Courtney Dauwalter takes line honours at this year's Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc 160 miler. Photo: supplied

CAPE TOWN – Courtney Dauwalter’s entry into this year’s Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100 km later this month is the cherry on the top in a women’s field which was already the most competitive in South African ultra-trail running history.

The 34-year old former science teacher from Golden, Colorado, in the USA, has taken the ultra-trail world by storm in the past three years. When she races over her favoured distance, which is closer to 100 miles than 100 km, there are few athletes, male or female, who can stay with her. Chances are good she will be atop the podium come prize-giving.

And when she turns to the really big numbers – such as the Moab 240 miler (384 km) or the Lake Tahoe 205 miler (328 miler) – records tend to be shattered by hours rather than minutes.  Her overall win in the Moab 240 in 2017 in 57 hrs 59 min was 10 hours faster than the first male competitor, while her 49:54 time for the Lake Tahoe ultra last year took 11 hours off the previous women’s record.

In the last 18 months Dauwalter has taken the two biggest titles in trail, winning the Western States 100 miler in the USA last year and the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc 100 miler less than three months ago, finishing an hour ahead of second-placed Swede Kristin Berglund in 24:34:26.

In short the charismatic Dauwalter, who “got hooked on ultras after running a 50 miler in 2011”, and who shuns fashionable racing gear  in favour of baggy shorts and shirt, is an ultra-trail colossus, who will be racing in Africa for the first time in her career.

The 34-year old former science teacher from Golden, Colorado, in the USA, has taken the ultra-trail world by storm. Photo: supplied

“This will be my first visit to Cape Town and I am so excited to experience this new place, to visit the Cape Town ultra-running community and take in the sights,” said Dauwalter. “I decided to come to Cape Town after UTMB this year. For me, this race will be a fun way to unwind from a big year of racing.

“I hope to enjoy moments on the trail and to meet new people.  I’ve heard it is tough, beautiful and hot! I'm not sure if it will fit my strengths or not, but I am excited to try a new course! Seeing the pictures of all the trails in Cape Town influenced me to come check it out for myself!”

Dauwalter loves running long and far and is nigh unbeatable over distances in excess of 150 km, but may find Cape Town’s 100km short of her best, opening the door for other leading trail runners, such as 2017 winner, Australian Lucy Bartholomew, last year’s winner, Zimbabwean Emily Hawgood and fellow-Americans Amanda Basham and Kelly Wolf, to challenge her supremacy.

“I love the longer distances - 160km or more is my preferred race length right now,” Dauwalter admitted. “But 100km is a good challenge for me that I am excited to take on.

“The women in the field will be great to race against – Lucy (Bartholomew is so strong and I hear Amanda (Basham) will be there! It will be an honour to share the trails with the entire field of athletes who are pushing themselves to achieve their best that day.”

Dauwalter’s sense of adventure and travel-lust are clear life driving forces and she is eager to make the most of her African visit given her time constraints. “Unfortunately, this has to be a quick trip, but I am guessing that it will spark inspiration to come back for a longer visit. Our planet is so diverse and wonderful - seeing as many parts of that as possible is a fun mission to have!”

@stephenGranger3