Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sleep-away Camp for Marathoners: The Dick Beardsley Marathon Running Camp

There comes a time in every runner’s training where the running becomes monotonous, the routes become boring, and the workouts become predictable. Now, try to imagine: a sleep-away camp for marathoners, training advice from one of the best marathoners in history, one-on-one coaching from the pros, and the chance to bond with other runners. Recently, I spoke with Jan Seeley, Publisher of Marathon & Beyond magazine and Director of the Dick Beardsley Marathon Running Camp. I asked her some questions about the focus of the camp: goals, staff, and so on.

The camp began in 2003 and Jan says it was the result of the right forces coming together: the mix of Dick Beardsley—“Arguably long-distance running’s most inspirational ambassador”— the fantastic location of the camp (the 500-acre Rainbow Resort, four hours north of the Twin Cities in Minnesota), and Jan, a highly experienced event coordinator and Publisher of a marathon training magazine. This combination of talent, expertise, and passion was a win-win all around for the camp. Some things have changed for the camp over the years including the involvement of New Balance as a sponsor. “New Balance is now our major sponsor for the camp, and has been since 2004,” says Jan.

When it comes to runners who will benefit most from Dick’s camp, Jan says really any dedicated marathon runner: “Dick’s camp is best for ‘committed’ marathoners, with a pun on committed, because long distance runners are a nutty bunch!” Most runners at the camp are experienced, and each participant has run at least one marathon.

The camp has only 30 to 35 participants so each camper gets a lot of one-on-one time with the coaches. “We want to keep it cozy so we can really focus on each runner’s goals.” In speaking of coaches, Jan says, “Our coaching staff is second to NONE; each coach is a personal friend of Dick Beardsley from the running community.” The staff includes health and nutrition experts, legendary marathoners, Ironman tri-athletes, ultrarunners, and marathon club founders/ running club presidents.

Each day of the week focuses on a different aspect of marathon training. Along with long runs, speed and pace work, expert instruction/discussion plays a big role as well. Jan adds, “We have eight seminars and about six round table discussions, which take place at some of the meals.” Campers even undergo a running gait analysis. “Everyone is videotaped running and Coach Bill (Wenmark) analyzes each runner’s form.” Runners will also participate in the Dick Beardsley Half-Marathon in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, on that Saturday of the week. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. “Camp wraps up on Sunday morning after a final run, brunch, and goodbyes.” This marathon camp is a solid week of training, information, and expert guidance all wrapped into one package.

When it comes to the inspiration for the camp, according to Jan, “It’s the chance to be with other like-minded runners, the chance to go to sleep-away camp like they did when they were kids, the chance to really focus on their running, the chance to rub shoulders with the GIANT coaches we have…Dick, Joe Henderson, Rich Benyo, and the others.” Jan’s favorite event at the camp is not always planned out, it’s “the unpredictable magic that happens each year as a group of coaches and campers from all walks of life come together on the peaceful grounds of the Rainbow Resort for six days. We laugh, we share, we cry, we bond.”

I had to ask Jan how she knew the camp was a success; and it’s not just the PRs, performance highs, and better skills. She knew it was a success from “the instant feedback we got at the first camp, the tears of joy at the end, and the number of first-year campers vowing to come back next year.”

This year, the camp is completely booked up, but they are exploring the possibility of having two sessions in 2008 in two different locations. The whole idea of the marathon camp is of course to focus your running, but also to take you out of your normal running routine. But, if you can’t attend Dick’s marathon camp, pick up and get out of the grind: go on a running vacation, start your own “mini” running camp with friends, run with new people, or simply pick a new route in your home town. If you can explore new places, and meet new people to share your running experiences, you could become a better runner. Try to think outside the running box, and see what you find. It might be a better mile time, or it could be a new inspiration.

For more information about Dick Beardsley’s Marathon Running Camp visit their site at: