For many years, the 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon have sort of formed the backbone of road running, and then track and cross country were sort of separate disciplines with a very niche sub-group of trail runners beginning to tackle the esoteric world of ultrarunning.
However, particularly in the last 5 to 10 years, ultramarathons have started to boom in popularity almost in the same way that the marathon distance did back in the 1970s and 80s.
More and more recreational and even competitive runners are taking to the trails and the mountains to try ultramarathons from 50k trail races to 50 milers, 100k races, 100 milers, and beyond.
As the world of ultramarathon running has continued to gain global recognition and prestige, and see higher participation rates, ultramarathon races like the Western States Endurance Run (Western States 100 Miler) in the United States and particularly the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) have built a global respect and following that transcends the ultramarathon scene to everyday runners and athletes at large.
The UTMB Ultramarathon race series—and the UTMB World Championships, in particular—are largely considered to be the preeminent ultramarathon race in the world, akin to the Olympics of trail running or ultrarunning or the “Boston Marathon” in the ultrarunning community.
UTMB ultramarathon champions certainly earn the respect and admiration from the running community that they deserve, even though it wasn’t that many years ago that even pretty avid runners paid little attention to anything having to do with trail running or ultrarunning.
In fact, as a quantitative demonstration of just how popular ultrarunning and the best ultra marathon runners in the world are becoming, this year‘s 2023 UTMB ultramarathon champion, the indomitable Courtney Dauwalter, has 535k followers on Instagram as of Monday morning, September 4, 2023, at 6:00 AM EST (Update: By the time of publishing 2 hours later, she’s gained another 1,000 followers to 536k!).
The reason the timestamp is included is that some 72 hours ago, roughly Saturday afternoon, the ultramarathon queen Courtney Dauwalter was at 509k, and while that’s still super high—talk about rapid growth!
To put the global interest in following Courtney Dauwalter and her ultrarunning career into perspective, consider the number of Instagram followers that some of the other top American women distance runners and international marathon runners and distance runners currently have:
- Shalane Flanagan: 422k Instagram followers
- Sifan Hassan: 236k Instagram followers
- Molly Seidel: 232k Instagram followers
- Des Linden: 199k Instagram followers
- Kara Goucher: 198k Instagram followers
- Athing Mu: 177k Instagram followers
- Faith Kipyegon: 150k Instagram followers
We do see some crazy-high Instagram followings for female sprinters.For example, Sha’Carri Richardson has a whopping 2.8 million Instagram followers, and Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Allyson Felix both have about 1.1 million Instagram followers.
And, when discussing female athletes at large, WWE athlete, Ronda Rousey, has 17.4 million Instagram followers, and tennis star, Serena Williams, has 16.9 million, but just the fact that an ultramarathon runner takes the cake in terms of having the most Instagram followers of any woman runner in the entire world is probably not a statistic that any runner would have put their money on a handful of years ago, unless perhaps that ultrarunner came from some sort of A-list celebrity background or was involved in some kind of scandal.
All of this is to say that not only has the sport of ultrarunning as a sector of running at large really taken off, but Courtney Dauwalter, in particular, has earned every single one of her followers through her incredible ultrarunning career.
(Plus, it would be a huge oversight to also fail to mention that there are probably thousands if not even a million more Courtney Dauwalter fans who aren’t on Instagram in the first place, or just use it enough to even follow her there!)
So, what exactly makes American ultra marathon runner Courtney Dauwalter the incredible athlete who is not only worthy of following but also probably the most decorated ultramarathon runner in the world right now?
In addition to the stunning ultrarunning résumé Courtney Dauwalter has gradually assembled over the last number of years that she has been taking to the trails for ultramarathon races, Dauwalter has had probably the best 2023 ultrarunning season that any ultrarunner has ever pulled off.
On Saturday, September 2, 2023, the Colorado, USA-based ultra runner capped off an unprecedented triple victory by winning the 2023 UTMB Ultra World Championships, after already winning the Western States 100 on June 25, 2023, and winning the Hardrock 100 Miler in July, just three weeks later.
And if that’s not enough, she set a course record in both of those earlier ultra wins!
After the Hardrock 100 ultra in July, Dauwalter was planning to hang up her trail running shoes for the season, at least in terms of racing.
However, after a couple weeks of well-deserved rest to give her body that was feeling reportedly “torn up” after the Hardrock 100 miler, Courtney Dauwalter did what she does best: lace up her running shoes and go for an easy jog, after which she decided she might want to give the mighty UTMB Championships a stab after all.
Scoring Bib #1, Dauwalter took to her Instagram before the start of UTMB and wrote:
“Leaving no room for “what if’s..?” Pinning on a bib and pouring it out one more time this summer. You don’t know unless you try! ✨ My main goal of the race is to make the entire loop and get myself back to Chamonix.🤞 Let’s have some fun out there! ⛰️🎉”
Well, that decision sure paid off, as Courtney Dauwalter not only finished her third 100-mile ultra in 70 days by successfully crossing the iconic finish line of the 170k (106.5-mile) 2023 UTMB World Championships trail course, but she took yet another win.
That’s right—Courtney Dauwalter is a triple 100-mile ultra champion this summer after becoming the 2023 UTMB World Championships Ultra winner this weekend, finishing the 106.5 miles and 32,800 feet of climbing in a time of 23:29:14.
In becoming the 2023 UTMB winner, Courtney Dauwalter became the first ultrarunner to accomplish this three-peat 100-miler accolade in a single summer.
No wonder Dauwalter is racking up followers and fans as every hour clicks by!
Dauwalter previously won the UTMB Championships in both 2019 and 2021, but fellow American ultrarunner, Katie Schide, won the 2022 UTMB World Championships.
Behind Dauwalter, Katharina Hartmuth from Germany took second place with a time of 24:10:52, and not far behind in third place was Blandine L’Hirondel of France, who finished the challenging UTMB 100-mile ultra in 24:22:50.
On the men’s side, Jim Walmsley from the US became the first American man to win the UTMB ultramarathon, finishing the 170k race in 19:37:43, which was 21 minutes ahead of runner-up, Zach Miller.
Zach Miller, who is also from the US, just cracked under the 20-hour barrier, finishing in a time of 19:58:58.
German Grangier from France was third, with a time of 20:10:52.
You can find the full results of the 2023 UTMB World Championships Ultramarathon here.
There’s also an inspiring video of Courtney Dauwalter’s UTMB finish that is sure to give you the motivation to get out and run today. You can watch it here.
If you are interested in trying some trail running yourself, check out our guide to trail running for beginners here.
And give Courtney Dauwalter a follow on Instagram if you don’t already; maybe we can help her be the first woman’s distance runner to get over 1 million followers!