Thoughts on a summer of running camps

As running camps wind down for the summer season, there is a lull in running activity here at the Center. There is no longer a group of runners to meet every morning for a run and a jump in Great Hosmer pond. My days are no longer filled with clipboards detailing running workouts, spontaneous rounds of ‘mafia’, or workshops in yoga, nutrition, or mental training. It’s odd how quickly the bustle of camp life can fade; the herds of runners around campus and in the Center’s dining hall are quieted.

This summer, we hosted three high school camps and two adult camps. Each group of visiting runners had it’s own character and dynamic. Camp days are busy for the coaching staff – shuttling and shuffling from one fun activity to the next. In the midst of it all, it can be hard to take a step back and appreciate how rare and special running camp life is. Someone asked me recently why I love our running camps. The answer is easy: The people and the place.

Through a week of training and adventuring, running camp reminds us that the places we run and the people we run with are the foundation of our experience as athletes. On the Ridge Run, we experience the simple pleasure of rising pre-dawn and cruising through a long run as the world slowly wakes up around us. At post-workout meals in the dining hall, we fall into lengthy philosophical debates on the merits of gps vs non-gps training or tales of your most dire running “emergencies”. You may find yourself eating with a 2:19 marathoner, the coach of numerous New England high school champions, a member of the Seven Continents Club, or a running “newbie” training for their first 10k. In every camp experience – hill workouts, endurathon days, creemee excursions, raucous gift exchanges, movie nights, and sunrise yoga sessions – there is a shared sense of camaraderie and purpose. We are reminded that the beauty of running with friends new and old lies in both the animated discussions and silent energy shared during workouts conquered and meals shared.

On the most basic level, running camp reminds you why you began running in the first place. In a visit to our final high school camp of the summer, my high school cross country coach, Jim Eakin, began his talk by asking the group to write down on a notecard, “Why do you run?” Remembering our reasons for running – community, team, pushing yourself, feeling strong, building confidence – is a simple yet grounding exercise, reaffirming our love for the sport.

Coach Eakin also spoke to the fabled notion of the “loneliness of the long distance runner”. In the current running boom, with dozens of clubs in every city and region, the loneliness of the long distance runner may be assumed to be the plight of runners-past. Today, runners can seem to be everywhere, taking the world by storm at races of every distance and discipline conceivable each weekend. And yet many runners who come to camp – adults and teenagers alike – are still seeking the sense of connection and understanding that comes from a running community. Those people who subscribe to the same lifestyle of early morning runs or late night track workouts; those people who simply love getting outside and running because they can, no matter the weather or terrain. In a world apparently filled with runners, this community can remain inaccessible to many. At Craftsbury, running camp – if only for a week – fills this void, as campers are transplanted into a tight-knit family of fellow runners.

I know that out in the world our summer campers are now cleaning off their spikes for the fall cross country season or focusing in on their next road race. Others are heading to the mountains for day-long excursions on rugged trails. As they do, I hope they carry with them renewed motivation and fresh perspective from their time in Craftsbury. As the post-camp withdrawal sets in for me, I look forward to following their results and swapping updates. And soon, I get to share more early morning runs, dining hall meals, and campfire s’mores with our fall campers.

Thank you, campers, for the memories, fun, and inspiration!

High School Camp #1 welcomed a younger group of runners, and was highlighted by ruthless card playing, a collectively speedy climb over Mt. Pisgah, and a stand-out talent show – complete with acrobatics, violin playing, singing, and a rap battle!

High School #1 campers enjoying Lake Willoughby on Endurathon day!

High School Camp #2 brought a smaller group of campers, allowing for more individualized coaching instruction, extra creemee expeditions, and a special ‘Endurathon’ day over Mt. Mansfield on July 4th.

High School #2 coaches enjoying ice cream together in Stowe.

At Masters Camp, we welcomed back runners who have been coming to camp for 20+ years and others visiting Craftsbury for the first time. The group had no shortage of stories from races run, adventures gone awry, and old camp shenanigans.

Masters campers weaving tales during a cider, wine, and cheese social.

All Comers Camp returned a crew of past campers plus one new camper added to the mix. This group had a remarkable ease; logging impressive workouts, swapping shameless stories, and chasing down a particularly stunning sunrise on ridge run day.

All Comers athletes preparing for the interval track workout in Morrisville.

To cap off our summer camps, a slew of high school runners arrived for nine days of High School Camp #3 in preparation for cross country season. On both intensity and recovery days, this group was always excited to try new things – learning to aqua-jog in Great Hosmer, completing a ridiculous community scavenger hunt, and venturing to a new creemee stand in Hardwick.

High School #3 campers ready to run on Endurathon day!

 

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