American ultramarathon runner Camille Herron is one of the most phenomenal female athletes of all time.
But she wasn't always so sure running was what she was born to do.
"I grew up playing a lot of sports, mainly basketball and dance," said Herron.
"I finally discovered my talent for ultrarunning in my mid-30s."
On 18 February 2022, 40-year-old Herron once again ran into the record books, just in time for International Women's Day.
The female powerhouse laced up her sneakers and set out to cross the finish line at the USA Track and Field 100-mile Championships in Henderson, Nevada, breaking her own record for the fastest 100 miles ultra distance (women).
With 12:41:11 on the clock, she was 30 minutes ahead of the first male athlete and silver medalist, Arlen Glick.
Herron also managed to outrun her own previous 100-mile speed record, set in 2017, by just under a minute and a half.
But beating her first 100-mile ultramarathon time was not an easy task.
In fact, Herron patiently waited over four years to prepare for the monumental race and chase her new record.
On the day of the historical event, the glistening Las Vegas sun covered the fully exposed course and made it much more difficult for the fatigued ultrarunner to beat her own time.
"I had to go into beast mode the final 30 to 40 miles and dig deep" - Camille Herron
"I credit my husband Conor Holt for coaching me and all his support during the race," continued Herron.
Chasing her passion
While ultramarathons may seem extreme, Herron describes the sport as her passion.
Growing up in Norman, Oklahoma, she often spent time running through the wheat fields by her home and chasing wildlife.
Although the famed athlete didn’t begin running competitively until junior high, she pridefully claims she was the fastest female runner at her elementary school.
Herron’s focus lay in dance and basketball, where she played point guard on her team and did most of the running.
During the offseason, she practiced track and soon realized that she had a natural ability to run fast.
"From the first day, I could run and run and not get tired! I went for cross-country in the 8th grade, and that’s when I fell in love with running."
Herron had a handful of female athletes who inspired her as she was growing up, including the first female Harlem Globetrotter Lynette Woodard, Paula Radcliffe, Patti Dillon, Deena Kastor, Ann Trason, and Keira D’Amato.
However, she regards her mother as her very first athletic inspiration.
"She was an amazing swimmer, golfer, and bowler. She did sports in the 1950s and 1960s, before Title IX," said Herron.
"She didn't have the opportunities to participate in college sports and beyond. I likely got my endurance and 'quiet tenacity' from her."
From marathons to ultramarathons
Herron is no stranger to racing. Before becoming an ultramarathon enthusiast, she ran marathons for 10 years and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials three times and competed in the 2011 U.S. Pan American Team Marathon.
At one point, the world-renowned runner was participating in so many marathons that she began to consider challenging herself with ultramarathons.
"I was running a lot of marathons, and everyone started telling me to try ultrarunning," said Herron.
In 2015, she committed herself to ultramarathons and at 33-years-old, broke a record by the legendary Ann Trason in her first 100K run.
"A star was born! I felt like Billy Eliot doing ballet for the first time. Later that year I won 2 world titles (50k and 100k) and set the 50 Mile Road Best. My ultra career took off from there!"
An ultramarathon is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles), according to the Marathon Handbook.
Ultramarathon race distances usually start at 50 kilometres (31 miles) and can even reach a gruelling 3,100 miles (4,989 kilometres).
Despite such intimidating distances, Herron has trained herself to stay focused and keep her eye on the prize.
"I’m like a combo between Forrest Gump and Ted Lasso! I have a one-track mind to just run and not think too much," she said.
"I love to run, and I feel like I’m doing what I was born to do!"
Staying on track
To prepare for ultramarathons, Herron runs between 12 and 13 times each week, for a total distance of 100 - 130 miles (160 - 209 km).
She also runs one to two speed sessions per week and a long run of 18 - 22 miles (29 - 35 km) once or twice a month.
To maintain her endurance, Herron says she has continued to train like a marathoner.
Some rock hoppin’ and enjoying the desert views on my recovery days 😎🏜🤙! It’s pretty incredible to think that some of the saguaros have been standing tall for 150+ years. What a life 💖🌵! pic.twitter.com/O8Rops9kuL— Camille Herron (@runcamille) January 14, 2022
Although she doesn't participate in back-to-back or extremely long runs, she focuses on a lot of speedwork and being fit, fast, and strong.
"I could be in extreme fatigue, and I'm still running with a smile on my face, enjoying the moment, running inspired, and listening to the cheerleader in my head."
To get the most out of her workout days, Herron's husband Conor also coaches her and ensures that she is recovering well.
Crossing off another Guinness World Records title
Although Herron has many accomplishments that she is proud of, such as winning the Comrades Marathon while recovering from a torn Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), being recognized by Guinness World Records is a feat she is incredibly fond of.
"For my latest world records, I did not have any bathroom breaks! The only stop I had was for 15 seconds to chug a non-alcoholic beer," she said.
"The race was warm, and I did not apply any ice or cooling techniques. I told myself to 'suck it up buttercup!'"
As a child, the female trailblazer often enjoyed reading about some of Guinness World Records' most extraordinary people and wondering if she had a hidden talent of her own.
She was thrilled when she finally discovered her gift for ultra running in her mid-30s.
Herron also says that her family is proud of her endeavors and loves Googling her name and reading articles about her.
"Dad has kept all the Guinness World Records books the past several years! My friends and fans locally in Oklahoma and around the world are inspired and proud of me for continuing to raise the bar on what women can do!"Other than breaking additional ultramarathon records, there is one record in particular that Herron hopes to someday claim: the fastest crossing of America (USA) on foot (male).
Running towards future plans
Other records Herron currently holds include:
- Farthest run 24 hours ultra distance (female)
- Farthest run 12 hours ultra distance (female)
- Fastest marathon in superhero costume (female)
#tbt to the time that Camille Herron set a Guinness World Record for the fastest women’s marathon time in a superhero costume when she won our 2012 race in a time of 2:48:51! What’s the craziest costume you’ve seen during a race? #RT66run#rocktheroute #… https://t.co/Z7W6gU3ARzpic.twitter.com/CeLXmxPMX1— Route 66 Marathon (@route66marathon) September 9, 2021
With April approaching, she may soon have one more to add to her list.
"I'm about to reach 100,000 lifetime miles around early April! I will most likely be the youngest woman to reach this milestone."
Herron plans to celebrate the historical moment with her sponsors by completing the final run at Monument Valley, Utah, which was featured in the movie Forrest Gump during his iconic running scene.
Until then, Herron will continue training and supporting the running organizations she feels most devoted to.
"I'm passionate about the environment, diversity in Ultra-Trail, and equality for women in the media, for prize money and sponsor support," she said.
"I recently donated part of my prize money to Native Women Running."
Herron is glad to be able to give back to her beloved sport and help guide others on their running journey.
"I quietly do my sport because it’s my passion," she said.
"Maybe someone out there will read about my journey and latest feat and be inspired to go on their own running journey."