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How Running Camps Prepare Runners for the Collegiate Level
Nike Green Mountain Running Camp's co-director Mike Henderson speaks with former SMRC camper and staff member AJ Ricketts about the way that running camps prepare runners for the collegiate level.
AJ: Green Mountain Running Camp in New Hampshire, one of nineteen cross country camps around the country each summer for Nike. In your mind, how much does a week, or more, at a time of these camps help develop an athlete all around as they approach some important years of their high school careers?
Mike: It actually ties to a lot of the things we’ve been talking about. You leave camp with such energy, excitement and passion for the sport and I think that is really invaluable. We all know that training over the summer, a lot of it is alone, you’re just out there trying to get the work in. But to suddenly come to a camp where you’ve got hundreds of other people excited to be there and emerging themselves in the sport they love. You leave energized and excited for the upcoming season. That alone, to me, has tremendous value. Like I said, it really helps to get you in that groove and routine and motivates you to keep training through the summer. That alone is incredibly invaluable. But, I think the other thing is that you’re constantly learning in this sport. That applies to kids who are in middle school and it applies to college coaches. We’re always learning and so, to come in and find new things, ideas, and new ways of looking at something. Or maybe you’ve heard this thing fifteen times, but suddenly as you’ve gotten to a new level as a runner or more mature as a person, it suddenly makes sense the sixteenth time you hear it, and that might be at camp. Even if it is, as I’ve said, something you’ve heard before, it may not click until a certain point. Camps are just incredibly, incredibly great resources for all of those things and it’s tremendous for us to be a part of such a great one at Green Mountain.
AJ: Mike, we talked about that transition from high school to the collegiate level, and at times it’s not a smooth transition. You know, the 6am practices followed by class. It’s not like summer workouts where you can go back to sleep. You’ve got classes and maybe tutoring sessions and two-a-days, and all that encompasses a collegiate career. But once you get past that first semester as a freshman, the collegiate running experience becomes one of the most memorable things. When you look back on your college experience as a cross country runner, what stands out to you? What do you remember most and treasure from your time as a collegiate runner?
Mike: Wow, it’s getting further and further away, so that’s a great question. I look back and, by far, some of the best moments are those major meets and big races. Those stick with you forever. When you have that breakthrough moment, those are moments you always remember. When you’re kind of in that runner zone and everything feels effortless and you’re having the race of your life. Those are moments that stay with you. For me, it’s getting to be fifteen years now since I graduated from college and they’re still there. You start thinking about those great races you had and those stick with you forever. Those are lifetime moments when you see all the hard work you’ve put in come together and you put up big points for your team or you have a breakthrough race and beat some big rivals. It’s just incredibly, incredibly exciting to be a part of.
AJ: Yeah, it’s pretty cool to see where the journey began, whether it was solo runs in high school, eventually attending a cross country camp and meeting friends and other runners, and eventually where that journey leads at the collegiate cross country level and beyond, of course, coaching now. That’s Mike Henderson, coach of William and Mary and a staff coach at Nike Green Mountain Running Camp. To sign up for GMRC or any Nike Cross Country Camp experience, head to ussportscamps.com/running. See you this summer out on the trail.
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