Courtney Dauwalter is the reigning queen of ultra running. Her unparalleled achievements include victories in some of the world’s most challenging 100+ mile races. Often accompanied by breaking women’s course records and even placing within the top 5 overall—a feat previously considered unattainable for most women in the sport. Beyond her exceptional running prowess, Courtney has emerged as a beloved figure in the ultra running community. Her infectious passion for running resonates with both men and women, drawing them closer to the sport.
However, in contrast to many top athletes who openly share their training routines and progress. Courtney Dauwalter is known for her remarkable secrecy regarding her training regimen. Her Strava profile is set to private, and there is limited documented information about her week-to-week training for other runners to follow. What remains are fragments of knowledge. Just the tidbits she has revealed in interviews over the years. In this article, we will explore the available facts about Courtney Dauwalter’s training and workouts. Piecing together the breadcrumbs she has shared. Our goal is to gain a better understanding of her methods and, in doing so, empower aspiring runners to replicate her success.
Breaking Down Courtney Dauwalter’s Training and Workouts
How many miles does she run per week?
While Courtney doesn’t have a standard amount of miles she runs every week, she has been quoted in multiple interviews saying that she typically runs 100-10 miles per-week. She has even said that she has found a sweet spot of “homeostasis” around 115 miles per week. But she feels overworked at 130 miles.
In one interview the exact quote was, “I usually run every day, some days multiple times a day, sometimes all in one go. I don’t follow a plan, but I’m typically getting 100 or 110 miles per week. I just go out and run however my body feels that day.”
Does Courtney follow a training plan?
In one of the biggest surprises for researching this article, Courtney has made it clear that she doesn’t follow a strict training program. Rather she decides the day’s running distance and workout after waking up and getting her caffeine fix. Below is a quote from one of her interviews:
“Every morning after coffee, I’ll decide what my run is for the day based on how my body and brain are feeling. Sometimes that’s a long run on some of my favorite trails, or summiting a local peak, or it might feel like a great day for hill repeats or intervals, and some days I won’t really know what I’m doing until I leave the house and let my feet choose the route.”
Does she do speed workouts?
The simple answer, sometimes! As pointed out in the answer above, she decides everything based on feel. So sometimes she is doing multiple speed work or hill workouts in a week. Other times she isn’t doing any at all.
As Courtney puts it; “Sometimes it’s twice a week, and sometimes it’s zero times per week. This year, I have tried to be a little more consistent with getting intervals in, just because I know that speed isn’t my strongest skill.”
An example of one of her speed workouts:
Here is an excerpt I found about her discussing hill training, which is one of the few “workouts” we have gotten in regards to Courtney Dauwalter’s training throughout the years.
“My speed workouts are usually not super planned out. I just go out on the trails and mining roads and find a hill I like to do speed work on. I’ll meander that way and when I get there I try to do something faster on a 400-meter stretch and then it kind of depends how I feel. When I get to the spot, I’ll at least give it a shot to see how one goes, see how two goes and usually if I get through a couple of them, then I’ll have the feeling that this is going to feel so satisfying at the end, so let’s just do it kind of a thing,’”
Does she use a watch to track her zone or heart rate?
In what you will start to notice as an ongoing theme, she doesn’t follow zone based training plans like anything we are used to seeing. It’s all based on feel. Guided by her own internal zone gauge. As she says:
“It’s purely effort-based, so I don’t think of it in terms of pace or heart rate zones. It’ll be picturing a gauge in my head with levels of green, yellow, orange, and red, and putting it up there in the orangish-red.”
How long is her weekly long run?
It might shock a lot of people to find out that Courtney has said that her “normal” weekly long run is between 3 to 4 hours. Aiming for quality over wear and tear on the body. Saying that she doesn’t go into the pain cave while training. She likes to save that for race day. That said, before the Hardrock 100 in 2022 she did an 8 hour long run where she was “just playing”. A quote that should surprise no one. It’s clear she loves spending time in the mountains.
Does Courtney do any cross training?
Yes! While we don’t know the exact details of her routine, we do know that she does it everyday before her run and includes a mix of core, glutes, hips and general activation. The exact quote being: “It’s a really basic routine that I’ll do everyday before my run. It focuses on core, glutes, hips and general trunk strength and activation.”
What about food, is she on any specific diet?
Courtney she doesn’t follow any particular diet. But it is common knowledge that she tends to eat pretty healthy most of the time. But never denies herself the things she loves. Again, following the mindset of listening to her body and making sure to enjoy life.
“It’s pretty un-regimented. I basically eat whatever I want and don’t get hung up on planning or counting calories or grams or anything. I’m not interested in eliminating things from my diet. I just eat whatever my body is craving.”
What does Courtney eat when running?
Like most ultra athletes Courtney has talked about how she has dialed in her nutrition over the years of training. At first she would eat whatever she thought looked good at the aid stations but has refined the approach over the years. In a recent interview she discusses in several podcasts how she has switched to a primarily liquid based diet consisting of water and liquid calories from Tailwind. Who also happened to be one of her many sponsors.
“My race nutrition is very narrow in what I eat during a race, so I usually get nothing from aid stations except some water refills,” she said. “My first couple years trail running and doing these races, I would go into the aid station and whoever happened to be in front of me, I would just follow whatever they were grabbing. They’d just grab pickles and chips, so I was like, ‘OK, I’m trying pickles and chips’ because I had no idea what worked, what tasted good or what didn’t work. It was a lot of trial and error. And I think by talking to people, you can get all these ideas, but you have to test it for yourself.”
Closing Thoughts on Courtney Dauwalter’s Training
While she may keep her methods a secret, there‘s plenty we can learn from Courtney Dauwalter’s training approach. First and foremost she listens to her body. Never forcing a run and making sure that she is paying attention to what her body needs. Next is that she loves running and racks up a lot of miles. This is no secret and often a common base amongst the top athletes who tend to log 100+ mile weeks. And I think most importantly is that she doesn’t seem to stress on following a rigid structured plan. A trap I think a lot of runners fall into. Where they are so focused on completing the programmed workouts. Creating more stress on the body while not being in tune with how they should be training based on all of the other influences life is throwing at them.
After doing all of the research for this post I find that I have even more respect for Courtney than I did before I started. And that says a lot. I view her and Killian Jornet as the greatest ultra athletes in history, and would be hard pressed to choose either as number one based on both of their career accomplishments. But they have very different approaches to training and I personally find Courtney’s to be much more relatable and something that even armature athletes like myself can learn from. Enjoy running, make everyday an adventure and don’t stress the small things.