Camille Herron's First Pair of Nikes, Night Running, Toenails, and Desert Solstice
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
2018 Desert Solstice 24 Hour
Photo credit: Steve Acciarito
She Did It Again!
Camille Herron set a new ultrarunning world record - this time at the 2018 Desert Solstice Invitational 24 hour track ultra in December after clocking an astonishing 162.919 miles. Along the way Camille set a 100 mile track ultra world record in 13:25.
I first interviewed Camille after she set a new 100 mile world record at Tunnel Hill in 2017. (Here's the link to the interview). We recently chatted again, this time about running flat ultras, running through the night, going through three pairs of running shoes at Desert Solstice, upcoming races, her Run With Camille coaching website, and her first pair of Nikes.
The Olympic Torch and Nikes
Camille remembers fondly her first pair of running shoes. It was1989 and the Olympic festival was taking place in Oklahoma City. "They were white leather Nikes. We got our first running shoes because our dad was running with the Olympic torch. My sister Jane and I were excited because we got our first pair of running shoes and we got to run beside our dad who is is 6'6" with very long legs."
She thinks she ran in a pair of kids' Nike Cortez fitness shoes. She doesn't remember how far she ran. "I want to say it was a mile, half mile, something like that. But I remember just running with dad and the torch." This future running phenom and world record holder was 8 years old.
A Fresh Pair of Shoes
Fast-forward 29 years later. Camille, who is sponsored by Nike, sported three pairs of running shoes at Desert Solstice. The first shoe change came at about mile 105 - 110. '"I hit a point maybe at 14 – 15 hours where it just suddenly felt like I had a rock in my shoes. It felt like something was pressing into the top of my foot. It was causing a pressure hot spot. So I stopped and changed into a fresh pair of shoes."
After running 4 hours in a second pair of Nike Vapor Fly, and about the time she started to bonk and have a Taco Bell moment around 18 - 19 hours into the race, she slipped on another pair of shoes.
"I was still having pain on the top of my foot. I think it was the shoe laces and the material. I felt it was kind of changing my gait causing pain in my arch. I just had to change into a totally new pair. I had a pair of Nike Pegasus Turbo which is like their trainer version of the Nike Vapor Fly. That shoe has a softer upper and softer midsole and that’s what ended up carrying me the rest of the way. I still wear the Vapor to race in. I just have to be more careful how I tie my shoe laces."
Night Running, 10 Minute Miles, and Lesson Learned
Desert Solstice introduced Camille to night running. With night running came sleep deprivation, hypothermia, body stiffness, mental inspiration from Yiannis Kouros, and a reboot of her motivation to set a world record after the top runners dropped out..
"After all the the other top runners dropped out, I kinda lost my motivation so I reset my goals. I had to adjust my goals to concentrate beyond the current world record," said Camille. "I remembered Yiannis Kouros once saying, "You have to continue to find mental inspiration."
Camille fought through sleep deprivation and hypothermia. "I think I was sleep deprived. I was cognizant about how my body was feeling." To help her get through, she thought about what her body endured at Tunnel Hill.
In hindsight, Camille would have prepared differently for the long cold night run at Desert Solstice. "I think what I was experiencing through the night was hypothermia. I think when my brain started to go it was hypothermia. My body was getting cold and shutting down as the blood wasn't flowing to my brain and my extremities."
Photo credit: Kevin McGinnis
Watching the videotape of her running at night at Desert Solstice taught her a lesson. "Everyone has already put on clothes and I'm still in my singlet. When it got cold, I put on a long sleeve shirt. This was the first time to run through the night, and knowing what I learned about myself, I should have put on clothes sooner to prevent myself from getting hypothermic."
While the lack of clothes to keep her warm eventually physically slowed her down, it didn't diminish her mental strength or extinguish her fire. "I knew that my body was going to get cold and stiff. Once I stopped between 2 and 3 in the morning, I got so stiff. The fastest I could run was 10 minute plus miles. I never ran 10 minute miles, not even in training, so I had to wrap my head around running that slow and being positive. This was as fast as I could go. I basically had to go 40 laps if I wanted to get the world record so that kinda became my motivation. My motivation was getting the world record. I was just concentrating the last 5 - 6 hours."
And a little nourishment propelled her along. Armed with two of her favorite fuel foods, she was reinvigorated. "I ended up walking a couple of laps. I had a taco and a beer and tried to pump myself up and get my brain back in motion. Brain tell my legs to get moving. It was hard. My legs were like lead. Trying to get my legs moving again was the hardest thing. But I did it. I did it."
Flat Ultras - A Special Kind of Hell
Not long after setting a world record at Desert Solstice, I came across a tweet from Camille -'"Flat ultras are a special kind of hell." I asked Camille to elaborate. She chuckled, "My friend and photographer Howie Stern said this after running Across the Years."
Camille went on to elaborate. "A lot of people don't cross over and experience what it's like to run these pancake flat track and road ultras. They can't experience what we're going through and the pain and the repetitiveness that you experience running a flat ultra. In a mountain you have to change muscle usage. Track versus road versus mountain is a very different experience so you can appreciate the kind of hell you go through trying to run a flat track ultra. The flat track ultras are always more painful."
But Camille offers a few tips for those running a 24 hour track ultra for the first time. I'm running my 7th 24 hour ultra and my first track ultra - Dawn to Dusk to Dawn - in May. Camille advices, "Do some wind sprints. I was doing wind sprints once in a while on the backstretch of the track. Your mind and legs will get fatigued. It's a whole body exhaustion that you go through. Mentally, try to break it up. Hopefully, the track ultra you're doing changes every 4 hours."
Photo credit: Gretchen Connelie
Upcoming Ultras and Run With Camille Coaching
Camille is headed to the Tarawera 100 miler in New Zealand in February. In April, she'll tackle the Lake Sonoma 50. Then Comrades and Western States, where she hopes to win both. "It's a real epic challenge I just want to try and achieve."
In 2019, "my biggest goal is to regain myself on the trails. I'm still new to trail running. I think people still doubt me as a trail runner. Now that I've gotten these records [Tunnel Hill and Desert Solstice] out of the way, I feel my career is going to evolve into more trail running and mountain racing."
She's also hopes to go to the World 24-Hour Championship and log 170 miles. In the meantime, she's getting two of her toenails, which she loses with every ultra, permanently removed. "I have Morton's toe. My second toe is longer than my first. I'm going to get both nails permanently removed in February."
When she's not training, racing, and losing toenails, she and husband Conor are busy with their new RunWithCamille coaching website. Individuals from through out the world are seeking her running wisdom and training tips. "We offer private coaching and digital training programs. We've been able to help a lot of people. We coach people of all ages and abilities. It's been great."