Camille Herron laced her shoes and hit the 100-mile race at the national championships in Las Vegas in February.
Herron is no stranger to transcendental challenges.
She has set multiple world records in open-road and track races, ranging from 50-mile distances to 24-hour races. In 2017, she broke the 100-mile world record in over an hour, finishing in 12 hours 42 minutes and 40 seconds.
On February 19, she did it again, breaking her own world record, in 12:41:11, 7:37 speed per mile. She also beat all the men in the race, with first place male, Arlen Glick, going after about 30 minutes with a time of 13:10:25.
She spoke to The Times about the training, “Forrest Gump” and “Ted Lasso,” and why she switched to non-alcoholic beer.
The interview has been edited and condensed.
How did you get started? Did you run in high school?
I started out as a basketball player. I had a constant motivation; I just practice over and over again. I was a 7 year old kid then, and I pushed myself to the point where I started having bad luck. I guess I trained for cross-country even when I was young.
I started tracking in middle school for off-season conditioning. From day one, I was able to run and run and run. I just have natural stamina. I remember my first cross country race, and all the other girls looked like me. I’m really skinny with long arms and legs. I remember thinking, “Oh, I guess this is my sport.” I was also inspired by “Forrest Gump,” which came out at the time.
As a native Oklahoman, I grew up in this country. I will chase wild animals in the wheat field next to our house. For me, transnational feels that way.
Tell me about a 100-mile race where you set a record.
It was a road race on a circuit that was just over a mile long. We had to do 85 rounds. It is a bit rolling, so there’s climbing. It was revealed. There were no trees, it was sunny in Las Vegas, and it was very warm in the afternoon. The heat is one of the biggest challenges. And also grind small hills that you have to make every round. That adds up.
The race starts at eight o’clock in the morning. Sunset is at 5:30 or 6pm, so by the end, part of the course is pretty dark.
The course is also not closed for non-runners. I had to weave around the people in the park all day. People go out with their dogs and their children. Aside from the running challenge, I’m trying not to travel or anything.
Not only did you set the record, but you also won the race outright.
As an extremist, there is always the possibility that a woman can beat a man. Looking at the men’s court, I thought in my head, “You know, I can beat these guys.” At 80 miles, I caught the lead. That’s really interesting; that really motivates me.
How is your preparation for 100 million?
I have been a marathon runner for 10 years and I have participated in Olympic competitions three times. I just turned my marathon training into a super workout. I stuck with what worked and started breaking records in my first year in 2015.
I don’t do a lot of long runs, maybe 18 to 22 miles is my long run. I just do one long run every few weeks. In the eight weeks before a rush race, I run 900 to 1,050 miles, which is about 120 miles a week.
There are a lot of super runners with extremely long runs, and I’ve never done that. I think maybe some sprinters should rethink their approach and take a speed-specific, marathon-oriented approach that might bring them more success.
Speed training for a 100 mile race?!
I do a lot of speed work. For the world record, I averaged 7:37 per mile. That’s a pretty fast pace! Most people are trying to run at that speed probably for a 5km race. For me to be able to maintain such a pace, I have to develop my fitness. I do short, long, tempo runs of 30 to 45 minutes. And I also do hill exercises to build strength in my legs and body.
I don’t really like cross-training. Maybe strength training once or twice a week, squats, weightlifting, push-ups. But it takes too much of my energy. I want to spend that energy running.
It’s not like I can run 100 miles in training for a 100-mile race.
How’s the mental side? You were there for 12 hours. Do you feel bored or frustrated?
I am one of those who find joy in this moment. I’m just a happy person. People tell me I look like Ted Lasso.
Did you eat a lot during the race?
They say that super running is an eating contest with a bit of running on the side. I have to really cut calories. That was one of my biggest challenges, the ability to eat and run.
I have to consume between 60 and 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour. I apply gel with water every 30 minutes. I sip a sports drink in between. I wear a hydration belt that carries two bottles.
You broke the world record at the age of 40. Are you really getting better?
Super old women love good wine. It is a sport that loves physical and mental strength. Mental capacity becomes an even more important part of being able to surpass human limits for 100 miles and beyond. Maybe I’m wiser. Sleep better, eat better, all the little things add up.
During the past year, I started working with a dietitian and I discovered I had iron overload, the opposite problem of many endurance athletes, which is anemia. I changed my diet. It feels like it helped me grow at 40.
And alcohol enhances iron absorption. So I’m drinking non-alcoholic beer.
I’m so excited to be turning 40. I feel really good.
Have you had any luck with an injury?
My husband, Conor, coaches me. I’m the one who needs to pull the reins back so I don’t get too hurt. I want to go all the time.
But I have had many terrible accidents. Since I run a lot, there is always a risk that I might slip off the curb or fall backwards on the ice or trip over a rock on the trail.
You have raced longer distances.
I also hold the world record for 24 hours. I ran 167 miles in one day. That is really crazy.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/27/sports/camille-herron-world-record.html How Ultrarunner Camille Herron Set Another World Record