In Season One: Comrades Marathon

Mentally I prepare myself in training. I tell myself to let the magic come out, and so I feel like when you get those opportunities like that, you think about how hard you worked and you think about that you want to prove yourself and that you deserve to succeed. And so, for me, I’m telling myself, I’m born to run, I’m born to do ultras.”

– Camille Harron

Episode summary

Camille Herron fell in love with South Africa’s 90-kilometer Comrades Marathon as a child in Oklahoma. It became her number one goal to win this race: the oldest, largest ultra-distance running race in the world.
Leading into the 2017 Comrades, Camille suffered a devastating knee injury ten weeks before the race. But her husband literally had a dream that she would win the race. And Camille was driven by a deep passion to fulfill her ultimate racing dream—of claiming that victory.
Hear how it all went down: up to the very last moment, Camille’s quest for first remained uncertain.

Show notes and Recommended Resource

Camille’s journey includes finding ultra racing after years of being an elite marathon runner. Back to Comrades, in addition to winning it being her dream, this was also literally a dream her husband, Conor, had before Camille lined up for the race in 2017. Going into that event, however, Camille was coming off a painful knee injury suffered only ten weeks beforehand.

Camille is one of the world’s top ultra-distance racers with a particular talent for events on the road. She has won several world and national ultra-distance titles and has set world and national records. Camille also holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for fastest marathon in a superhero costume: she was dressed as Spiderwoman.

Also in this episode, you learn about the finish line traditions and the medals runners earn at Comrades, a language of accomplishments all its own. This episode is part of our first season, and the theme of this season is experiences in and around the Comrades Marathon, a 90-km, or roughly 56-mile, road race that takes place each year in South Africa. It is the oldest and largest ultra-distance foot race in the world.

This episode’s recommended resource is the Keeping Track podcast. It’s cohosted by former and current professional runners Alysia Montaño, Roisin McGettigan, and Molly Huddle, and the trio discuss issues around women in sport with other notable female athletes or experts in the field. Their conversations are personal and powerful, and they get into tough issues that deserve more attention like racial and gender discrimination and inequality and drug use, that is, cheating. All of the episodes are really good listens, and in particular the interview with two-time Olympic medalist Dawn Harper Nelson is particularly memorable.

Camille Herron’s website: http://www.camilleherron.com

Camille on Twitter: @runcamille

Camille on Instagram: @runcamille

Book mentioned in this episode: Lore of Running by Tim Noakes

Additional audio for this episode comes from SABC Sport 2017 live race coverage, and from an SABC post-race interview.

Cherie Turner: This is Strides Forward, the podcast of stories about women and running, told one woman at a time. My name is Cherie Louise Turner, and I am the host and producer. You’re listening to episode three in our inaugural season, and the theme of this season is experiences in and around the oldest and largest ultra distance footrace in the world, the Comrades Marathon. In this episode, we’ll hear about persistence and following big dreams, from a woman with a lot of experience running far and running fast.

Camille Herron: Yes, I’m Camille Herron. I’m originally from Warr Acres, Oklahoma. We’re actually living in Alamosa, Colorado, right now because we bought a house up in Colorado. And I started running officially in the seventh grade in 1995.

Cherie: Camille Herron is a well recognized elite runner these days in the utlra world; she’s set world and national records and won national and world championships. In this story, however, the focus is on a time when Camille was just beginning to realize her ultra talents. Comrades play a central role in this journey, going way back to her childhood in Oklahoma.

But before we get to Camille’s story, there are a few things to know about the Comrades Marathon: it’s a 90 km or roughly 56 mile race. Comrades turns 100 years old in 2021, and over 27,000 runners have registered for the 2020 event.
The Comrades course goes between the coastal city of Durban, and the smaller town of Pietermaritzburg, in the hills; each year the race switches directions, making for up years, when it finishes in Pietermaritzburg because there’s a lot of climbing in that direction, and down years, when it finishes in Durban because all the uphill running of the “up run” becomes downhill running in the down run. The Comrades in 2017, the race I’ll talk about in this episode, was an up year.

And while Comrades is called a marathon, in  almost all cases when someone is referring to a marathon, they’re talking about an event that’s 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers long; anything longer than that is considered an ultramarathon or an ultra. The Comrades Marathon is an exception in this regard. And as I did up top, you’ll often hear me refer to Cormades as an ultra.

In each episode, in addition to telling one runner’s story, I’ll interweave information about the race, its history and its many traditions. For this episode, I’ll cover the finish line traditions and the various medals that runners earn because the finish line, it plays a significant role in Camille’s story.

But for now, we’re headed back to beginnings:

Camille: Yeah, I ran my first competitive race in the seventh grade and, yeah, just found my calling in life because I’d grown up as a basketball player and played a lot of sports, but running was a pretty natural sport for me. I’m really, I’m pretty tall with long legs and arms, and I always  had a lot of endurance as a kid, so, yeah, it was just a very natural sport for me and I just loved how my body felt running over, especially, I really liked cross-country more than I did track and I just loved how body felt running over hills and the natural terrain.

Cherie: Camille’s interest in running was noticeable, and encouraged in her family.

Camille: So, my first running book in the seventh grade was Lore of Running by Timothy Noakes, and so I’ve gotta give credit to my dad for getting me the best possible run book he could because Dr. Noakes talks all about Comrades in that book. And so it was really hard at the time for me to wrap my head around someone running 55 miles. Just being a young girl in Oklahoma, I mean, it just sounded, so like, it just sounded larger than life type of thing, I mean, to be able to go to Africa, and race in South Africa and to run that far. I mean, in my mind as a young girl I just wondered, How did they keep going like that? How are they fueling? And so the stars aligned that here I had this seed planted in my head that this is the ultra you need to run.

Cherie: Camille tucked away those ultra-distance dreams throughout high school and college and followed what she describes as a traditional path for a runner, she ran cross-country and track, and then began to focus on the marathon after college.

This was a distance she excelled at, for years; she earned her way to three Olympic Trials Marathons, 2008, 2012, 2016, and a ninth place in the event at the 2011 Pan American Games.

But Camille wasn’t satisfied focusing exclusively on singular high-profile marathons. She experimented with back to back marathons, and eventually turned to ultras, which is how she came to set her sights on Two Oceans, a 56-kilometer or just under 35-mile road race that also takes place in South Africa. The appeal was that it’s longer than a marathon, but not as far as Comrades, so it was a good step up, but not too big of a step up.

Two Oceans and Comrades are largely considered two of the most prestigious and competitive road ultras in the world.

Camille: So I ended up running Two Oceans, was my first ultra in 2013. And it didn’t go quite as well as I thought. I had been, I think the previous year I’d run like a 2:37 marathon, so I was in pretty good shape. But I basically ended up finishing eleventh, and eventually got bumped up to tenth, due to a woman who, the woman who won was caught doping. I was actually pretty timid my first couple of attempts at ultras. I just didn’t know how to push myself; I mean, it’s scary, it’s scary going so much further than you ever have. So yeah, my first ultra Two Oceans, I was pretty disappointed with it.

Cherie: Of course, tenth place, even eleventh, is a great achievement at such a hard, competitive race. But Camille, her goal was to be a champion, the very best. And she wasn’t nearly ready to give up on that. So, she forged ahead with bigger plans: she decided to go after the dream that had been planted way back in her childhood.

Camille: And then I went and ran Comrades in 2014, and I had stomach virus. I shouldn’t have run the race, but here having flown halfway across the world only to get sick the day before the race, you know, I felt like determined to do it anyway. So I made it 83 kilometers for that race, and then I passed out and ended up in ER with a concussion and really bad GI issues. And, yeah, so my first two ultras did not go quite as well as I’d hoped.

Cherie: It would have been reasonable for any runner looking for a breakout moment in ultras to feel defeated after one disappointing finish and then a trip to the ER. Or you could turn to the strength of never-say-die heroes, however unlikely those heroes might be for an ultra runner:

Camille: I grew up watching all the Rocky movies and hearing “Eye of the Tiger” and that was just always empowering to me as a kid to imagine myself as a real-life version of Rocky, a female Rocky. To me it’s always been important to have heroes and to have inspiration. And a huge part of what I do is training my mind and having a mental vision of who I am and what I’m going to do, and so yeah, I think of my heroes and those things that inspire me. So yeah, I was very inspired by Rocky growing up.

Cherie: And you could call on your well-honed skills of knowing how to give a peak performance.

Camille: I grew up as a stage performer, so I grew up doing dance and piano and band, and I was a good basketball player. I grew up, my dad taught me how to be a good free-throw shooter, so I’ve always considered myself a championship performer. So for me, I’ve always envisioned myself, when I tow the line I’m like a boxer in the corner of a ring doing the shakedown. So there’s actually video footage of me dancing on the starting line, and that’s something I’ve been doing since I was in high school, envisioning myself about to throw twelve rounds of punches like a boxer. For me, I call it flipping the switch; everybody has their little warm-up routine, but for me that’s what makes me relaxed and comfortable.

Cherie: You could also make sure your mental game clears the path for greatness.

Camille: Mentally I prepare myself in training. I tell myself to let the magic come out, and so I feel like when you get those opportunities like that, you know, you think about how hard you worked and you think about that you want to prove yourself and that you deserve to succeed. And so, for me, I’m telling myself, I’m born to run, I’m born to do ultras.

Cherie: And then you make sure to keep showing up; you persist.

Camille: I recommited myself in 2015. I just felt I had this, it was just this feeling I had inside that I was meant to be an ultra runner. So when I ran my first 100k in 2015, I ended up winning the national title at Mad City.

Cherie: At that national championship, Camille didn’t just win, she set a new National Championship record, breaking a record that had stood for 26 years. Later that same year, she won both the 100-kilometer and the 50-kilometer World Championships. In the 100-kilometer event, she ran the 4th fastest time for a woman to ever run that distance. Camille’s belief that she was born to do ultras, that is, born to be an ultra champion, it was beginning to become her reality.

Bolstered by the real life experience that she could compete at the highest level in ultras, Camille reset her sights on Comrades with one goal in mind:

Camille: I didn’t get to make it back and redeem myself until 2017, and I went into it thinking, you know, by golly I want to prove myself here because I feel like I’m born to run ultras, and, yeah, I went in with this conviction that I had to win.

Cherie: But training to win races like Comrades, that puts prolonged and intense demands on the body. Elite athletes aim to perform at the highest level possible, which means continually treading the very fine line between health and injury or illness.

Camille: My buildup to Comrades was anything but perfect. I actually tore my MCL in my knee at a trail race ten weeks before Comrades. So I had a really serious knee, I mean, I could barely bear weight just walking on it. I basically rehabbed it, and then I didn’t start running again until April.

Cherie: With Comrades coming up in June, Camille worked her way back to training, but it was unclear if she’d have enough time to get in the conditioning she’d need to be able to pull out a win. For weeks, she remained uncertain as to whether or not she’d be race ready after such a setback.

Camille: And so two weeks before the race, I ended up having a workout that told me that, hey, I think I’m in pretty good shape now, and so we booked our plane tickets and ended up flying over.

Cherie: There was one more sign, which came from her husband, Conor, that gave Camille the confidence this just might be her to shine.

Camille: Conor ended up having, he had a dream that I won Comrades, and they shot confetti at the finish line in his dream, and so he told me this, and this is at the time when I was trying to get back running and trying to see if I could even train for Comrades, let alone win it. So, just because he had this dream, I had it in my mind that I was going to win, that I was supposed to win. And so really it was his dream that gave me the conviction and the inspiration that I was supposed to train for this and that I was going to win. And it was really, a really, really hard buildup for me because physically and emotionally I had this knee injury and it just, it seemed impossible that I was supposed to be there, but I just held onto this dream that Conor had.

Cherie: Even so, the reality of what Camille would have to do to win this race was daunting. Here, Camille mentions Sage Canaday, a top male ultra racer, who had run the Comrades. And she also mentions Strava, which is sort of like Facebook but for athletes,  where you can share training and racing information down to details of distance and pace.

Camille: Before the race, when I tried to get on Strava and I looked up Sage Canaday’s pace that he ran when he ran Comrades in 2015, and I couldn’t wrap my head around how fast they were going climbing during the race, so I was nervous. I was definitely a bit nervous thinking, How in the world am I going to run that fast climbing?

Cherie: It made sense for Camille to be a bit nervous going into race day: This is a tough course and the competition is fierce. And Camille knew she was fit, but she’d had that painful and bumpy preparation, not to mention the fatigue of traveling to South Africa and adjusting to the nine-hour time difference. So how in the world was she going to run that fast while climbing? Or during the rest of the race, for that matter? Turns out, she was going to do it any way she had to.

Camille: I felt like I prepared absolutely the best I could for it, and so it was really just knowing what I had overcome and how hard I had worked that really helped me to get through any low moments. But watching the video of Comrades, my gait doesn’t look perfect. I have a funny gait to begin with but having hurt my knee like I did, there was definitely a weakness in my right leg and I’m basically running the race with, we joked that I was running the race with one-and-a-half legs.

Cherie: In a post-race interview with SABC TV News, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Camille’s unconventional running style did not go unnoticed.

SABC Post-Race Interview, Host: Camille, I mean, every step you took as I watched you, I’m thinking, OK, she’s falling over, she’s falling over. But somehow you managed throughout. You dominated that race.

SABC Post-Race, Camille: I feel that I’m a very tough person mentally and physically so even though my body felt like it was really straining on the second half I just kept pushing as hard as I could and thinking how hard I worked and all the things I’ve had to overcome here .  . .

Cherie: While Camille’s body language and form may not have made it look like she’d be able to pull out a win, her internal game plan told a whole different story, as she shared in that post-race interview.

SABC Post-Race, Camille: Just to go for it. Run from the gun. So I kind of had that mentality that I’m just going to go for it and just lay it all out there. So you know the slogan for this year was “It Takes All of You,” and I felt like I threw my whole body and my whole heart into it. And it was very special coming into that finish.

Cherie: So, yes, Camille did go from the gun; she made her intentions known from the very beginning of the race, by getting out in front. As she describes the race unfolding, she recalls a few women around in the first few miles. And that’s it.

Taking the lead so early on, it’s risky and there’s the pressure, the stress that comes with being chased. Are you pushing the pace too much? Not enough? You don’t know what your competitors may be holding back, or what might happen to slow you down. It’s a bold move that can have big payoffs, or huge consequences.

And at the front, there’s a lot of distracting fanfare to contend with. Comrades is live on television for 12 hours, which means that race leaders are running right behind a media crew. This includes a truck with a huge running clock display, several motorcycles buzzing around with camera crew onboard, security detail, and directly behind the runner, there’s a taller, larger truck that allows additional members of the media to watch from just behind. And, there are helicopters. In addition, many male racers make a point of running with lead female because, well, it’s exciting. And the crowds go especially wild when the leader comes by, all along the course.

Camille’s ability to leave it all out there, to focus so completely on the job at hand over the 6 hours, and 37 minutes she was out there, that didn’t come by chance. She leaned on skills she’d been building since she was a kid .

Camille: I have a lot of experience with championship racing and stage performance and being in the spotlight. You’re pretty much in the zone and you’re trying not to expend a lot of outside energy and let yourself get too amped up. You’re trying to keep your cool and stay calm and in the moment, and so I had to prepare myself for that, to know that, OK, I’m probably going to be leading the race. There’s probably going to be a lot of hoopla around me, and I need to be able to focus on my effort and be able to push myself to the max. So I was pretty much able to tune out everything around me and have this tunnel vision while I was racing, but also, at the same time, I was able to use that as a positive energy to help propel and carry me.

Cherie: Something to keep in mind here is that because elite ultra racers are teetering on that fine line of injury or illness, they have to seize the day when it’s available to them, whatever happens. You don’t get many chances at grand achievements, and you never know when the next opportunity will arise.

So Camille kept at it, leading the race kilometer after kilometer, and maintaining a gap of several minutes on her nearest competitor throughout the race.

Camille: I did go through some low moments during the race, like I know that I’ve had hamstring issues, and I know my hammy was bothering me at one point and my husband ended up giving me beer a couple times. But there was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to win the race, that I was supposed to win it, and so really, that’s what kept me going knowing I was supposed to persevere through anything to get to the finish line first.

Cherie: That sort of focus, that perseverance, it’s important because with such a long way to go, you never know what’s going to happen. Fortunes can and do change drastically, and a convincing lead can vanish in short order.

At Comrades, one point in the up run that is particularly critical in this regard is Polly Shortts, the final big climb of the race and it comes at the 79-kilometer, or almost 50-mile mark: not far from the finish line in Pietermaritzburg.

Pollys is steep, and it goes on for just over a mile, or a couple kilometers. I talk about Pollys a bit more in episode 1, because it also played a part in Devon Yanko’s time at Comrades. Pollys is that soul-searching part of the course that carves deep memories into many runners’ up run experiences; for those who are racing, it’s the final place to throw down or get passed by.

When Camille came into Pollys, she did still have a gap of several minutes on second place.

Camille: At about 10k to go, I knew that if I crested the top of Polly Shortts hill, I guess there are stats showing that if you crest the top of Polly Shortts, you’re guaranteed to win the race.

Cherie: But Camille still had to get up and over Pollys, and given the climb’s reputation, race announcers are keen to focus on the action here.

Live Coverage, Male Announcer: We are coming to 10 kilometers to go for her as we’re coming to the end of this race now. She’s really been leading all along. It will be so heartbreaking if she loses this one right at the end, if she does cramp and loses the race right at the end having led for so long.

Cherie: But with each running stride, Camille powered closer to the top, along the way passing fellow male runners, several of whom had succumbed to bouts of walking, which isn’t uncommon, as 2015 female Comrades champion Caroline Wostmann didn’t hesitate to acknowledge.

Live Coverage, Male Announcer: Caroline Wostmann is back with us. How is Camille looking at this stage? She looks like she’s struggling, but you just mentioned, she’s not even walking.

Live Coverage, Caroline Wostmann: You know what, I think that Pollys is a really, really tough hill to tackle at this stage of the race, and she is still running up it, so as tired as what she looks, that’s to be expected on Pollys, and she hasn’t walked yet. Well, it doesn’t look as if she walked before. If I was there, I would definitely be giving her a high five right now; ten out of ten for effort running all the way up Pollys. I think I walked about four times the year I won.

Camille: So when I hit the top of Polly Shortts, I knew I was going to win, and I had this amazing feeling inside, Oh my gosh, I’m going to win this thing. So it was pretty cool when I crested the top of that hill and then it’s pretty much downhill from there, and I love to watch the video of that, too, because I look like I start flying down Polly Shortts. I was just so excited because I just knew I had it in the bag.

Cherie: But to win, there is that final detail of crossing the finish line.

SABC Post-Race Interview, Host: I saw you raise your arms and I’m like, Camille, no! Carry on running.

Live Coverage, Male Announcer: Well, she thinks it’s in the bag, but she’s not at the finish yet. And a bit of confusion here for Camille Herron; they’re just telling her, Look, you’ve still got some way to run. And she can probably walk it, and still win this. It looks like that’s what she’s decided to do.

Cherie: Camille explains her experience in that post-race interview.

SABC Post-Race Interview, Camille: Yes, I crossed a timing mat, with an arch and they handed me a rose, and I thought that was the finish line. I just stopped my watch and started slappin high fives with everybody and apparently everybody was yelling at me to keep going, keep going, but it was so loud, I just didn’t know. I couldn’t hear what they were saying.
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Camille: So yeah, that may have been the most frightening part of the race, that I actually stopped at the wrong timing mat for about a minute and a half. But fortunately, another runner came up behind me and pointed that I wasn’t quite there yet.

Live Coverage, Male Announcer: And now Herron realizes she that she hasn’t actually quite finished the race and puts in the last little sprint finish towards the end there. And she’s really going for it now.

Cherie: And back in that post-race interview, Camille tells her side of this last-minute blitz to the line.

SABC Post-Race Interview, Camille: It’s probably the fastest I’ve ever sprinted the last 200 meters of a race. I still had something left in me to get there. The actual finish was much, much better.

Cherie: Camille was able to  claim her victory, becoming only the second US female to do so.

And about that finish line snafu: where Camille stopped, it wasn’t so crazy for her to think that that was the finish, especially considering how completely exhausted she was. There is that timing mat she mentions, which runner expects to see at the finish, and she had just entered the stadium, and Comrades runners know that  the finish of the race is in the stadium.

Also, just before Camille stopped, she had received two of the items Comrades winners are given near the finish: a rose and a scroll.

These are a couple of the many end-of-race traditions at Comrades. There’s a rose given to each of the top ten finishers, male and female.

The scroll, which is only given to the male and female winners, is a message of greeting and friendship exchanged between the Mayors of Durban and Pietermeritzberg from year to year.

In addition, top finishers receive prize money, which is and has been equal for men and women since 2001.

For every runner who completes Comrades, they earn a metal. The type of metal you get depends on your finishing time. For instance, the top ten men and women receive a gold metal. As of 2019, there is the Isavel Roche-Kelly medal, in honor of this two-time Comrades champion and the first woman to break 7 hours 30 min, which she did in 1980; this is medal is only given to women and goes to those runners who  finish under that 7:30 mark but out of the top ten.

For all the racers who finish between 7:30 and 9 hours, they’re given the Bill Rowan medal, named after the winner of the very first Comrades. And so on, to the medal named after the man who founded Comrades, the copper Vic Clapham medal, which is given to the runners who come in in the final hour of the race, between 11 hours and the 12-hour cutoff.

Runners who don’t finish within the 12 hours are not counted as Comrades finishers, and so they don’t receive a medal. I’m going to talk about that 12-hour cutoff in a future episode, because like the start, which I talked about in episode 2, it’s a well-known dramatic point of the race. And as harsh as it sounds, and really as harsh as it is, this is one of the reasons becoming a comrades finisher means so much to people.

Like any sport that has its own language of honors and levels of achievement, say like the various colors of belts in martial arts, these medals, these cherished takeaways are signs to those in the know of exactly what kind of bragging rights a runner has. Getting any metal at Comrades is held in high esteem; if you tell anyone in South Africa that you’ve raced Comrades, there’s an immediate appreciation of what that means.

But there’s cache in earning a metal that shows you’ve finished in a faster time or in a higher place amongst your competitors. Those metals fuel hundreds, thousands of training programs and race dreams.

One final note about  these metals, for all the significance they hold, they’re physically pretty small, they’re a bit larger than an American quarter.

Now back to Camille, in amongst the rich traditions of receiving her rose, carrying the scroll, earning her gold metal, at the finish line, there was one particular experience that, for her, was almost eerily personal.

Camille: I think the coolest thing was, for my husband who was at the finish line, you know, I talked about, he had this dream that I had won and that they shot confetti at the finish line, and so here I stopped at the wrong timing mat, and there was this dramatic moment there for about a minute and a half, and then once I got going, and I ended up crossing the real finish line, they shot confetti at the finish line, and my husband thought it was the coolest thing because it was exactly as his dream. And so yeah, it was really cool that I made, his dream came true like that.

Cherie: And lest Camille think her physical efforts were behind her for the day, there was one final challenge to tend to.

Camille: Another funny thing about that is they go and hand me the caduceus, which is this really heavy trophy. Well, that thing is like 30 pounds. Here I went through everything I went through, running 55 miles in the heat and I won the race, and they go and hand me this 30-something pound trophy, and I’m laughing, I’m just like this is so crazy. But there were so many great moments.

Cherie: Taking a step back, while Camille had the singular achievement of winning Comrades that day, she was part of something much larger.

Camille: So Comrades, I feel like Comrades is a race that brings people from all over the world together. It’s something that I, it makes me smile just thinking about it, or even when somebody tells me that they ran Comrades. It feels like we have this shared sense of, we know what it’s about, we know that it’s bringing humanity together.

Cherie: Camille had been driven by dreams and determination and bolstered by the unity and shared difficulty of Comrades. And she’d achieved a goal that at times seemed impossible. What an incredible high.

Camille: So to win Comrades, it was my number-one life goal. So when I won it, I was like, What do you do when you achieve your number-one life goal? They say you should go out on top, and I was literally having thoughts about, like, Well do I retire? What do I do now? I had to start writing down more goals, and that’s when I realized, I still got things like world records and there are so many other races out there beyond Comrades, but I think that winning Comrades is the pinnacle of excellence. And, yeah, it gives me sense of relief that, hey, I’ve already achieved my number-one goal. Anything else I do from now on is just icing on the cake.

Cherie: Race wins and world-record performances, they are spectacular moments. But behind that is the daily, monthly, year in, year out reality of putting in the training, which gets difficult, and demanding, and at times it’s just painful. Which leads to the reasonable question of, Why? Here Camille mentions Frank Shorter, a two-time Olympian for the United States in the marathon; he won gold in 1972 and and silver in ’76.

Camille: When I was in college I met Frank Shorter at a marathon, and he signed a poster for me that said, Run for stress release. I remember thinking deeply about that and thinking of running as almost as like a form of meditation. It really, just changing how I think about running, it really started to impact me, and I started to really enjoy my running. I found myself running more and that was really kind of the turning point for me that my running started to take off, and so carrying that over into the marathon and to ultra running. I mean, I’m running with a smile on my face all day. I really appreciate the moment. I love to work hard, too; I like to do workouts. I’m grimacing and smiling during workouts. I think if you enjoy running just on a daily basis and you learn to appreciate how it makes you feel and it makes you happy, that that just carries over into your race performance as well.

Cherie: And isn’t that a beautiful thing about running, it’s this seemingly very simple motion but it can provide so much more.

Camille: I joke that I’m like the mouse that gets on the wheel and runs all day, just because I feel like I’m wired to do that. I just like how it makes me feel, and I feel like I’m born to do it. And, for me, it reminds me of being a kid, getting out and running around the wheat fields around our house, and chasing the animals and connecting with nature. It feels good. It’s good for your health. To be able to go out and explore, going across mountains or being able to push the limits of distance and speed; you can do anything with it, whatever you set your mind to and whatever goals you set for yourself.

Cherie: And that concludes our story with Camille Herron. For more information about this episode and Camille or about Strides Forward, please visit, stridesforwardpodcast.com. One section you’ll find there provides resources related to women and running. Each episode, after the story, I highlight one such resource.

This episode’s highlighted resource is the Keeping Track podcast. It’s cohosted by former and current professional runners Alysia Montano, Roisin McGettigan, and Molly Huddle, and the trio discuss issues around women in sport with other notable female athletes or experts in the field. Their conversations are personal and powerful, and they get into tough issues that deserve more attention like racial and gender discrimination and inequality and drug use, that is, cheating. All of the episodes are really good listens, and I found the interview with two-time Olympic medalist Dawn Harper Nelson particularly memorable.

I welcome you to please stay in touch. I can always be reached through the website, or you can find me on Twitter; I’m @stridesforward.

Thank you to Camille Herron for sharing her story and, like all of the runners in this first series, for taking a chance on a podcast that was just a passionate idea when she granted this interview. Thank you, as well, to April Marriner of Bonfire Collaborative for the logo and website design; you can find April at bonfirecollaborative.com. And thank you to Cormac O’Regan for the original music and sound design.

And thank you to you, the listener. I’m thrilled you’re joining this podcast journey. Please subscribe and share with friends and family. And leave your thoughts in a review. Until next time, this is Cherie, wishing you  satisfying strides forward.

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