Thirty-three runners started running on a cool Saturday morning in Arizona. For 24 hours, they didn’t stop. When the sun rose the following Sunday, Camille Herron, 36, claimed the world record among men and women for the fastest 24-hour race, covering 162.9 miles.
Herron’s 655.48 laps around the oval track of Central High School in Phoenix on Dec. 8 beat her nearest competitor by five miles. Along the way, she set two records, one for the 24-hour race and another for women’s fastest 100-mile track time (she set an average mile pace of 8:03), reports Outside Magazine.
The Desert Solstice Invitational that Herron won is one of the many ultra races now being held around the world. Competitors test their mettle by running more than the standard 26.2-mile marathon distance. In recent years, women have been closing the gap with men’s racing times, especially on longer distances.
This month, Herron beat out 20 men to claim the overall time. “It was kind of fascinating when, one by one, [all the men] just all kind of died,” she said in an interview with Outside. “And, actually, I was personally a bit deflated once others started giving up. … I felt deflated because I felt if they’d hung in there we could have continued to push each other to maybe hit 170 miles. But that’s what ultrarunning is like. The further you get, the more it becomes this mystery. At some point it’s like: ‘Oh my gosh, maybe a woman can win this.'”
Ultra runners face sleep deprivation, hypothermia, hunger, and muscle cramps. Herron had a unique refueling and training strategy. In training, the professional ultrarunner often ran twice a day, logging 120-plus mile weeks, and often leaving at midnight for 22-mile jaunts. During the race, she washed down Clif Shot energy gels with sports drinks and soda. With fatigue and hypothermia setting in, and her leg muscles beginning to lock up, she ate a Double Decker Taco from Taco Bell and a Rogue Dead Guy Ale to regain her strength at the end of the race.
“I just basically had to use my mind to will my legs to keep turning over,” she told Sports Illustrated. “Nothing can prepare you for what that’s going to feel like and trying to continue pushing on. That’s where your mind takes over your body and legs. It was incredible. I loved it.”