Dipali Cunningham: a Champion's Champion from 1991 - 2015
About the author:
Rupantar has been the race director of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team since 1985, having been asked by Sri Chinmoy to serve in that capacity. As well as working on the big races the US Marathon Team organise each year - the 3100 Mile Race and the Six and 10 Day Race - he also spends a considerable amount of time archiving the Marathon Team's 40 year history on this website.
The New York Times recently published an article touting a runner "as one of the country’s top female ultramarathoners". Kudos to the runner highlighted. However, the Times writer, while defining ultrarunning as any distance beyond the marathon (which I have no qualms with), failed to examine distances beyond the many races that were highlighted in the article. Ultrarunning beyond the 50 mile and 100 mile trail races has a long and storied history dating back to at least the pedestrian races in the 19th century. See Harper's Magazine article by Sam Shaw "Run Like Fire Once More" for a bigger history of multi day racing.
If multiday races were included, then surely Dipali Cunningham would be up there as one of the all-time greats. Here is a brief resume from a career spanning from 1991 to 2015:
36 multiday races
30 first place finishes
12 times overall wins (i.e beating all the men in the race!)
3 world records (6 day race) :
1998 504 miles
2001 510 miles
2009 (best) over 50 years old 513 miles
2014 American US age group record 55-59 475 miles
3rd place in world for 700 miles (women)
4th place in world 1,000 miles (women)
33 Australian National records (24 hours to 1,000 miles)