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Rob Morris
Rob Morris

BORN TO RUN: Westmoore Alum Races to A New World Record

Apr 01, 2022

Camille Herron has left the field in the dust on a spectacular run to the top of the sport's mountain in the world of ultramarathon racing. Herron, who graduated from Westmoore in 2000, holds ten world records and 14 American records. This past February, she broke her own women's 100-mile world record at the Jackpot Ultrarunning Festival in Henderson, Nevada, clocking in at an incredible 12 hours, 41 minutes, and 11 seconds.


As Herron recently reflected on her racing career, she chuckled as she remembered how her earliest, well-meaning coaches worked to change her running style.


"When I was in high school, they always tried to change my arm swing or tell me to lift my knees more," said Herron. "As it has turned out, there's a reason I've always run the way I do, and it works well for me."


After having imaging done on her hips in conjunction with hernia surgery 12 years ago, doctors discovered Herron has a unique twist in her right femur. That contributes to her unique running style, which is tailor-made for ultramarathons.


"It's like I was born for this," said Herron. "Ultra is all about efficiency, and I lift rather than push when I run. That means I'm not generating a lot of force or expending a lot of energy and my gait just helps contribute to that."


There's another unique aspect to Herron's running style. While most runners with long hair keep their locks under control, Herron discovered during her first year at Tulsa that she was much more comfortable running with a free-flowing look.


"One day, I decided to let my hair run down and run," said Herron, "And I just felt so liberated doing that. It was very, very freeing, so I've kept doing that for the past 22 years, just running with my hair down. It's kind of my, my signature look."


Herron says DNA plays a significant role in her race to the top of the ultra world.


"My dad and grandpa played basketball at Oklahoma State for Henry Iba," said Herron. "I grew up hearing these stories about 6-hour practices with no water. When I was a kid and wanted to be an athlete, I wanted to be like them. So, I used to play basketball in our driveway to the point where I would start blacking out."


That toughness is one more thing that sets Herron apart from so many other runners. Herron remembers one race when one of her legs started feeling a little off with about 11 miles left to run. It turns out she was running on a torn MCL.


"I just credit my dad and my grandpa for raising a different kind of bird, I guess," said Herron. "I had plenty of natural ability, and they inspired me to push through the challenges that long-distance running presents."


Herron just turned 40 and is at a point when most athletes are considering retiring or slowing down. Not surprisingly, she feels like she's just getting started.


"I just turned 40 in December," said Herron. "And to be honest, I feel like I'm in the best place I've ever been in. I set my first 12-hour, 100-mile record back in 2017. I am excited about breaking that record, and I feel like while I am a bit older, I'm also stronger and wiser and ready to go out and break some more records."


Herron says she didn't go into the Jackpot race to break her world record. The course is a 1.17-mile loop that winds up and down 45-feet of elevation and comprises a combination of asphalt and crushed gravel paths.


"It was a bit of a tougher course than being in Las Vegas," said Herron. "It was also a bit warm. So, I was kind of more conservative with my goals. But then I hit my 50-mile split at 6:08, and I thought, 'Holy cow! That's pretty fast! I might have a shot at my record.' And it was pretty much game-on after that."


After running long distances in high school and college, Herron moved on to marathons. She took a crack at her first ultras in 2013 and 2014, but neither race turned out the way she hoped. She recommitted herself to the races in 2015, returning to a marathon-training approach, and it was as if she had been set free.


"it was kind of this epiphany and this amazing feeling that I had running my first 100 K," said Herron, "Which was much further than I had ever gone. And I just felt alive, like slipping into my most comfortable pair of running shoes, and it just felt like that was what I was born to do."


As she reflects on the journey thus far, Herron says her days at Westmoore played a significant role in her development as a world-class runner.


"Westmoore had an amazing girls' cross country team," said Herron. "The coaches were fantastic, and I had a great time as a Jaguar. It was an honor to run for Coach Laura Clay and with my teammates."


While Herron ended up as a state champion and All-State selection as a Jag runner, there's a little-known story about how a broken foot led to some high achievements as a musician.


"I came to Westmoore for my junior year and got a stress fracture in my foot a couple of weeks before the state meet," said Herron. "I was pretty good on the French horn, and I tried out and made the All-State band."


Herron says her excellence in the world of ultramarathons wouldn't be possible without the support of her husband, Conor, who was a track and field athlete at the University of Oklahoma.


"My husband does such a fantastic job coaching me," said Herron. "He knows me probably better than I know me in some ways, so he's the one that pulls back the reins on me. He helps me to train properly."


Conor is also the cook in the family, making sure Herron eats a diet that helps keep her body in peak condition. For Herron, that diet includes tacos.


"My affinity for tacos started back when I ran track at Westmoore," said Herron. "In between track events, I would go to Taco Bell and get the double-decker tacos before the mile race in the afternoon."


Conor is Irish, and Herron is part Native American. Her family originally came to Oklahoma in the 1980s, so the story of Irish immigrants resonates with both of them. Herron and Conor also profoundly appreciate the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman movie "Far and Away."


"Conor can quote most of the movie in his full Irish accent," said Herron. "It makes me laugh a lot."


Herron and Conor recently moved back to the Oklahoma City area, where she plans to keep training hard in search of new records to be broken.


"I hope that when I'm done with my running career, it will be inspiring to others," said Herron. "That it would help them find their passion and pursue it with all their heart."

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