Camille Herron on her 48-hour world record and her future in multi-day events.
Watching Camille Herron set ultrarunning records has become almost as inevitable as the rest of the running world’s records going down routinely in the super-shoe era.
Yet, two things differentiate her latest 48-hour record of 270.505 miles at the Sri Chimnoy 48 Hour Festival in Australia with the rest of her accolades. The first is that she didn’t wear carbon-plated shoes. It’s not for ethical reasons, but because when moving slower for a longer time period, she doesn’t believe they provide an advantage.
The second is this was her first time completing a multi-day race. Two attempts prior came up short, yet finally she found her groove on day two after a parade of issues on day one. It’s a testament to the 41-year-old, who continues to prove that she is among the best in the world.
With her performance at the Sri Chimnoy 48 Hour Festival, Herron entered the top three all time at the 48-hour event, behind only the legendary Greek runner Yiannis Kouros (294.212 in 1996) and Ukranian runner Andrii Tkachuk (270.573 miles).
More notably than those milestones, she became the first female to outright hold an American record, surpassing male athlete Olivier Leblond’s 262 miles in 48 hours.
“I’m thinking about that as I’m running, about how historical it is,” Herron said. “It’s been a lifetime goal of mine to surpass a men’s record. You hear questions about if women can catch the men. The fact that we keep closing the gap from 10 percent differential to now 9.2 percent gives me hope for me and other women.”
The historic run was not without its tribulations. We caught up with Herron days after returning home to Oklahoma to see what went right, what went wrong, and what’s next.
Day one was like something out of the Bible for Herron. It was one plague after another.
It started with the heat. Australia is currently hot and humid, unlike the unseasonably snowy U.S. right now. That was a mild inconvenience compared to what came next. Herron had two goals for the weekend: Qualify for the U.S. 24-hour world championship team by hitting at least 130 miles, and the 48-hour world record, in that order.
Because of this, Herron wanted to race day one like she would a “shorter” event, like the 24-hour. This meant fueling with mostly simple sugars in the form of gels and sports drinks.
Her stomach turned on her around the 10-hour mark.
“It felt like food poisoning,” Herron told me. “I tried to clear out my system and had a lot of diarrhea and puking for a while. Things got ugly.”
Attempts to implement solid foods like fruit smoothies and potatoes also backfired. Ultimately, Herron had to press on with only Maurten and plain water, and eventually her stomach and energy slowly returned.
One of her secret weapons—which Herron preaches about—is sleep. This is an underrated tool in the multi-day world to stave off fatigue and hallucinations. “It’s a game changer for me,” Herron said. “My brain feels like a battery. When I felt kind of woozy, I laid down to mentally recharge. You have to manage your power naps, but you end up gaining so much more than not sleeping. The longest I slept on day one was 41 minutes.”
Finally, we get to the plague of rain. Around 22 hours in, the skies opened up. Race officials had to clear drains because the track flooded.
“I stopped at one point to change socks and re-lube my foot,” Herron said. “It’s funny. My left foot was on the outside and it looks beautiful right now, days out. My right foot was on the inside; it’s a mess.”
Herron weathered it all on day one, and as day two approached, she and her crew decided to take another tact. In addition to her top two goals, she also wanted splits for other milestones: 300K, 200 miles, 240 miles, and beyond if fate allowed.
“I had already hit 100 miles and next up was 130 to make the 24-hour team, so (my crew and I) broke it down with milestones,” Herron said. “First, get to 130 miles, then 136, then 24 hours, then 200, 240, and see how far I can go. Reframing mentally was a game changer. Rather than thinking about eating the whole elephant, I was trying to eat the elephant’s leg.”
At the close of day one, Herron had clocked off 148.8 miles, the second best qualifying distance so far for the U.S. 24-hour team. But in front of her was mostly uncharted territory. The farthest she had ever run prior was her 167.842 miles for the 24-hour world record in 2019.
One way to settle into the foreign is with the familiar, and Herron did this with breakfast, relying on her usual go-to meal of teff, banana, and coffee. It was something her stomach thanked her for after a rough first day and something that fueled her entire second day.
“I wasn’t sure how my stomach was going to react to solid foods again,” she said. “It ended up being so good we had it like four or five times. My energy was so good that I didn’t have to take as much Maurten or gels. I basically just sipped on water, coconut water, and Maurten every 30 minutes.”
Rejuvenated, the miles and hours ticked by simultaneously as she hit new records for distance and time. She hit the 300K (186.4 miles) in 31:07:42 and 240 miles in 42:05:48.
When the second day ended, Herron’s final numbers were staggering. In 1,088 laps, Herron completed 270.505 miles. For perspective, that’s the eighth best distance ever recorded by men or women. She clocked more miles on day two than Kouros did on his record run, finishing with 121.7 miles.
“I think I’m finally proving that women can really do better at longer distances than men,” she said. “We’re naturally wired to push through extreme levels of pain and fatigue because of our maternal instincts. Doing this, it makes me feel good, like I’m fulfilling what I was born to do as a woman to be able to raise the bar on what’s possible and inspire more women to take on ultras.”
With the 48-hour record in the books, Herron will now switch her focus to the trails and her fifth attempt at the Western States 100, where she finished eighth in 2022.
Yet, when reflecting on her race both immediately after with her crew and even days later, she can’t help but think what’s next on the what’s possible list. This was her first multi-day finish for a runner that has mastered longevity through being versatile on different distances and surfaces.
“This opened me up to a whole new world,” she said.
That world, at least in her mind, includes everything from the Sri Chimnoy Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race and Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc to daydreaming about a potential Barkley Marathons attempt.
Herron is clear about putting the word “eventually” in the same sentence with each race. Regardless of if or when she does these and other events, it’s clear she isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“Where I was 10 years ago versus now, I can’t imagine what the future holds,” Herron said. “That makes it really exciting to think where I’ll be 10 years from now. It definitely makes it more fun to think of what I want to do as a runner. Barkley, UTMB, six days. The possibilities are endless in this sport.”