World class runners, unconstrained
Camille Herron has smashed the records with her performance at Desert Solstice this Saturday. Herron broke the Women’s World Record for 24 Hours with a distance of 162.9 miles, the event’s best performance. Herron also claimed the 100 mile American Track Record for Women, with a time of 13:25:00. Herron exhibited blazing speed day and night, and this performance marks an important addition to her already extraordinary trove of awards and achievements.
Desert Solstice was a cache of stellar performance on the whole. 24 Hour distances beyond the 150 mile milestone are already incredibly rare; there were merely a couple in all the preceding months of this year. Yet, five runners from the Solstice roster surpassed that tormenting marker, going 150 miles or more.
These are stunning results from a stacked field. Although trail events may offer more dramatic enticements in terrain and scenery, track based events such as Solstice oblige some world class runners to put on the best performances of their lives. 11 world records have been set here. And 60 national records, too. Such achievements speak to how important records-based events such as Solstice can be.
Other notable performances include Oswaldo Lopez, who has established a new 24 Hour Men’s Record for Mexico with a distance of 139.6 miles, and Andrew Snope, who ran 144 miles barefoot. Greg Armstrong, coming in third, also completed his 155 mile run in Teva sandals!
Some notable participants had to call it early for injury and fatigue, such as Courtney Dauwalter and Zach Bitter. Such impediments are endemic to such long distances, and comprise the central struggle of such events. We are excited for these athletes’ performances to come, in the 2019 season.
The Desert Solstice race consists of only 33 participants, and is a qualifier for the National 24 Hour Team. The race offers prizes for Men’s and Women’s 100 mile and 24 Hour performances, but records for 12 Hour are noted as well; Herron also set the Women’s World Record for 12 Hour last year with a performance of 149,130 meters.
Some may find such events too detached from running’s primal character, from the experience of trekking real land as our ancestors once did. Yet the constrained arena of track ultra performances fosters its own necessity. By evening the runners’ experience of the racing environment, replacing rocky paths with rubber, we gain a more accurate measure of athletes’ performances.
This is the case not only from runner to runner, but also from year to year. While natural path conditions can alter drastically with temperature and humidity, the rubber track retains a consistent foothold from season to season. Events such as Desert Solstice, then, offer us a site to reflect on more neutral measures of endurance, and on running performances across the years. Of course, subjective influences such as pain and digestion can never be eliminated, as attested by the top rank early drop outs this year, but that’s just part of the sport. Cheers to all participants!