Coaches And Camps: A Great New Trend

AJW discusses the positive growth of professional coaching and camps in the trail and ultrarunning community.

By on February 6, 2015 | Comments

AJWs TaproomFrom my perspective, two of the excellent byproducts of the growth of ultrarunning over the past few years have been the increase in the number of people offering coaching services to runners and the development of running camps in places across the country and around the world. These developments have expanded the reach of the sport and provided great opportunities beyond racing for an ever-increasing range of runners to take advantage of our beloved pastime.

A quick search around the internet reveals a wide range of coaching services available in a wide variety of formats. Many of the folks offering coaching are elite athletes themselves and many offer customized programs for runners of all ages and abilities. What I like so much about this movement is that it indicates a willingness to seek assistance in doing something that is at once mysterious and alluring. For a sport that began as somewhat of a fringe activity, the burgeoning coaching market is, in my view, a positive sign that we are heading in the right direction.

In talking to a few coaches over the last year, it is clear that the best programs out there are specifically customized to individual runners targeting specific events. While there are certainly ‘generalist’ coaches available, the most successful ones seem to be those that can specialize in finding what is just right for each runner. I suppose this is not surprising as we have long adhered to the notion of ultramarathon training and racing as an ‘experiment of one’ but including a coach in the process has allowed people to remove some of the mysterious variables from the equation by seeking true, professional support. Generally, I believe, this coaching movement has allowed more people to train and race smarter which, as we all know, is fundamental for success particularly in races 100k or longer.

In addition to the coaching boom, I have been equally intrigued by the growing running-camp market. A few years ago, several camps began popping up in various parts of the country and now it seems as though there are dozens. These adult ‘summer camps’ seem to capture a lot of the essence of the ultra culture. Bringing together like-minded people to run beautiful routes while enjoying great food and inspiring camaraderie, these camps are, I believe, subtly altering the attitude runners have about their sport and the people who practice it.

With the camps, in particular, I have been so inspired that I am considering starting one myself here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. While it seems to be a great deal of logistical work to create such a camp, it also strikes me as something that would be richly rewarding to all involved. Perhaps if I can carve out some time in the next year or so, I can get a camp started here.

I know, at times, the tone of this column can get a little curmudgeonly as I have bemoaned all the changes in my beloved niche sport. But, as you can see, it’s not like I think all change is bad. In fact, the growth of coaching and camps are changing the sport for the better and I strongly urge any of you interested in diving more fully into the essence of ultramarathon running to look at this movement as a step in the right direction.

Bottoms up!

Russian River Brewing Company SupplicationAJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California. In fact, today, the annual craziness of the Pliny the Younger release begins at their brewery in Santa Rosa, so in honor of that event I am recommending their Supplication Sour Ale. I had a couple of pints of this the last time I was out there and it was one of the best sours I have tasted. Aged in wine barrels from some of the local wineries, Supplication is amazing in that it is at once sour and fruity. A rare combination indeed!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you have a coach? Without mentioning their name specifically, can you describe the experiences and knowledge you have gained by being coached?
  • Have you attended a trail running camp or are you considering it? What qualities or experiences did you or are you looking for? What are you hoping to gain from an event like this?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.