8 Things You Learn at Running Camp

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Well, hello there! Clearly, I have been on yet another impromptu hiatus. In fact, I am beginning to think that maybe I should just change my blog name to Impromptu Hiatus. And yes, I also have many, many comments that I must reply to. Still, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself about this because it’s summer.

I’ve been doing so much running this summer. At cross country practice we run anywhere from 3-10 miles per day. It’s not always easy, but I can’t think of anything better to do for my morning than go out for a long run or a speed workout that leaves me feeling accomplished at the end. I also attended sleepaway running camp for the first time and it was a fabulous experience. Today I just wanted to share some of the things you end up learning at running camp.

Running camp isn’t going to make you magically improve or get fit, but it will teach you something about your training. I’ve always had trouble pacing myself. I have a tendency to start out too fast, making the second half of my runs very difficult. When I’m with my team, I know what my skill level is and I feel (unnecessarily) pressured to always be running at the front of the pack. However, within my group I had no idea what the paces of the others were and I felt comfortable with starting runs near the back of the pack at a wiser pace. Saving my energy for the first third or first half of a run allowed me to end my runs strong and fast-just the way I like it!

Running camp will push you and you may end up running faster than you think you could. Being at running camp and around so many other runners was incredibly motivating, and the runners in my group really knew how to push the pace. Being encouraged by other runners around me allowed me to push myself as well and surprise myself. From surprising myself with really fast 1000m repeats (somehow we broke four! minutes on our second to last repeat) to running a ten mile negative split, I was constantly pushing my limits and surprising myself.

Having runners as roommates makes for really interesting downtime. Runners are interesting people. When we sit around and talk, we don’t sit around and talk like normal people. Instead, a third of us are on the floor foam rolling our legs while another third is lying on the floor with their legs elevated up against the wall and another third of us are icing our legs. And at the same time we’re trying to chug chocolate milk and eat fruit and granola bars and popcorn because we’re always hungry. And at the same time we’re talking. We talked about the upcoming season and high school and how dead we feel after that run and how excited we feel for the next run even though we know we’ll feel even more dead after that run. Crazy, I tell you.

A good training plan is one that not only includes running, but also strength training and proper nutrition. As one of the professional post-collegiate runners I met there, said, the problem with high school runners is that we all have extremely weak cores. *cough* Thank you. Thank you very much. *cough* Okay, I jest. That’s probably unfortunately true so strength training is important. We did a few core workouts at camp and our instructor was way too peppy and energetic for the painfulness of the exercises she made us do. We also went to a breakout session about nutrition and especially about how important iron is since many female runners suffer from iron deficiencies, which can really hurt performance. The coaches there encouraged us to eat a lot of red meat to get our iron, and take it with orange juice and not milk since vitamin C enhances iron while calcium tones it down.

Eat before you run. Seriously. After a night of sleep and no food, your body is completely depleted and needs food in the morning, making breakfast is an essential meal. Even if it means getting up an hour before you run so you don’t cramp up, you need to have something in your stomach before you run. I used to be pretty guilty of this. I wouldn’t eat anything before I ran and then come home and have a huge breakfast. Having a big meal after running is fine, but you also need something before. Otherwise, your body will have no choice but to burn muscle while you run. That’s not good. At all. EAT BEFORE YOU RUN.

Cross country is the perfect sport for outdoor adventures, so take advantage of that and explore. One of my favorite things about the camp was running in so many new places. Even though my cross country team incorporates many different trails into our workouts, they can still get repetitive. I loved visiting various trails that made our run so much more fun from a cool reservation run through a forest, a paved path with rolling hills and an amazing view of the water, and a rugged trail run with a nice swim in a nearby lake afterwards. One of my favorite things about cross country is exploring new places while I run, and going to camp definitely satisfied that.

Collegiate runners and professional post-collegiate runners used to be amateur highschool runners, too. One of my favorite presentations at the camp was a panel of collegiate and professional post-collegiate runners that really gave us an inside look at the professional world of running. They were all so down to Earth and made me realize that no, professional runners aren’t some weird species of people. They all started out as average runners, too. I was also really heartened to hear that Ashley Higginson runs professionally and is in grad school at the same time, which is amazing. I take my academics seriously, too, and I was glad to hear that academics don’t have to be sacrificed for running.

It’s impossible to leave running camp without being inspired. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by other runners and hear established runners and coaches speak. Commit to achieving your goals. Be your best and not someone else’s best. Times don’t matter; it’s the effort level and the training pace that matters in a race. Be confident in your pace. If Meb Keflezighi decides to run at 7:30 pace that day and you run 7:30 pace, run with Meb. Always be raising your bar. And so on and so on. I collected so many inspiring messages over the course of the week, and I came back feeling more motivated. I already can’t wait to go to running camp again next year.

Are you a runner? How has your summer been so far? Have you been to any camps this summer? Running camps? Do you think I should change the name of my blog to Impromptu Hiatus? 


11 thoughts on “8 Things You Learn at Running Camp

  1. I’ve never been a fan of running (I always get winded and I’ve always ended up at the back of the group when running) but you and a few of my friends have been inspiring enough to make me consider trying it. I really love just walking. But running might be worth trying. Thanks. 🙂

    Impromptu Hiatus is a great name for a blog. I’d read it. When you weren’t on hiatus, that is… 😉


  2. I’m glad you had a good time. ^ ^ I’m not a runner, but I am a writer and being in fellowship with other writers feels good, so I assume it is the same for runners. I was just a writers conference earlier this month so I had the opportunity to do that. 🙂



  3. How cool! I’m glad you had a good time over the summer (and I was a little concerned about where you were, actually, so it’s good to know you were somewhere having fun with friends). I don’t really run, but it struck me how your experiences running reminded me of what it’s like to be a writer. There are elements of training, fellowship (for lack of a better word), practice, goal-setting, and other such things that are maybe not applicable to writers in the physical sense, but definitely the mental sense. Very interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing these lessons with us, Ana, and welcome back! 🙂


  4. Like the others, I’ve never run – not professionally or anything, but it’s really piqued my curiosity now. Because it sounds like you had an amazing time with your friends (that scenario you just described? That’s me and my friends even without a marathon to reduce us to that. It’s crazy, but crazy fun XD) This post is great, Ana! I enjoyed reading it because I have some insight into what running camp really is ❤


  5. That sounds like fun( but kind of tiring)! I’m a soccer girl at heart but I want to try to get more into running. I tried to do a running group last year but I was having troubles with my knees.


  6. Ana, it’s so lovely to have you back – and wonderful to hear that you had a good time at camp! I’m not much of a competitive runner (really, the only reason I run is to keep in shape and spend some time with my dog), but it sounds like running camp was such a beautiful experience for you. I’m so glad you came back refreshed + inspired; here’s hoping future camp sessions are even better! xx


  7. I am a runner, although (guilty) I often don’t eat before running. Running camp sounds painful but worthwhile, to be honest. Right now it is the cross country season where I live, and I have a meet next weekend( I’m so terrified). I think like you I can get very competitive and always want to be at the front, but all the boys on my team beat me, which is motivating? I guess? Nice post!


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