Keeping Track

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Keeping Track

Written by Rod O'Donnell on 18 May 2017.

The experience of attending a distance camp is a very positive one for a runner and may provide benefits that will last a lifetime. One of the greatest of these benefits is the establishment of relationships with others from different programs that may have varied philosophies. They will be able to see how they train and thus will be better able to evaluate where their program can be strengthened. A runner may live in an area that produces few top-level competitors and, therefore, will not realize how many outstanding runners there are. By going to a camp that draws from a wide geographic area, the athlete soon realizes the depth of quality that exists in the sport. This excellence can be seen on a state-wide, regional, or national basis, according to the type of camp that they choose to attend.

The young men and women who attend a summer camp have the opportunity to hear new ideas, have old ones reinforced, and learn why certain things are important in helping them become successful distance runners. Guest speakers, counselors, and directors serve as outstanding educators in these areas. For example, an athlete may not know that diet and rest are extremely important factors in helping them reach their full potential; however, when a successful coach, a peer or nutritionist explains this, perhaps it will be evident why there is a need to change what he or she is eating. Pre-practice warm-ups using strength exercises is an idea, but a hands-on experience that hasn’t been considered may enhance the concept.

Motivation might be the greatest benefit for the camper. For one week, the athletes will watch films, listen to lectures, experience different ways of training, and work to correct their weaknesses.They will be totally immersed, with no distractions, in a positive environment dealing with the great sport of distance running.

When choosing a camp to attend, the athlete should NOT make his decision based only on big-name directors and speakers, although, of course, many camps with these individuals are outstanding. The REAL question is: What is best for you? Interested individuals should ask the following questions:

1)   How do others who have attended the camp feel about their experience? Did they find that too much emphasis was placed on training and not enough on providing information? It must be remembered that the object of a one-week camp is NOT to get  into top physical condition, but rather to present ideas on how to attain this over months or years. Many times high mileage is emphasized, and the results are injury or discouragement.

2)   Do camp administrators organize the runners according to their abilities for training sessions? Many will have widely varied backgrounds, and it is important that they have an opportunity to train at their ability or conditioning level.

3)   Does the camp provide adequate medical care? A trainer should be available and insurance provided.

4)   Is the camp located in an area that provides a wide variety of running surfaces such as safe roads, trails, and soft grassy areas?

5)   Will there be adequate free time for those attending to enjoy other activities, such as swimming, movies, etc.?

6)   Is the camp well-organized? Ask for the week’s schedule, and look at the time allotted for training, lectures, and recreation.

7)   Are there prohibitive factors such as cost, transportation, and geographical location?

8)   Does the camp provide what YOU want? This is important because an adult runner interested in improving his or her marathon time, a middle school student who is just starting to run, and a high school athlete who is preparing for competition need very different experiences.

9)   What is the background of the camp organizers, and to what extent will the “name” runners or coaches be involved?

10)                 Is there a group rate given to teams? Some camps provide a group rate or allow the coach to attend without charge if the entire team registers.

11)                 Does the participant really want to learn and become a better runner from the camp experience, or does he or she want a vacation? Even though the time spent should be fun, those attending should realize that they will be expected to work hard, participate in all sessions, and make every effort to learn.

12)                 Will the camp help the runner better understand what it takes to get the most out of his or her ability?

 I have directed the NIKE/Second Sole Distance Camp for several years and look forward to returning to Elkhorn Valley, located near Carrollton, Ohio, each summer. It is not only a great experience for the young athletes, but they provide an inspiration for me. (See

Have a great summer.

Yours in track,

Rod O’Donnell

Check back later on for more local running camps.  If you would like you running camp listed please send me the info by June 5th - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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