Michael Whitson is a long time camper at Craftsbury - this will be his seventh season at Craftsbury. This spring I contacted him to find out if he'd share some of his experiences of Craftsbury and beyond.
Michael is married to Lynn Erwin, and has 4 children. He and his wife live in Southern Maryland, where Michael has a title abstracting business
How did you start running? What motivated you to keep at it?
I began running in the late '70's after giving up cigarettes and realizing it had been since high school since I had any regular exercise. It helped that I had some friends who were already running, and also it was simple and easy. Throw on some shoes and out the door and all that other cliche stuff, but it is very true. I have rarely achieved the fabled 'runners high', but one of the great pleasures of the sport is the capacity to experience the world as it changes through all of its various seasons, anticipating the changes in weather and how your body responds to that and your ability to simply look around and see things on foot that you don't normally see.
What event is your favorite? What result are you most proud of?
All things being equal, I suppose the 10K and the 10 mile are my favorite and most frequent distances. The 10 mile race and distance is one that seems demanding without requiring enormous amounts of training
A race in Annapolis, MD which has been going on regionally here for more than 30 years is probably my favorite race. This is a 10 miler at the end of August, and is always extraordinarily hot and humid, but in my mid 30's I had probably my best racing experience there, probably the best in my life. I was comfortable and feeling like my training was exactly where it should be to run that race.
How'd you find Craftsbury?
I found Craftsbury through the advice of a great D.C. area runner named Jim Hage. Jim worked as a coach some years ago, and I ran into him at a local race. He raved about the place and the people. This summer will be my seventh year, and interestingly enough as I think about it, I really had no idea what to expect when I came there. Of course, I have had a number of interesting running experiences there, but the enduring and most important part of it are the friends that I've come to look forward to seeing and being with every summer; this great group of what Jim always called "repeat offenders."
Each year provides new opportunities for getting to know some of these people in a much deeper way and for making new acquaintances of course. Part of the reason why Craftsbury is so important to me is the flexible way in which the program is structured, it makes no difference what your ability level is, the environment and the experience are always wonderful. I think it has a perfect balance between providing a serious running program and also a serious vacation.
There is also something extremely appealing about the notion for us grown-ups going to camp and jumping in the lake. Jim wrote a story in a local newspaper called "Send a Kid to Camp", which seemed like a great metaphor and one which I continue to hang on to. Craftsbury's remoteness seems to be just right. The fact that cell phones and computers are hit and miss there is actually quite fine. While we are all tethered to that sort of stuff, it is good to let that go and that is also part of the same sensibility of wanting to go to camp. I have been there enough now that the familiarity of the rhythm of the program and the rhythm of Craftsbury are very comforting in an odd sort of way.
Do you cross train?
I do a little cross training by taking yoga and doing a little work in the gym, but I like to keep my running pretty simple. Operating a conventional watch is about as sophisticated as I get. That carries over into the rest of my gear, with my only loyalty being to New Balance running shoes since I have short, fat little feet.
Better junk calories: ice cream or beer?
In terms of junk calories, ice cream is always to be encouraged, even more so than beer. One of the banes of my existence has always been doing work at the track, which has of course always been reflected in my times. I live in an area where there are a number of hills, so it is a part of my regular running routine.
Favorite Craftsbury running t-shirt design?
Of my seven Craftsbury shirts, I do not really have a favorite one. Of course, last year's fluorescent green is a major fashion faux pas. Many of us have corresponded throughout the year and have threatened bodily harm to anyone seen in public at places like the Boston Marathon wearing that shirt.
10 mile PR is around 70 minutes and about 40 minutes for the 10k PR.