Yes, it’s bitter cold out, there is snow everywhere, and chances are the sidewalk is nowhere to be seen. Even still, if you are driving around Kalamazoo on a Saturday morning, there is a good chance you are going to pass runners. I’m not talking about a few, a handful, or a couple groups of runners; I’m talking over 1,000 runners.
Who are these (some would say) crazy (some would say) awesome runners?
These are Run Campers.
Run Camp is a program that helps you train to successfully complete a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon. The program started 11 years ago with just 105 people, but through the sleet, snow, and rain, the program has managed to grow tremendously over the years.
This year, on Saturday, February 1 at 7:30 a.m., over 1,000 runners gathered at Borgess Health & Fitness Center to start a fitness journey. It isn’t exclusive to veteran runners, or those who make it into the seven minute mile club. Everyone has varying levels of experience and pace, and they gather for one common reason–to achieve their goals.
To help along the way, Borgess has put together an amazing team that provides opportunities to equip you for success. You receive training guides with suggested mileage schedules and nutritional information, live coaching to help prevent and deal with injuries, and clinics such as “Good Form Running” or “How to Dress for the Weather” to increase your Running IQ.
While you and your pace group attack the long runs on Saturday mornings, there are water stations every couple miles, signs to mark mileage and turns, and even some cheerleaders to provide some unexpected (yet surely appreciated) encouragement.
After the running is done for the day, post-run refreshments are served (my personal favorite). Who wouldn’t want a bagel and shmear after a twelve mile run or bust?
This is my second year as a Run Camper. I have completed runs I never imagined I would, said ‘yes’ in a group when I would have said ‘no’ on my own, and found a new love for a form of fitness I took little to no interest in before.
The best part about Run Camp really is the people and positive energy that you are surrounded by. Blaine Lam, who has been involved in leading and organizing Run Camp from the very beginning, said it best: “From my vantage, if you let winter defeat you, Michigan may not be the place for you. Go out and challenge it. You’ll be happier in many ways. And, of course, one of them is that you will be more fit.”
Thanks go out to the many amazing people that make this program work and grow year after year, including Blaine Lam, Chris Lampen-Crowell, Bobbie Lam, Janeen Docsa, Cheryl Pickett, and the fantastic group of team leaders and coaches. Run Camp makes these Michigan winters a little more bearable.
Carry on, you Crazy Awesome Run Campers, carry on.