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Step Up Your Training with a Running Camp

A look at the benefits of attending a running camp while training for an ultramarathon.

By on June 4, 2013 | Comments

If you wish to intensify your training for an upcoming event, meet others who share your excitement for the sport, learn the nuances of different coaching philosophies, or simply want to branch out and explore new territory, a training camp might be just what you need.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Running camps come in all shapes and sizes and with different levels of amenities, so it’s important to determine what you wish to take away from the camp, the type of experience you desire, and how long you can “get away from it all” before you sign up for one.

Running Vacations
Andy and Kim Holak’s
Adventure Running Co. offer supported, lodge-to-lodge running adventures on the Tahoe Rim Trail, the Wonderland Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. As the website says, “We organize your trip, haul your gear… you run.” Chris Martinez’s 360 Moab Adventures provides running tours in southeastern Utah all year round that last for a half day or full day; however, you get to make the call on the dates, have some input on the routes taken, and decide where you lay your head at night. Yet another option is going abroad with a group like Devy Reinstein’s Andes Adventures, which provides completely supported running trips for up to two weeks in South America.

Course Reconnaissance
The quintessential example is the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run Memorial Weekend Training Runs. Race management orchestrates three, consecutive, organized and aided runs of 20 to 30 miles along the race course. The Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run and Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run offer two-to-three day training camps on their courses. Races like the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 Mile Run and the Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run offer single-day training runs.  Prices are free to reasonable, aid is provided, miles are big, camaraderie is there if you choose it, and the runs are open to all.

Educational Camps
There are also camps that provide an educational element. Discussions on training, injury prevention, equipment, nutrition, and race tactics may be casually covered or there may be designated classroom and lecture time or hands-on demonstrations by speakers and coaches. Geoff Roes’ Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp is an example of the former. “The number-one aim of this camp will be to have fun while we are out traveling by foot through one of the most beautiful places in the world,” says Roes. “Beyond this, I intend to share all kinds of technical and theoretical insight and experience with everyone in the camp. Most of this stuff I will keep on a more informal, conversational basis so as to not distract from the main focus of becoming stronger runners through nurturing a simple enjoyment of our running.”

On the flip side, Paul Dewitt’s Colorado High Altitude Trail Running Camp or the McMillan Running Company Camps promise a more structured approach. Post-run activities like yoga for runners, a running-form analysis clinic with videotaping, a nutrition presentation, training philosophy, a core strength session, and trips to local attractions are scheduled.

Other Camps
There are women’s camps, like the Active at Altitude Women’s Running and Conditioning Camps; camps that are created to raise awareness and donations for charitable organizations, like Inca Runners’ Grand Teton Ultra Running Training Camp that benefits Peruvian Hearts; and trail and ultrarunning camps for American veterans, like the training camp that Team Red, White & Blue puts on in Texas.

Benefits of a Running Getaway

Running camps are definitely good from a training and experiential standpoint, but we could also argue that we could hold our own “camp” at home. We can log miles from our front door, order training manuals on Amazon, and Google articles on the Internet. However, the commitment associated with setting aside the time and energy to attend a camp allows us to reap several benefits.

  1. Train without distractions – Isolating yourself from the daily chores frees your day and mind so you can run further and with focus. You’ll be able to recover fully knowing that it is your only task of the day after your workout.
  2. Challenge yourself – Running with others or under the tutelage of a professional will enable you to push to new levels or attempt more difficult trails and mileage you’d be less likely to do on your own. North Carolina resident Charles West participated in the Western States Memorial Weekend Camp for the first time this year and learned much about himself and the race. “It was a phenomenal experience. I can tell why the race is such a big deal now. It has way more substance than people out here realize. As long as I pay attention to managing the heat and run it smart I should be fine to get a buckle whenever I hit the lottery. The whole weekend was a great confidence booster for my chances.”
  3. Learn from others – If the camp is set up with an educational format, you’ll have exclusive face time with experts, coaches, and other experienced athletes. You’ll have the rare opportunity to have your running-related questions answered and the chance to apply and refine what you’ve learned on the trails. You can also look to your fellow attendees as another worthwhile source of new information, insight, and debate.
  4. Up the fun factor – Visit a new area, meet new people, and invigorate your running. Colorado ultrarunner Matt Larsen had a recent inspiring experience at Roes’ camp. “Geoff’s camp was one of the best vacations I have ever had. The combination of the amazing Alaskan scenery, trails, and the fun group of campers really made that camp fantastic. The idea of getting out in the mountains on a regular basis and enjoying nature was inspiring.”

Though there is a monetary and time commitment for most training camps, they are an invaluable tool. The bonds you form with other participants, the miles you cover, and the knowledge you gain can give new breadth to your running and racing.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you attended a running camp? If so, let us know which one and what you liked about it.
  • What do you think you stand to gain most from participating in a running camp?
Ian Torrence

Ian Torrence has more than 12 years of experience coaching runners of all levels. Ian has completed more than 220 ultramarathons, with 50+ wins, since his first ultra finish at the 1994 JFK 50 Mile. Ian and his wife, Emily, are online coaches at Sundog Running. Information about his coaching services can be found at