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US long-distance runner Camille Herron reacts after winning the famous 89km Comrades Marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa in 2017

US long-distance runner Camille Herron reacts after winning the famous 89km Comrades Marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa in 2017

AFP via Getty Images

US long-distance runner Camille Herron reacts after winning the famous 89km Comrades Marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa in 2017

Just over a year ago, ultra runner Camille Herron was driving to work when she was sideswiped by an out of control car.

As her own car rolled over and the windscreen smashed, she found herself trapped inside the car, unable to breathe and sprinkled with glass.

"Someone then came and opened the passenger door - it was like they were opening the gate to heaven," says Herron. She slid out of the car and although badly bruised and totally traumatised, realised that she was still in one piece.

Nine months later, she improved on her own world 24 record when winning the women's title at the World 24-Hour Championships in Albi, France.

"Although I had instinctively leaned to one side to protect my head - which probably saved my life - my back went out of alignment, which meant I began to have hamstring issues." Yet only a fortnight later, she won the Tarawera 100 Miler in New Zealand, setting a new course record of 17:20:52. But in three races later that summer, she was forced to pull out.

By her side all the time was Conor Holt, her Dublin-born husband and coach. After a promising junior career as a middle distance runner, Holt had won an athletics scholarship to the USA and he never came back, finding work as a college coach. Since the pair first met in 2002, she's been a regular visitor to Dublin, recently spending two weeks in the city.

With the World Championships drawing ever nearer, the pair opted to try a PRP injection to see if it could sort out her troublesome hamstring. The injection worked and in October, she headed for Albi in France, confident that she could break her own record. She ran a stunning total of 270.116km (167.842 miles).

"I went out too fast - I thought the loop was 1400m, not 1500m, and only realised it when I was 20 minutes too fast at 100km. But by then Conor and I knew I could break the world record."

Not a bad effort for a 38-year-old woman who only took up ultra running five years ago. "I had made three Olympic trials for the marathon with a best time of 2:37:14 and had finished 9th in the Pan American Games. I realised that was as far as I could go."

When she won both the World 100km Championships and the World 50km in 2015, she realised that she had a gift for longer distances and soon collected US titles at distances from 50km to 24 hours.

Her finest moment to date came when she won the 2017 Comrades Marathon in South Africa. "I went out hard from the start and won by four minutes, despite stopping at the wrong timing mat which lost me two minutes." Along the way she also paused for her favourite mid-race tipple - a bottle of beer.

She'll be back at the Comrades Marathon next June after an attempt at the 12-hour world record in April. She's also eyeing up the Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc, the most prestigious trail race on the calendar.

That's not all. "I'd also like to move into multi-day events - like 48 hour and six day races. And I want more records - I want to be the greatest of all time!"