Most people spend their Sundays relaxing, getting a long run in, maybe catching up on household chores; Camille Herron spent this past Sunday breaking the world record for the most distance covered by a female over 24 hours.
Camille Herron’s 24 hour record is a new world-best time achieved at the International Association of Ultrarunners 24 Hour Championships. She covered 167.842 miles over the course of a full day in Albi, France, all on a 1,500 meter loop around the Terrain Honneur Stadium. That’s 8:34 per mile for nearly 170 miles.
Herron claimed victory in a dominant fashion, taking the lead in the first lap and never losing it. The second-place finisher, Nele Alder-Baerens of Germany, was nearly 10 miles behind Herron.
What got her through those miles at that pace? “Puke and rally,” she told IRun4Ultra, “I puked twice and I had to dig really deep that last two and a half hours because I wanted to go as high as I could.”
Her record was also fueled by a hamstring injury that sidelined her from the prestigious Western States 100-mile Endurance Run. This is the second year in a row that she’s missed Western States, as she dealt with a stress reaction in her femur in 2018. Given the fact that she shattered her own world record for the 24-hour race, it’s clear that she shows no signs of slowing down.
Herron is no stranger to records. Her new world record eclipses her previous world record of 162.9 miles, completed in December of 2018 at the Desert Solstice Invitational, completed on a traditional 400-meter track. And the list doesn’t stop there. She holds the record for the fastest 100-mile time and the fastest 50-mile time (set in 2015).
She’s also listed in the Guiness Book of World Records for the fastest marathon wearing a superhero costume by a female, with a blazing time of 2:48. Not only did she break the previous record by 20 minutes, but she also won the female category of the race (the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma), and did it all dressed as Spider-Man.
Beyond setting world records, Herron is the victor more often than not in her races. She is a 21-time marathon winner and a three-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier. And she does all of that with a smile on her face.
As a runner of great success over great distances, what does her training schedule and diet look like on a day-to-day basis?
In multiple interviews, Herron discusses how she’s been running 100-mile weeks consistently for over 12 years. Her mileage can range, however, to up to 130 miles in one week. Getting those miles in typically requires two runs a day. In a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Herron proclaimed that she is not a morning person, and will run in the afternoon and then again at night.
Her ability to run so many miles consistently with so few injuries is attributed to her nutrition and her attitude toward running.
As previously mentioned, Herron is known for smiling throughout her races. She does so for two reasons– it’s a proven tactic that helps relax the body and reduces perceived effort, and because she truly enjoys the sport.
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“I’ve heard that smiling is supposed to keep you relaxed and economical, but for me it’s just who I am,” Herron said in a conversation with Runner’s World, “I love to run, so it naturally comes out when I run ultras.”
In a conversation with Red Bull, Herron discussed at length what her typical training routine looks like. For instance, she doesn’t train like an ultra runner. She found, through trial and error, that typical marathon training is what works best for her.
That consists of shorter long runs (as opposed to 30-mile long runs that ultra runners will partake in on long run day), more speedwork, and plenty of easy jogging days. To fit all of her training in effectively, Herron trains in two-week cycles, as opposed to the more common one-week cycle.
Interval training was an important catalyst in Herron’s performance shift, so she includes it regularly in her training. Her speedwork in a two-week cycle consists of, “short intervals, long intervals, a hard hill session, and a heart rate based progression run.” (runactive.co.za) A more concrete example of an interval workout for her might look like 10-16 reps of 90-seconds on with equal recovery.
“There was a huge, huge jump in my fitness when I started doing short intervals again. If I get my feet moving that quickly, it makes everything else feel easier,” she told Red Bull.
In addition, Herron mentions that splitting her training into two runs made her feel better. She’ll clock in 10-14 miles for her first run, followed by an easy ‘shake-out’ 5-6 miles in the evenings. It’s important to note that she takes her second run fairly easy, which allows her body to recover while still on her feet.
“To develop your aerobic fitness, you’ve got to learn to run slow and be working in that aerobic zone to reap the benefits aerobically,” Herron tells Red Bull. “It equates to about two or more minutes per mile slower than your marathon pace or less than 70 percent of your max heart rate. If I need to develop my aerobic fitness, I look at my heart rate monitor to check I’m going slow enough.”
Herron’s passion for science translates to her passion for running, where she experimented with heart rate (polar.com) level and recovery. She would ensure her heart rate level was at less than 70% of her maximum heart rate on recovery run days and would aim for a heart rate at 87%-90% for marathon training. From here, she discovered the heart rate targets required to produce the results she was looking for.
It became a balancing act.
For example, to prepare for the IAU 100K World Championships in 2015, she targeted her heart rate at 80%-90% of her max effort for progression runs. When she toed the line, she guessed that aiming for 75%-80% of her max effort for the race would produce the result she wanted– to claim victory. She did so in a dominant fashion, winning by 12 minutes and recording the fourth-fastest time by a woman.
Given all that has gone into Herron’s training to make her one of the greatest ultra runners to ever do it, what about her diet? How does she fuel herself not only on a daily basis, but also during a race?
Diet and Nutrition
Given Herron’s attention to detail and heavy training load, one might assume her diet is heavily regimented as well– devoid of any and all unhealthy options, including fast food. However, one of Herron’s favorite pre-race meals is either Taco Bell or Subway. “I eat anything and everything except minimal dairy,” Herron tells RunActive,
“I eat a lot of meat, ice cream, butter, peanut butter, bacon, beer, and soda. I’m not the best about eating fruits and vegetables– trying to be better about this.”
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Growing up in Oklahoma, Herron raised on American-Southern comfort food. “We’d fry up catfish, seafood, and chicken, and eat that with fresh baked bread with butter and sweet tea. I drank a glass of milk at every meal, and we had doughnuts on Sundays,” Herron said in conversation with Runner’s World.
There were no restrictions, which she credits toward her relaxed attitude surrounding food. “At home now, we often eat steak, hamburgers, and pasta with meat sauce.”
During competition, Herron lightens the food load, but not entirely so. She consumes energy gels and drinks of different flavors during a race, and will also opt for a Coke for quick and easy calories and sugar, something many ultra runners will drink mid-competition.
However, she admitted to eating a Taco Bell taco toward the end of her record-breaking run at the Desert Solstice 24-hour race.
Camille Herron, Ultra Runner and Coach – What’s Next?
It’s no secret that Herron’s success would draw the attention of runners far and wide for coaching advice. And if her training philosophies and attitude toward training sounds appealing to you, you can be coached by Herron online. Wanting to give back all that she has gained through running, Herron said in conversation with Trail Runner…
“The biggest thing I’ve gotten from communicating with athletes is that they don’t have direction. A lot of people are getting out and doing back-to-back long runs or some ultrarunners will just go out and go long. They run every day and they don’t have any concept of having structure. We [Camille’s coaching partner and husband, Conor] are coming from a marathon background into ultrarunning and I think that because we’re so used to a structured kind of training method, we understand how all the training fits together. It’s cool for me that I can finally give back.” — Trail Runner Magazine
As for what’s next for the ultra running phenom, the list of goals goes beyond this upcoming year– Herron has plan to continue to run at a high level for the next 15-20 years. “I want to break 7 hours for 100K, 170 miles for 24 hours, and be the first woman to reach 600 miles in six days,” Herron tells Runner’s World, “I also want to chase wins and course records in the most iconic ultras, such as Comrades, Western States, Leadville, Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, Badwater, Spartathlon, Marathon des Sables, and the Self-Transcendence 3100 miles.
Be on the lookout for more big things coming from Camille Herron in the future.
Feature image: irun4ultra.com
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