be humble. 


Courtney and her husband Kevin are simply a breath of fresh air. We drug them all over Golden, Colorado. Made them run and rerun the same portions of trails over and over so we could get the shots we wanted and basically dominated their weekend. Nonetheless they were all smiles and laughs literally from sun up to sun down.

That humility I discovered on the phone also made an appearance multiple times throughout the weekend. Getting Courtney to talk about her ultra running accomplishments was like pulling teeth. I had to rely on Kevin to fill in the blanks and dig her ultra trophies out of storage so we could see some of them. In a world where we create fabricated, perfect images of ourselves online, this was more than refreshing.


For Courtney, running is personal. She's driven and competitive but in a very personal way. It's enough for her to share her accomplishments with Kevin and her family. As Kevin told me, she's been like this her whole life. A stellar athlete with no need to show off her achievements.


The longer I've spent talking to ultra runners and becoming a student of the sport, the more I realize ultra running often serves as a way to pull people out of severe personal struggles. There's a darkness that can accompany many ultra careers. It's a trend I didn't find with Courtney. She runs because it feels right. Her mind works best when she's running. She thinks it's fun. A different perspective, a light perspective that lends to the fact she has a very laze fair approach to training. No notes, no mileage tracking, no coach. Just run and do what feels good. What feels right. 


Finally, despite being an American record-holder, Courtney has balance. She's woven running into her life without losing sight of other things that are important to her like her family and friends and her 8th Grade science students. What a great way to live. "I try and get the most out of every aspect of my life that I can... It's a pretty awesome life," Courtney shared.


So we encourage you to watch our film on Courtney, be inspired by her approach to life and then don't forget to cheer her on at the World Championships on July 1st!



By Carrie Highman

Owner, Dream Lens Media






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