Track & FieldNewsDakotah Lindwurm

Minnesota’s Marathon Marvel, Dakotah Lindwurm, Goes From Local Roots To Olympic Dreams

by Lisa Costantini

Dakotah Lindwurm celebrates after placing third and qualifying for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon on Feb. 3, 2024 in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by Getty Images)

When marathoner Dakotah Lindwurm was interviewing for a job as a paralegal in Minnesota two years ago, she talked about her passion for long-distance running with her potential new boss. She shared how she had run her first marathon only three years earlier, and a year later qualified to compete at her first Olympic trials (where she finished 36th with a time of 2:39.08).

“He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Dakotah, if I give you this job, what are we going to do when you make the Olympic team in 2024?’ I laughed at him,” Lindwurm remembered. “I told him that was so outrageous to say or to think about as it was unlikely I’d make that team. I told him, if I make it, I guess I’ll have to figure it out.”

Lindwurm not only got the job but two years later earned a spot on the team headed to the Paris Games when she crossed third at U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon with a time of 2:25.31 — doing exactly what her boss predicted.

He wasn’t the first person in Minnesota to believe in Lindwurm, and he certainly wasn’t the last. Since the beginning, the entire state has been behind her. 

Born and raised in a small town in Minnesota, the 28-year-old’s journey to the Olympic stage has been a testament to hard work, determination and the support of her community. 

As someone who considered themselves just an “average” runner when she started the sport in high school — where she was also the goaltender for the women’s hockey team — Lindwurm went on to attend Division 2 school, Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where she walked onto the cross-country team. In 2017 she graduated and moved to Minneapolis where she joined Minnesota Distance Elite (MDE), a training group based in the Twin Cities.

“I didn’t have amazing times and wasn’t somebody that any post-collegiate coach would have said, ‘Oh yeah, she’s going to be an Olympian one day.’ So, I was just trying to find a coach who was willing to take a chance on me,” Lindwurm shared.

That’s when she got connected with Chris Lundstrom, head coach at MDE and three-time Olympic trials qualifier in the marathon. 

“When I first joined, I was like a walk-on. I didn’t have any financial support. I didn’t have the support of a gym to train at or medical care like the team got,” said Lindwurm. “But Chris and Patricia [Goodwin, the founder], were excited to take me on and give me a chance. Their support and them saying we believe in your dream meant so much to me, and helped me along the way.” 

Being only the second Olympian to come out of MDE — the first being Carrie Tollefson 20 years ago — the state has rallied behind Lindwurm.

Dakotah Lindwurm reacts after crossing the finish line to place third and qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Marathon on Feb. 3, 2024 in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by Getty Images)

Even before qualifying for Paris, Minnesotans were reaching out in support to tell her they were hoping for the best. 

“And now to make the team, it’s amplified even more. It’s almost jaw-dropping to sit down and think about how many people are supporting me here in Minnesota,” said Lindwurm. 

For a girl who grew up hoping she would one day go to the Olympics in hockey, it’s been hard for her to even wrap her head around this new reality.

“It brings tears to my eyes just knowing that I get to go to the Olympics,” she said. “I think it’s so cool that middle school Dakotah thought she could do something amazing and that she was able to follow through. It’s something that’s been on my heart for so long and to see all my hard work pay off — even if it wasn’t in the original sport I thought — means so much to me.”

With the starting line at the forefront of her mind, she’s also been thinking about the Opening Ceremony — something she has been imagining attending since she was a little girl.

“I’ve watched it on TV for as long as I can remember,” she said. “Seeing so many different people walking through and thinking any of those people could be me and I could be any of those people. So, I’m excited to be a part of that and maybe be somebody a little girl is looking at and watching.”

It also brings a smile to her face to realize how quickly she’s come up in the sport, having only ramped up her distance in the last couple of years.  

“It’s funny because it feels like I’ve been doing this forever, but it was only 2021 when I really jumped onto the scene,” she said.

“I have to pinch myself every time I get to race a marathon. What a cool job to have. I don’t think that will ever wear off. When I’m smiling out there it’s genuine because I love it. And towards the end, when it’s not quite as fun I try to continue to smile and be thankful for what I have and what this career is. It helps trick your mind into thinking you’re enjoying it.”

Keeping in mind her impressive stats, it’s hard to believe that when she was last at an Olympic trials, it was only her third time racing that distance — and she had yet to break 2:30. At the time, she looked at it as a learning experience and a chance to put down a good pace.

But the trials in Florida in February were a different story.

“I went in with top three goals,” she revealed. “The best part about the marathon is that it can be anybody’s day and I think I proved that in Orlando.”

Lisa Costantini has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for more than a decade, including for the International Olympic Committee. She is a freelance writer who has contributed to since 2011.