48 hours. 2,880 minutes. Two full days. What do all these numbers mean?
For runner Camille Herron, they represent the amount of time she spent running this past weekend at the Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Track Festival in Canberra, Australia, where she obliterated the previous world record.
Excitingly, her most recent performance in the 48-hour race beat both the men’s and women’s previous marks, as she ran just over 270 miles across the two days — an average speed of just over 10 minutes per mile. Her closest competitor was Joffrid Mackett, who completed about 183 miles in 48 hours and had an average speed of nearly 16 minutes per mile. Forget running for two days straight — the mere fact that Herron ran as fast as she did in that period is frightening.
Herron paused only a few times throughout the entire race, and her longest break was just 40 minutes long at the halfway point of the run. This finding certainly leaves me with all sorts of questions regarding ultrarunning — most glaringly, how Herron and her fellow competitors can persist for so long without sleep.
For newbies to ultrarunning like me, the sport is considered to be any distance race longer than a marathon, which is 26.2 miles long. Herron, 41, is not new to this sport nor its extremes. She has established herself as an idol of the ultrarunning community — and is a certifiable legend in general.
Herron holds world records in three different ultrarunning distances, with a fourth on the way pending verification of her most recent feat. Herron is also a three-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon.
Her love of running and its processes, including staying injury-free, has been brewing ever since she started running cross-country in middle school.
Speaking of brewing, Herron is known for “her reputation for running with her hair down, drinking beer and eating tacos,” according to The Chalkboard Mag. Sounds like the life to me!
When asked about her beer-drinking tactics, Herron called it her “magic elixir.” A lot of people might share this sentiment, but unfortunately for them, it does not result in the same success as Herron. Herron’s taco-eating, optimistic embrace of life is evident through her joy while running. She is the happiest runner. Perhaps it is this exact attitude that has allowed her to transform her career in the longer distances into a storybook of successes, and perhaps it is an attitude that we could all use more of these days: seek joy, push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and laugh more even when the going gets tough.
Herron is most definitely an ultrarunning warrior to watch, as she is seeking to take down even more records despite being in her 40s. She signed a contract with Lululemon and is embracing her position as a role model for runners everywhere, taking advantage of an opportunity to expand ultrarunning as a sport and to help garner more attention from the wider running community.
However, there is another ultrarunner who is making an impact on above-marathon distance races — one who is also arguably one of the GOATs of her sport. Courtney Dauwalter, 38, has made her mark recently, although she has been in the ultrarunning game for a while now.
Dauwalter holds the record for the longest distance a woman has ever run; late last month, she won a 128-kilometer race called The Transgrancanaria, marking her 15th consecutive victory. It’s safe to say that she is on a roll.
Overall, ultrarunning is not for the faint of heart: literally and figuratively. I am not suggesting that we all watch these races; after all, they generally last two days or longer. Nonetheless, I think ultrarunning is an immensely powerful form of running that should be discussed more. It’s a sport that says a lot about humans and about how much we can do if we just put our minds to it and go the distance.
Isabella Terry is a first-year student in the School of Foreign Service. Run Like a Girl appears online and in print every three weeks.
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