Heart set on fire: Ultramarathon runner, Norman native Camille Herron sets new record

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Apr. 2—Camille Herron, world-famous ultra marathon runner and Norman native, broke yet another world record last week following a 48-hour race held in Australia.

The 41-year-old ran 270 miles in 48 hours at the 2023 Sri Chinmoy 48-Hour Festival, exceeding the previous world record of 255 miles set in February at the Taipei Ultramarathon, several news agencies reported.

Herron has been a full-time professional runner with several sponsors for the past four years after she retired early as a bone researcher for the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center.

Among her most notable accomplishments, Herron won the Comrades Marathon — the world's largest and oldest marathon — in 2017, and she has set several world records, including the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon runner in a superhero costume.

Herron was born in Norman and graduated from Westmoore High School in Moore. Despite playing a variety of sports as a child, she said her passion for running didn't materialize until middle school when she competed in cross country racing.

"I played everything, but it was really running that really set my heart and soul on fire," Herron told The Transcript.

After Herron's family moved to a rural area of Guthrie when she was 4, she ran through wheat fields in search of adventure and the thrill of finding wildlife.

"I loved being outside and I loved the wildlife," she recalled. "I would go follow the tractor trails and exploring for wildlife all the time as a little girl."

Her father, Jack Herron, noted her ability as a runner when she came home one day and boasted she'd beat the boys in grade school.

"She said, 'Dad, I want to run. I even beat the boys,'" Jack Herron recalled. "It was that important to her."

Fortunately for Herron, her body would be strong enough to contain that fire. At 5-foot-9, Herron said she stands taller than most of her female competitors and having long legs helped give her an edge.

Often overlooked by those who do not run long distances, is the mental strength runners possess, said Anthony Gilbert.

Gilbert is a Tulsa ultramarathon runner who has followed Camille's career, and said running demands mental resiliency.

"It's a self discovery, oftentimes, how mentally tough are you?" Gilbert asked. "And what is the body capable of doing? The body is an amazing thing, the mind is amazing thing but running, we say is 90% mental and the rest is physical. You can train all day, but if you're not mentally prepared it's hard to get out of that spot."

Herron agreed the sport is mentally and physically demanding. She said she has endured bone fractures, vomiting and diarrhea, but said for her, it's those childhood memories that often keep her going and the inspiration of her parents, who were also athletes, that spring up when the going gets tough.

Her father Jack stands 6-foot-6 and played basketball under Olympic coach Henry Iba at Oklahoma State University, as did her grandfather. Her mother was a competitive swimmer and golfer, Herron said. Later, she would be inspired by her husband Connor, also a competitive runner.

As a child, she listened to her father and grandfather's stories of hard physical training, without water and other conditions that pressed the limits of their strength to new heights. Herron, without any prompting from her parents, would push herself to play basketball for hours outside without water until she collapsed.

"I would go inside and my mom would have soup and a sandwich and a coke," she remembered. "It would recharge my battery and I'd go back out and keep practicing. I don't know how many kids are wired like that, but I was just wired like that."

On the trail, it's those stories and images of Oklahoma wheat fields and carefree days chasing wildlife that come back.

"I feel like all of my life experiences are coming out through the race and I'm flashing back to those moments in my childhood and how I've pushed through other painful situations," Herron said. "Those challenges I've had in my life are preparing me to work through challenges in my races."

Apart from setting records, Herron has become famous for her food and beverage of choice to keep her going: beer and tacos.

"You gotta take whatever floats your boat," Herron said of the carb rich beverage and satisfying tacos. "The tacos story happened because when I ran my first 24 hour world record, I started getting hungry at close to 2 a.m. and Taco Bell is like the only place open."

Her emergence on the world stage has made her recognizable almost anywhere she goes.

"It's really weird," she said of getting used to fame. "I can be at an airport and somebody recognizes me, I guess because I run with my hair down and I have this distinct look. I'm easily recognized anywhere. It's weird because I'm this really down-to-earth person and I'm just really easy going and approachable."

Fans say she's humble enough to show up at local races and share tips with other hopefuls.

"She's not one to stick her nose up and doesn't talk to anybody," Gilbert said. "Oklahoma runs deep for her."

Herron said she's proud to be from Oklahoma.

"I'm a born and bred Okie and I'm proud of that," Herron said. "We live in Oklahoma City and everyone is always shocked to hear that a girl from Oklahoma is doing what I'm doing. I'm proud that this has made me who I am."

Mindy Wood covers City and County government news and notable lawsuits for The Transcript. Reach her at mwood@normantranscript.com or 405-416-4420.