2017 Comrades Champ Smashes A World Record

Penelope Cairns |

Camille Herron beat all the men at the Tunnel Hill 100 and drank a cold one while averaging a 4:45 per kilometre. – By Erin Strout

Image supplied by Comrades
Camille Herron crossing the finish line at the 2017 Comrades Marathon. She set a world record on Saturday at the Tunnel Hill 100. RAJESH JANTILAL/Getty Images

She had tried twice before in 2017, but Camille Herron still hadn’t finished a 100-mile race until Saturday. She not only placed first at the Tunnel Hill 100, but also set a world record in the process.

Finishing in 12:42:39, averaging 4:45 per kilometre, Herron, 35, crossed the finish line before any of her male competitors at the Vienna, Illinois, race. She also set the fastest known time for men and women on the USA Track & Field-certified course. The previous 100-mile women’s world record belonged to Gina Slaby and was set at the 2016 Desert Solstice track race in 13:45:49.

As for fuelling, Herron dutifully ingested two gels per hour and sipped on her sports drink throughout the race. But after so many hours of sugar, she decided to get creative during the last 32 kilometres. “I drank a beer and a half and it helped settle my gut,” she said. “I think you gotta treat yourself at some point.” It was less than two weeks ago that Herron decided to run Tunnel Hill.

Finding a certified course in the trail-racing world is rare, and the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. But in order for her record to be ratified, Herron also needed to have a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency official there for drug testing, several additional timing mats set out on the course, and additional official hand timers present. The rest was up to Herron and her strategy. “I do a lot of progression runs with a heart rate monitor in training, so I decided to focus on my easy long-run effort, which is about 75 percent of my max heart rate,” Herron said. “That usually is about the right pace.”

Herron, who lives in Oklahoma City and works part-time as a research assistant in osteoimmunology at the University of Oklahoma, won the 2017 Comrades Marathon in June. She originally set a goal to also win the Western States Endurance Run just days after Comrades to become the first woman to claim the double victory since ultrarunning legend Ann Trason did so in 1997. Unfortunately, Herron was forced to drop out.

“There was a lot of snow in the first 24 kilometres of Western States this year… I slid down an embankment into a tree and had a concussion,” Herron said. “I kept falling, then started having pain and paralysis in my hands, pain in my head and neck. It was not a good state to be in just eight kilometres into the race – it was pretty traumatic.”

She went for another 100-mile finish at the Leadville Trail 100 later in the summer but suffered a hip injury about 64 kilometres into the race. The Tunnel Hill event was her last-ditch effort to conquer the distance before the year was up.

“I’ve really wanted to get redemption pretty much all year,” Herron said. “There have been so many accidents and injuries.”

What’s next for the ultrarunner, who also holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon dressed as a superhero (2:48:51 as Spider Man at the 2012 Route 66 Marathon)? More record attempts at the ultra distances – and a dedication to having a good time while doing so.

“I think I have to give credit to my teammates [over the years] for showing me what is possible,” she said. “We’ve all been bitten by that running bug – we all like to run a lot and just do crazy things. For me, it’s fun. It’s just fun.”

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