Summer camps for adults who like to run

Why should kids have all the fun? These camps can help you become a better, stronger runner — in some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Image: Moab Mindful Running Retreat
A trail runner enjoys Utah's trails during the four-day, trail-running and wellness-focused Moab Mindful Running Retreat for women.Elinor Fish / Run Wild Retreats
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By Amanda Loudin

Amy Harder has been a runner for most of her life and works a fast-paced, demanding job as a reporter for AXIOS in Washington, DC. When it comes time to step away from the grind of work, she likes to make running a part of the picture. The best way to do it, she’s found, is to attend a running camp.

These multi-day adult camps give runners a chance to see the sights, make new connections, and often, improve their skill level all at the same time. The camps come in a wide variety of formats and flavors, each with its own purpose. To date, Harder has sampled three, each in a different, beautiful locale. “What’s better than traveling while doing something you love?” she says.

Harder has been to two camps with Run Wild Retreats & Wellness, one in Iceland and the other in Italy, as well as Colorado’s Active at Altitude camp. All have been women-only getaways, a dynamic Harder has appreciated. She’s taken away something different from each experience. “The Active at Altitude camp was more geared toward training,” she explains, “while the Run Wild experiences have more of a retreat feel to them.”

Amy Harder on retreat by Run Wild Retreats in Iceland.Courtesy of Amy Harder

Whether you want to get faster, hone your trail-running skills, or just get away to a stunning location to log your miles, there’s plenty to choose from. Here are five running camps worth a look as you mark Global Running Day:

Run Wild Retreats & Wellness

Founded by Elinor Fish in 2010, Run Wild Retreats & Wellness are small, female-only camps with a focus on healthy running, self-compassion and intentional training. Primarily on trails, the retreats partner with local guides in locations like Spain, the Italian Dolomites, Ireland and Utah, among others.

Harder enjoyed the format: “I liked that I could spend half the day running trails and the other half relaxing with other activities,” she says. “I also enjoyed the food, wine and meeting people from other walks of life.”

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ZAP Endurance Adult Running Vacations

For the speedsters or wannabe speedsters in the group, ZAP vacations are designed to provide campers with a challenging experience. Founded in 2002 by Zika Rea and Andy Palmer, the experience offers four-day and one-week options in the mountains of Blowing Rock, NC. “We operate a stand-alone running center on 68 acres that provides a tranquil backdrop for our activities,” says Coach Ryan Warrenburg. “We employ and coach 10 athletes who compete at the professional level, and they spend time with the people who attend our running vacations.”

ZAP offers several options throughout the summer, each with a guest speaker along the lines of legend Bill Rodgers and Olympian Carrie Tollefson. Got a fall marathon planned? Don’t miss the “Marathon Week” camp in early August.

Runner Bacchus Taylor approaching Herman Saddle on Chain Lakes Loop Trail, Mt. Baker Wilderness, WA.Photo Credit: Abram Dickerson

Aspire Adventure Running

Set in backcountry and wilderness terrain, Aspire organizes single- and multi-day co-ed adventures. With outfitter orientation, the team can take runners into national parks like Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, and the North Cascades. “Unlike camps that focus on running instruction, Aspire trips combine the practice of running with a connection to the flora, fauna, geology and cultural histories and conservation movements that have protected the landscapes that inspire their trips,” says founder Abram Dickerson. “One of the most refreshing aspects of the experience is our ‘ego free’ attitude. We want runners to have a personally meaningful wilderness experience, not based on how far or how fast you run.”

FIRST Adult Running and Learning Retreat

For the runner who wants to understand the science of their sport, there’s the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training Adult Running Camp (FIRST) in Greenville, SC. Held twice each summer, these popular running camps, founded in 2007, are designed for runners who “want to optimize their training, maximize their running performance, and minimize injuries.”

FIRST sets itself apart by spending a good chunk of campers’ time on education in addition to running. Participants receive testing to determine their VO2max, body composition, lactate profile, and a gait analysis. They also learn about the FIRST training program, nutrition, and strength training. One key run is planned for each day.

FIRST Adult Running and Learning Retreat participants on the track preparing for a running workoutPhoto credit: Scott Murr

Active at Altitude

The elites train at altitude, so why not you? That’s the philosophy of the Active at Altitude Camp, one of the female-only getaways that Harder experienced. Offering two levels — one for those who can run a 10k distance at a 10-minute pace, and a second for more advanced runners — the camps are set in Estes Park, CO, at a range of altitudes up to 12,000 feet. Runners participate in guided trail runs, speed work or hill work, hiking, a video review of running technique, and a focus on goal setting, among other things.

The camps take place three times each summer and are limited to 10 runners each. Occasional guest elite athletes join in and the camp director is Terry Chiplin, a long-time fitness and life coach.

Active at Altitude campers after a runCourtesy of Active at Altitude

As to Harder: she’s hooked. “I don’t have any running camps scheduled right now,” she says, “but I’m looking into one in the Alps for the future.”

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