Says she never does longer than 2 hr runs during training.
Ultrarunner Camille Herron shared one reason why she thought she was “crushing world records” in her forties: She only does one or two long runs a month (nothing over 22 miles) and she never does back-to-back long runs. Case in point: she ran one easy 20-miler in the lead-up to the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival’s 100-mile race last year, which she won outright. Instead, she focuses on cumulative volume and running frequency. In her words, “Long runs are overrated
Ultra runners love their long runs and back to backs. I honestly think some of them would still do them even if they found out they could actually hurt rather than help.
Personally, I agree with her. Even for me the average ultra runner only doing 50-60 average mpw I dont do over 20 miles and never do back to backs anymore and I am more fit, faster and dont end up at the starting line feeling drained.
Camille Herron is overrated. I don't hate on her for finding soft "world records" to "crush," but her 2-hour run cap wouldn't get her into the top 10 at the OT or Boston. Her advice is especially irrelevant to most ultra athletes who aren't sponsored (or supported by a spouse) to have time outside of weekends to support cumulative volume like her. In short, she is apparently unaware that she's an experiment of one.
Is it really that unconventional though? At least in terms of non-ultra runners? I mean sure there are some marathoners who do really long runs sometimes but isn't the science backed conventional thinking is that there is no point to longer than 2-3 hour runs? It seems the ultra runners doing 6 hour runs on a regular basis are the unconventional ones.
As for average ultra runners, I've never met anyone that went from slow to fast just by doing long a$$ runs and back to backs. They may have went from DNF to finishing a hundo though.
Right. Which is what most people are doing. You run some shorter B races in your build up to longer A races.
BUT plenty of average ultra runners are obsessed with weekly long runs and back to backs. Ever since the Anton days everyone thinks they need to go out and do a 30 on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. I know a ton of these people, they run next to nothing during the week then they go slog out these super long runs just to under perform in their races. Some of these folks are the type that struggle to make cut offs.
[Granted i've never done very well at the 100-mile + distance] but I'd say take this all with context:
Weekly mileage is the big factor here. When I ran my marathon PR at Hansons I was averaging about 120 miles per week for months. We ran twice a day like 5-6 days a week and then we'd have maybe a Long Run every 10-14 days or so. I only ran up to 20-miles on a single long run....but then keep in mind we'd crush that long run (like sub 6-min pace average with some MP miles in there) and I'd be hitting a lot of 15-17 mile days on doubles (or from doing a long tempo workout like 3 x 3 miles with a 3-mile warm up and a 3-mile cool down kinda morning).
So quality and volume matter.
Now the average ultra runner in the US probably trains like 35-65 miles per week. They probably aren't going to have time to double (and they shouldn't double really if under that kind of weekly mileage...or even under 70 miles per week). A big "weekend Long Run" that's over 20-miles is nearly 50% of their entire weekly volume. Doing a "Back to Back" Long Run is a little over the top in that case... but in some cases just that "time on feet" hiking/walking/jogging around the woods (esp if on mountain trails) is usually a good fat burning stimulus, gear prep with hydration and nutrition, and honestly mostly mental prep for a 50k-50-miler-100k or even 100-miler).
I've basically never done any Back to Back Long Runs in my whole ultrarunning career and very rarely would go over 25-28 miles in a single session (usually long runs would still be 20-24 miles but with more vertical gain)....but then again this would be on 80-120 miles per week.
So yes the "Long run" could be overrated for a lot of ultra runners...but they better back it up with consistently high weekly mileage and some moderate intensity/speed (like i assume Camille does). I also don't think Camille has done a ton of actual steep mountain running (think like UTMB or Hardrock style)...she has seemed to really excel at the "runnable and flatter" ultras/marathons only.
Its just interesting how much people seem to want to convince themselves they need these huge long runs. Like you say, you still need the volume. If you just cannot get 50-60mpw without a huge run or back to back on the weekends thats one thing. But I dont know that its always out of necessity, most others I know who do this are convinced they cannot do well at ultras without doing that.
You may not have nailed a 100 miler yet but even your blow up pace is still faster than most ultra runners good pace.
For a bit more context, I trained like most non-pro ultra runners, focusing on weekly long runs and back to backs with short runs during the week and not much intensity.
I've always been around the same volume of 50-60 maybe some 70 mile weeks here and there. But when I focused less on the long runs and just made my other runs longer, still throw in a 20 miler here and there, focus on doing some faster runs. Even for 100 milers I am faster now.
What I realized was for me like you say 50% or more on just the weekend was too much as I dont think I was ever really recovering that well and so couldnt do as much quality.
I think it's just become common wisdom. In nearly 30 years of ultrarunning, I've always taken the "Camille approach," if we can call it that. First, I think long back-to-back runs is just a highly unpleasant way to train. But second, I've also just got better results taking more of a typical marathoner's approach, bumping up my longest run a bit for a variety of reasons (and you should never discount the reasons Sage mentioned about getting used to the gear, the fueling, and the mental aspects).