The Long Run
Tens of thousands of Oklahomans have participated in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon events over the past 16 years. If you’ve ever watched the race from the finish line area, you may recognize Camille Herron, and for good reason—she’s won the event three times.
Herron’s success in running extends far beyond the streets of OKC. Marathons aren’t even her longest race distance—she’s recently completed 100K (62 mile) races and has won races at the state, national and international levels.
Herron was introduced to the sport in junior high. Subsequent success in track and cross country in high school earned her a scholarship to the University of Tulsa, where her career was cut short by a series of stress fractures and other injuries. Herron continued to run recreationally throughout her undergraduate career, studying Exercise and Sports Science with a focus on Pre-Med. Herron met and fell in love with Conor Holt, a six-time All-American runner at the University of Oklahoma and a professional road racer. He helped to reignite her passion for professional running, later becoming her coach in 2004. “Through him, I learned how to live and train like an elite athlete. He taught me how to recover and run easy on my easy days, allowing me to go even harder in workouts and races.” The hard work paid off—Herron was running stronger than she ever had before.
Herron pursued a graduate degree from Oregon State University beginning in 2007, which is where her running career really took off. She was now training at distances of 100 miles per week and using her running as a real-life experiment for her graduate studies (she focused on bone recovery). Eight years later, her accomplishments are astounding: qualifications for the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic Trials; a two-time member of the US Pan-American Team; 20 career marathon wins; 2015 US 100K national champion; and a world record for a 50-mile road race. Her 50-mile world record was set with a time of 5:38:41—the equivalent of averaging a 6:45 minute-per-mile race from Guthrie to Norman.
Herron had an active childhood, but didn’t fall in love with running until she tried out for the cross country team in eighth grade. “I loved the natural terrain and hills, and running through the wheat fields in Guthrie,” she explains. Success in cross country led her to join the track team, where she won 3 All-State titles during her high school career. Speed came naturally, but technique was a different matter entirely. “The longer the distance, the exponentially better I got! I used to hold my arms up high and tight, so my coaches had to really work on getting me to drop and open up my arms so I could breathe better.”
Despite her early success, she was constantly fighting injury. “It wasn’t until I was an adult, running higher mileage at a slower pace, and coached by my husband that my body got healthy, consistent and started to flourish.”
Herron’s favorite distance to race, until recently, was the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. “I’m gradually warming up to the 50 mile and 100K road distances and feeling more comfortable calling myself an ultra-distance runner. I like the ultra-distances because they are more mentally challenging and my mental and physical strength shines through.”
Herron’s typical training week is just exhausting to read, much less complete. “I keep my mileage consistently high—120 to 130 miles per week, with two hard sessions and a long run. The rest of my training is easy running a moderate pace. I run twice a day every day unless I’m tired, and then I will only run once or take a day off. I do cross train—I’ve gotten back into full body strength training. I’m an endurance animal and need lots of long slow distance, with small amounts of quality and strength work.” With all that exercise, her diet isn’t too restrictive. “I grease my engine with the things that make me happy. For as much as I run, I just need calories, wherever I get them from! I don’t believe in taking a lot of supplements, but I do take a multivitamin.”
Herron has advice for recreational runners wanting to improve their speed and endurance. “Get a coach, train with other people, keep a training log with your mileage and be consistent! The body likes to move frequently and consistently,” said Herron. “Run more miles. Rather than running only three to four days per week, break up the runs into shorter runs and build up to five to six days a week.” Adding in speed work is secondary to the mileage, but it helps. You need to train fast to race fast, she adds. “I operate on a two-week cycle of doing short intervals, hills, long intervals and progression runs, with two or three days of easy running between.”
Many amateurs, Herron explains, don’t focus enough on the little details that make all the difference. “Sleep well, eat well and frequently through the day, hydrate and minimize stress levels. Make running a top priority to improve!” Herron’s own life is a great example of how to reconcile professional obligations with an active lifestyle. “I work full-time as a research assistant, so it’s a fine balance managing the stresses of my job with the stresses of running.”
Herron hopes to repeat her previous success at this year’s Memorial Marathon. “I’ve had some real struggles each time I’ve run it—usually the weather makes it challenging. I would say my favorite part is whenever the wind is at my back!” If you’re at the finish line of this year’s Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, Camille should be easy to spot. She’ll be one of the first racers across the line, if not the first, and will do so with a smile on her face.
To learn more about Camille’s accomplishments, visit www.camilleherron.com.
- 2008, 2012, 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier
- 20 time marathon winner in 12 different states
- 3 time OKC Memorial winner
- 3rd American at the 2011 NYC Marathon
- 2015 US 100K National Champion
- US Championship Record, fastest 100K ever on American soil
- 2015 IAAF/IAU 100K World Champion and Team Champions
- 4th fastest 100K ever and 2nd fastest 100K ever by an American
- World Road Best for 50 Miles at the Fall 50/US Championship