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Camille Herron’s speed training for ultra races

Camille Herron's secret to ultra distance domination? Low mileage and speedwork

Camille Herron is a five-time world record-holder who most recently broke her own world record in October at the 24-Hour World Championships. The ultra runner is revered in the distance running community and on Friday she revealed one of the secrets to her success–speedwork is a key part of her training.

RELATED: Camille Herron breaks her own world record (unofficially) at 24-Hour World Championships

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Speedwork for an ultrarunner may a little counter intuitive, but Herron insists that it’s been very important for her huge results. “Speedwork helps train my legs and mind for the long ultras to keep springing and stay light. These also happen to be two of my favourite things to tell myself mid-race.” Just like speed training is important for marathoners, it’s also important for ultrarunners.

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Herron’s speed philosophy

Herron says when she first got into ultrarunning she made the mistake of bringing her mileage way higher than it had been before. “I assumed I just needed to be running more than I was as a marathoner. I didn’t really know how ultrarunners trained. I just thought it meant more [than the marathon]. But this really high mileage made me tired and flat.”

When Herron re-dedicated herself to the sport two years later, she knew her training approach needed to be different. “In 2015 I decided to go back to the approach that kept me fast as a marathoner. This meant no long run longer than 22 miles and two-week workout cycles.”

Her two-week workout cycles include: short intervals, longer intervals, hilly runs and progression runs. “I’ve maintained this structure for 10 years. I’m just trying to hit all of the energy systems and train the body in a variety of ways to become stronger overall,” she says.

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How the workouts fit into her week

Herron likes to add a progression run into her long run or pickups at the end. “I like progression runs during my long run. This means I’ll change the pace during the last 30 minutes, so I’ll do 15 to 30 seconds of hard sprinting at a time. If I’ve been running for three hours and I throw in these pickups, I actually feel like I recover faster.”

For short intervals Herron will also add 90-second repetitions a couple of times a month. “This feels like all-out sprinting for me now, but it’s a good way to remind my body to be springy and light. I don’t do track workouts any more, because as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more protective of my body. So instead of the track, we usually run on a dirt road. She continues, “I’m 37 years old now, so the speedwork is more about effort than pace for me. Speed just helps to raise the ceiling for everything else.”

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How she keeps the milage high without doing long, long runs

Herron’s long runs are only 18 to 22 miles, short even by marathon standards, but the runner incorporates a second run into her long days to keep mileage up. “One unique thing about my training approach is the low mileage, but on long run days I run again in the evening. My second run is 35 or 50 minutes, depending on how long the run in the morning was,” she says. “I feel like this helps me recover faster than if I did it all at once.”

Up next

Before the end of 2019, Herron will have begun her longest race to date–a 48-hour race in Arizona. “I have a window to start the race between December 28 and January 1. Right now we’re just watching the weather to see when it’ll be optimal, and I’m hoping to start on the 28th.”

The runner is very excited about her first multi-day event. “I’ve never done a 48-hour race–this is my first time getting into the multi-day stuff. I had to push through so many challenges with the 24-hour race that I’m so excited to see what’ll happen over 48.”

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