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Finding Her Calling: A Medic’s Ultramarathon Journey

Formerly a collegiate athlete, Dawn is on a path to finding her calling in the world of ultras.
Dawn Gwin
Year started: 1983 (Returned in 2018)
Next race: Javelina Jundred 100K
Favorite gear:

Hoka Mafate Trail Shoe, Drymax Socks, Lululemon

Photo Credit: Cody Stephens

Dawn Gwin ran cross country and track in high school and college, but after that she didn’t run long-distance again for many years. Five years ago, Gwin started racing again, moving towards long distance again. In 2023, Dawn ran her first marathon. She then set her sights on her first ultramarathon. This is Dawn’s journey to finding her calling. 

How Far She Could Go 

Determined to see how far she could go, Gwin ran her first 50-mile race at the Pony Express Trail Races in Utah. With no aid stations along the remote course, runners need to be largely self-sufficient to complete the race “There are no aid stations, so you learn how to crew and your friends learn how to crew,” she joked. For her first attempt at the 50-mile distance, Gwin finished respectably in 12 hours.  Now the 100-mile distance called out to her.  

A Learning Experience 

Gwin attempted the Javelina Jundred 100 miler in Arizona later that year. However, a combination of nutritional issues and blisters took their toll. She was forced to drop from the race on the third loop. But rather than seeing this DNF (did not finish) as a failure, Gwin approached it as a learning experience. She methodically analyzed what went wrong so she would be better prepared mentally and physically for her next hundred miler attempt.

A Medical Background

Dawn comes from a medical background. She served as a medic and hospital corpsman in the military. Now in civilian life, Gwin puts her medical knowledge to use helping other runners during races. “Knowing what I know from my ultra and medical background helps me know what I need to do”. She has an innate ability to differentiate serious medical issues from more benign causes of distress out on the trail. Gwin enjoys being able to diagnose runner’s problems on the fly and offer them reassurance – or solutions when needed. 

Overcoming Injuries

Gwin also draws on her own experiences overcoming injuries from years of running and military service. During a training run in 2019 her exuberant dog crashed into her leg. Gwin fractured her femur “I was heartbroken,” She recalled. In 2023, a race at Elephant Mountain revealed Dawn had developed a tibia break. However, Gwin was somehow able to limp several miles back to her vehicle and drive home before seeking medical treatment. “I broke it at a 90 degree angle, both vertically and laterally.”  She would go on to cancel Black Canyon, her goal race for early 2024. 

Using Her Knowledge to Help Others

Coming off a 100-mile race at Across the Years, Dawn is signed up for the Javelina 100K. Outside of racing, Dawn has a lineup of races she will be providing medical support at, including Desert Rats Ultra Trail Festival and the Moab 240-mile endurance run. Dawn’s grit and medical expertise perfectly equip her for success at long ultra distances. She selflessly gives back to the community, using her knowledge to help others. Dawn continues finding her calling, having carved a place in the ultra-running community.