Maya Lopuch, 23, was a first time camper in 2010 and has been running for 8 years. She lives in Chicago where she is attending graduate school at the University of Chicago, studying Public Policy.
While your mom Wanda had previously attended camp, this summer was your first year. What about her experience convinced you to give camp a try?
She talked with great enthusiasm about the beautiful terrain, the sense of camaraderie, and the excellent coaching. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical going in, especially about the coaching aspect. I thought I was too recreational of a runner to really benefit from coaching. I figured that all that a coach could tell me was to run longer and faster. Upon arriving at Craftsbury, it took me maybe two hours to figure out just how wrong I was!
What is it that you didn't already know about running?
Most importantly spending a week at Craftsbury gave me an entirely new sense of confidence about my running. I never realized how much I was holding back, and now I'm still gradually exploring what I'm capable of. Oh, and ice baths. I had never heard about them before, but now I swear by them!
How did you start running?
I joined the cross-country team as a sophomore in high school.
Running is a challenging sport that rewards the persistent and determined athlete. What do you get from your running?
I think it's interesting that running is at once about long-term persistence but also provides immediate gratification. It's that mix of rewards that keeps me hooked. I can get an immediate sense of accomplishment from just a 30-minute run, and that helps keep my long-term goals in perspective.
What race are you preparing for now and how is your training going? What is your goal?
The Chicago Marathon, which will be my first marathon. My training is going so well that I can't keep track of how many times I've changed my goal. Before Craftsbury, my goal was just to finish. At the start of my week at Craftsbury I thought I would aim for 4 hours, but by the end of the week I was down to 3:45. A few weeks later my goal became 3:40, and now I think I may even be able to run faster than that. Each week I feel a little bit faster. My boyfriend jokes that I'm like a superhero just discovering her powers!
"It's amazing how quickly your sense of what's possible can change."
[UPDATE: In her debut at the Chicago marathon, Maya cranked out 3:40:15 and nailed a qualifying time for the 2012 Boston Marathon.
Maya's post-race assessment: "The temperature was dreadfully hot, reaching the 80's before I hit mile 20. I finished a few minutes slower than I had been hoping for but I am happy with my performance. I'm thrilled that I finished just in time (cut-off for Boston is 3:40:59). One more water stop and I would have missed it altogether. It's amazing how much even seconds matter in a marathon. By mile 22 I realized just how close I was to narrowly missing that formidable 3:40. I'm sure I wouldn't have pushed nearly as hard had I not trained with clear goals in mind. Now I have my sights sent on Boston 2012 and a 3:30."]
How many miles a week are you training?
Around 35. I've been surprised how manageable that is, especially when I plan ahead of time. I have copies of my Craftsbury training schedule taped up in my office and on my refrigerator at home.
Training is a physiological activity but it is also a mental activity. How would you describe your mental relationship to your running?
Obsessive! Lots of people talk about long runs as a time to clear their heads or sort through their thoughts, but that's never been me. When I'm running, I'm thinking about running. I'm looking at the runners around me and analyzing their form, then thinking about how I can improve mine. For me, running is relaxing but it's certainly not passive.
What are your favorite parts about running camp?
The food! I looked forward to every meal.
Favorite time of year to run?
I love summer mornings. After running through Chicago winters, I never take a nice day for granted.
I like 15 miles. It's long enough to feel like a big accomplishment but not so long that I need to spend the rest of the day on the couch.
Hills! No, really! When I lived in California, I would run a four-mile trail through the foothills almost every morning. After scaling a grueling hill, I would be rewarded with a stunning view of the entire San Francisco Bay. It was worth it every time.
Favorite memory from camp this summer?
I really loved that Lynn shared videos from throughout her competitive career. Watching her win an Olympic medal was so inspiring.
What do you say to yourself to get yourself out the door on those days you're your motivation is in short supply?
Whether I'm tired, sore, or if it's ten degrees outside, I remind myself that I've never gone for a run and felt worse afterwards than before I started. Sure, I may become even more tired, sore, or cold, but the sense of mental accomplishment always outweighs those negatives.
Describe what it feels like when you are out on a run and everything is clicking?
I get a sense of effortlessness, as if my body were meant to be constantly running. To walk or sit would feel unnatural.
Favorite thing to eat or drink after a tough long run?
A good bagel with lox and cucumber - there's nothing better.
Favorite comeback when someone says, "I don't even drive that far!" after you've told someone you ran 15 miles?
If someone had told me they'd just run 15 miles just one year ago, I would've probably said the same thing. It's amazing how quickly your sense of what is possible can change.