[Editor’s Note: As reported in the Washington Post in November 2022, USA Track & Field (USATF) will not ratify this performance as a new world record because the route run on race day, which had a slight deviation from the original, USATF certified course, fell just over 700 feet short of 100 miles per multiple measurements of it during and after the event.]
The USA’s Camille Herron has done it again in setting a new women’s 100-mile world record, this time as a masters athlete.
On Saturday, February 19, 2022, 40-year-old Herron broke her own women’s 100-mile world record at the Jackpot Ultrarunning Festival in Henderson, Nevada, by running 100 miles in an incredible 12 hours, 41 minutes, and 11 seconds. Her previous record of 12:42:40 was set at the 2017 Tunnel Hill 100 Mile. The Jackpot course is a 1.17-mile winding loop with 45 feet of elevation gain and descent per lap, and composed of roughly half asphalt and half crushed gravel paths.
Known for performing best on flat and fast courses, Herron has broken more than a dozen American and world records, from 50 miles up to 24 hours. Herron, who turned 40 on Christmas Day of 2021, is now entering a new stage of her career as a masters athlete, and if the past six months are any indication, she will only become more successful and competitive. In the last few months alone, Herron won the 2021 Javelina Jundred Mile, smashing the women’s course record by almost an hour, and won the 2021 Desert Solstice 100 Mile, resetting her own women’s American 100-mile track record.
We sat down to talk with Camille Herron about her new 100-mile world record, her health struggles of the last couple of years, and why competing as a masters athlete gives her new competitive fire.
[Editor’s Note: The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.]
iRunFar: Hello! How are you? Are you in Oklahoma now?
Herron: Hi! Yeah. We moved into our house a week and a half ago, so I’m trying to get my Zoom call all set up here. [laughs]
iRunFar: Thank you for taking the time. Your husband Conor [Holt] said you’re getting tired. I’m sure you want to sleep all day after this effort. I don’t blame you.
Herron: It’s a weird combination of being amped up, but also tired at the same time. We moved back a week and a half ago. And then we flew to Las Vegas for the race. We’ve still got boxes to unpack. [laughs]
iRunFar: First of all, congratulations on breaking your own record.
Herron: Thank you. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve gone through an entire evolution of a running career for the past four years. I’m overjoyed and, plus, I’m 40! [laughs] It’s great to be running personal bests while getting older. I’m grateful for that.
iRunFar: Heck, yeah. This was your first race as a masters athlete, right?
Herron: I turned 40 on Christmas day in 2021. This was my first race opportunity and I pinned the masters age 40 to 44 bib on my back. [laughs]
iRunFar: You’ve had a great year, even before this event, at Desert Solstice and the Javelina [Jundred Mile]. How are you holding up? That’s a lot of excitement but it’s also a lot of miles amidst a lot of change in your life.
Herron: We’ve been through two moves. We lived in Colorado at this time last year. We tried to move to Arizona because I wasn’t feeling good. And now we are back in Oklahoma.
I thought it was the altitude in Colorado. You hear about endurance athletes having anemia and needing more iron at altitude, so I took more iron and I wasn’t feeling good. We thought that maybe the altitude wasn’t working for me, and Arizona seemed like a good place to go because there are a lot of races happening.
I did Jackpot last April and I did not feel good. I basically hit 30 miles in the race and felt like I wanted to take a nap.
iRunFar: It turned out you had an iron overload issue, right?
Herron: The entire race was a struggle. I had gone maybe four races in a row where I was really tired and didn’t have that vigor.
I went from Nike and joined with Hoka, which has been amazing. I feel like the shoes have been an amazing fit for me and given me an extra boost. The support from them has been incredible.
I tried to run the 2021 Hoka Project Carbon X and didn’t feel well. This continued until I ran Jackpot last year. Then I got bloodwork done, and found out that I was iron overloaded.
iRunFar: Oh, that’s rough.
Herron: I was at that point, six weeks before the 2021 Western States 100, where we were like, “What do I do? I’ve got all this iron in my blood, and I feel exhausted. Do I donate blood?” Most runners are trying to build up blood, and I’m trying to give mine away. [laughs]
iRunFar: The fact that you were struggling with that [during the Western States 100] and managed to finish is incredible.
Herron: It felt like my tank was on empty the entire race. I wanted to lay down and I was trying to find the mental will to pick myself up, over and over again. It was pure determination to get to that finish line. It’s amazing to reflect back on that race, and to know how I feel now, that I’m going to go back and feel so much better.
I got in touch with one of my friends who is a dietician. She’s totally reinvented me, with my diet and helping me with this health issue. I feel like I’ve literally relit my inferno.
iRunFar: Could tell us a little bit about the race at Jackpot? What was the course like? I was looking at your Strava, and it didn’t look like a completely circular track. Did you have any strategy going into it? Did you try and hit your paces exactly or go on feel?
Herron: Fortunately I had done it last year, so I knew what I was going to experience. The course is kind of rolling, not a flat track. It wasn’t the same type as when I set my previous 100-mile world record at Tunnel Hill, which was a rails-to-trails trail, flat and through the trees. This was a rolling park loop. I had 3,058 feet of elevation gain [over the 100 miles]. [laughs]
That was the first challenge, the course, but then also being in Vegas and having that bright sun on us. Fortunately, it wasn’t like last year. It was cooler this year, but still bright sun. I felt like an ant under a magnifying glass, you know. It started out cooler in the morning, and then it warmed up in the afternoon, and you felt like you were kind of cooking with that sun on you.
I guess the biggest thing for me is, I’ve tried to go out with the men and tried to keep up with them. Sometimes I can hold it, sometimes I can’t. In the past three races, I’ve really focused on running my own race and letting the men go. I think women are known for sustaining the pace better than men. That has really paid off for me being stronger later in the races. I’ve done it three times now, and it’s worked out pretty well. [laughs]
iRunFar: I’ve been looking at how women managed the conditions at places like the Western States 100. I think we tend to be a little bit more of a metronome.
Herron: Exactly. That really made the difference toward the end and having that extra gear to push the last few laps. I went into the race thinking, I want to break 13 hours, because I knew that the course and conditions would be more challenging. When I hit the 50-mile split in 6:08, I thought, Oh, let’s go for it! I was pretty pumped up to hit 50 miles and think, Okay, game on for the world record. [laughs]
iRunFar: Heck, yeah.
Herron: It was definitely hard. It was a lot harder than my first 12-hour and 100-mile world records in 2017, on a flatter [course and] cooler conditions. I give credit to my husband Conor, because he was having to change up my drinks the last 30 to 40 miles, trying to take in more electrolytes and calories. I was a little bit more depleted with the sun and hills. I was starting to feel it. I had a 20-second margin going into three laps left. Because I’m from Oklahoma, I always imagined myself taking the bull by the horns. [laughs]
iRunFar: Just like driving the car.
Herron: That was the moment where I imagined myself taking the bull by the horns, digging extra deep to get the record. I was super pumped up, because as an endurance athlete, we live for those moments where you know you’re on track for a personal best. To go for a world record was an amazing moment.
iRunFar: Is Conor your main crew person?
Herron: He was my one-man crew for this race. If I go longer, I have to add more people.
But it was funny, he has a pretty booming voice and he was yelling at me. I could hear him over across the lake on the other side. I could hear his voice, “Keep pushing! Keep pushing! Keep pushing!” He was so into it. The last couple of laps were quite the thrill. I knew that I couldn’t have any downtime. If I wanted a shot at my world record, I basically had no bathroom breaks. I did not stop once for the bathroom. That felt like a small miracle, actually.
There was another time that I dropped a gel. I went to go get it, and there was a lady behind me, and she went to grab it. She said, “Don’t worry about it! Keep going!” After the race, she came up to me and said, “I saved you two seconds!” She had me autograph the gel. [laughs]
There was definitely an amazing energy and atmosphere and having Steep Life Media cover the event. It was incredible, people cheering and the excitement that I felt out there. It was everything I live for.
iRunFar: How are you feeling now, a few days out?
Herron: I don’t feel too bad. One of my friends told me that when you win a race the recovery is faster, because you’ve got so much positive energy. I think that’s true. I think that the good races are easier to recover from than the bad races.
iRunFar: Your legs feel good?
Herron: Yeah. I’ve been eating a lot of hamburgers. Every two hours I’ve been eating something.
iRunFar: Do you have anything planned for the next few months? I’m guessing you’re running the Western States 100 again?
Herron: Yeah. Some of the best runners at the Western States 100 have been humbled by the experience a couple of times. I’m really focused on trying to go back and be healthy and feel good and go into the race prepared. To try and have my dream race that I think is possible for me.
iRunFar: Have you ever thought about going for shorter records? Or do you like sticking with the ultra-long distances?
Herron: In fact, my husband woke up this morning and said, “What if we go shorter?”
iRunFar: Like a 5k? “Let’s do that. Just 15 minutes.”
Herron: I spent 10 years as a marathoner, so I had a whole running career before I got into ultras. I made three Olympic Marathon Trials. I’m pretty much done with the 5k to the marathon. But now that I’m a masters runner, there are all these masters championships. Maybe I could reinvent myself as a masters track runner.
iRunFar: Do you feel different being a masters runner? Do you see yourself differently as an athlete than you did maybe 10 years ago?
Herron: Definitely. I think I’m wiser. [laughs] I looked at my training logs, at what I was doing 10 years ago. It blows my mind, How did I do that?
iRunFar: How was it different?
Herron: I was texting with a friend this morning about how I’ve evolved as I’ve gotten older, to be able to sustain my ability to keep pushing. I still put in pretty high volume, which for me is 120 to 130 miles per week. But I’ve really cut back on the number of quality sessions that I do. I also don’t do as many long runs. I used to do a long run pretty much every Sunday. Now it’s maybe once or twice a month that I do a long run.
It’s really more about just feeling good. I have the mentality that I want to work hard all the time, and I need my husband as a coach to pull back the reins. That’s becoming more important as I get older. Because I have to evolve with my body and work with my body and mind.
I’m doing fewer long runs and less speedwork, but at the same time, I feel pretty darn good. It’s exciting, I’ve waited my whole life to become a masters runner. I think it’s pretty exciting to see how long I can keep going with this. I’ve been doing more consistent strength training and trying to do more of the little things to keep my body together.
iRunFar: It’s obviously working because you’re breaking records.
Herron: It’s fun. I’m super pumped up now.
iRunFar: We’re stoked for you as well.
Herron: Thank you.