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11 best running camps in the U.S.

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You may think that sleep away camps are just for kids, but more and more adults are revisiting the childhood pastime, except now with a different goal in mind — to improve their running skills. Whether you’re just starting to train for your first 5K or you’re a seasoned marathoner, spending time in a majestic setting focusing on running, guided by expert coaches and in the company of like-minded people can do you good. You’ll learn everything from pacing and nutrition to injury prevention and proper running form. And hopefully, you’ll leave with a renewed sense of motivation and confidence.

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We did our research and found our 11 running camp picks across the country designed for adults of all ages and abilities. With capacity limited to provide one-on-one attention, the majority of these camps fill up quickly, so hurry to reserve your spot. And don’t worry — several camp directors assured us that it’s not all running — there will be time for s’mores and ice cream socials, too.

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1. ZAP Fitness Adult Running Camps

Where: Blowing Rock, NC

When: June 18-21, 2015 Adult Running Vacation Weekend; July 5-10, 2015 The Bear Week; July 16-19, 2015 July Mini Camp, August 2-7, 2015 Marathon Week; and September 3-6, 205 Marathon Weekend

Everyone from beginners to Boston Marathon qualifiers flock to the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains to attend ZAP Fitness running camps. Through daily jogs, seminars on topics such as race training and mental fitness, as well as individual video analysis, ZAP Fitness coaches and athletes share their love of the sport and aim to bridge the gap between elite and everyday runners. “The biggest thing that we can do for anybody is give them a good platform of knowledge to take with them, so they can apply it to whatever race they are training for, and to have a healthy life as a runner,” says Ryan Warrenburg, camp director. Each summer session features a well-known guest speaker, such as former Olympian and American record holder in the marathon Bill Rodgers, chief running officer at Runner’s World magazine Bart Yasso and former Olympian and national champion Carrie Tollefson, who meet campers and offer their expertise.

Cost: $645 for mini-camps and $895 for full-week camps.

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2. FIRST Adult Running and Learning Retreat

Where: Greenville, SC

When: June 4-7, 2015

If you’re a certified #runnerd, this retreat is for you. Spend a few days with the coaches and physiologists at the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) who created the Run Less Run Faster training program. While it is technically a running camp, the movement itself isn’t the primary emphasis. Instead, FIRST puts a scientific lens on the sport. You’ll undergo individualized analysis (VO2 max, lactate profile, running economy, body composition and running biomechanics and gait) to learn more about yourself as an athlete and how to achieve your highest running potential. Participants also become versed in FIRST’s training plan, nutrition, strength training, mobility, injury prevention and the psychology of running and racing. This camp is appropriate for all levels from beginner to competitive and is limited to 16 participants.

Cost: $1,400 includes all retreat activities. Does not include lodging.

3. Craftsbury Running Camps

Where: Craftsbury, VT

When: July 26-August 1, 2015 All Comers Week; September 18-20, 2015 and September 25-27, 2015 Foliage and Running Weekend

Set along picturesque Vermont country roads and trails for over 30 years, Craftsbury Running Camps have helped students of all skill levels reconnect with themselves and their running. A week full of daily routes, educational seminars and track workouts will teach participants all they need to know about distance running and racing. In the downtime, kayak, hike, swim or just relax. More than anything, individuals walk away with an unmatched sense of camaraderie. “No one is judging how fast you run your hill repeats,” says Lynn Jennings, camp director and three-time Olympian. “It’s about sharing a week of incredible food and running and being with a tribe of runners.”

Cost: $1,102 for weeklong camps and $394 for weekend camps. Includes all camp activities, food and lodging.

4. McMillan Running Getaway

Where: Flagstaff, AZ

When: April 30-May 3, 2015 Running Getaway; June 4-7, 2015 Trail and Ultra Getaway; October 1-4, 2015 Running Getaway

You may be familiar with the McMillan calculator and training programs, but did you know that you could train with the McMillan team in-person? Greg McMillan, called “one of the best and smartest distance running coaches in America” by Amby Burfoot of Runner’s World, actively oversees all activities during the getaway. This includes daily group runs, individual running form analysis and clinics on topics such as nutrition, race strategy, recovery, mental focus, injury prevention and goal setting. With a 2:1 or 3:1 participant to coach ratio, McMillan and his coaches offer hands-on instruction and individual feedback so that each participant can reach their running goals. It’s not uncommon that lasting relationships form among the group. “Our most common comment is, ‘I want to live at running camp!’” says Jen Puzey, camp director.

Cost: $399 includes all retreat activities and most meals. Lodging is not included.

5. Active at Altitude Women’s Running Camp

Where: Estes Park, CO

When: May 19-26, 2015 (Level I camp); July 12-19, 2015 (Level II camp); August 30-September 6, 2015 (Level I camp)

We’ve all heard about the physiological and performance benefits of training at higher elevations. After all, that’s why elite runners live and train at altitude. But what about the rest of the pack? Active at Altitude makes it possible for you to take your training to the next level and to learn from experienced athletes and coaches. They offer two levels of women’s only camps in Estes Park, CO (elevation approximately 8,000 feet), limited to 10 participants each. The week-long sessions include a blend of activities designed to raise your conditioning including trail runs, speed and hill workouts, guided climbing, hiking, pool running, yoga and running technique analysis — all done high above sea level. According to Terry Chiplin, camp director, the programs “strongly focus on the psychological components of endurance running.” You’ll leave with refreshed motivation and enthusiasm for running.

Cost: $1,350-$2,000, depending on lodging option. Includes all camp activities, lodging and meals.

6. Jeff Galloway Running Retreats

Where: Blue Mountain Beach, FL; and Lake Tahoe, CA

When: June 5-7, 2015 (Blue Mountain Beach); July 23-30, 2015 (Lake Tahoe); July 24-26 (Lake Tahoe).

Since 1975, Jeff Galloway has invited fellow runners to join him on retreats in locations spanning from Lake Tahoe, California; to Carmel, California; to Blue Mountain Beach, Florida; to Athens, Greece and Rome, Italy. While the former Olympian and creator of the Galloway Run-Walk-Run Method shares a fair amount of technical running knowledge during the retreat, his goal is to help both runners and walkers of all ages and experience levels to be active, stay motivated and remain injury-free. The best part of the retreat? The hands-on attention from Galloway. Not only does he analyze your running form, he makes himself available to answer questions via email even after the retreat has ended.

Cost: $795-2,085, depending on location and length of retreat.

7. Run Wild Retreats Moab Mindful Running Retreat

Where: Moab, UT

When: October 15-18, 2015

Sure, running can be a good way to de-stress. But do you know what’s needed to make running an efficient tool to combat chronic stress? Hint: It takes more than just lacing up your shoes. Unlike most running camps, the emphasis of the Moab Mindful Running Retreat is not improving performance or training techniques. Instead, Elinor Fish, director and former managing editor of Trail Runner Magazine wants to make running less stressful on you and your body. You’ll learn simple form adjustments designed to increase efficiency and reduce injury. You’ll practice mindful running and being able to tune into your body’s sensations. Afterwards, you’ll do yoga to optimize recovery. “Common running setbacks like injury, burnout or chronic pain are the body’s ways of signaling that our stress load is too high… My goal is to help runners tune in and understand those signals so that they can give their bodies what they need to remain healthy,” says Fish.

Cost: $1,350 including all camp activities, lodging and meals.

8. The Cool Impossible Run Camp

Where: Jackson Hole, WY

When: August 13-15, 2015 and September 17-19, 2015

If you’re an experienced runner looking to delve into ultramarathons, The Cool Impossible Run Camp is for you. Eric Orton, running coach and performance guru best known for coaching Born to Run author Christopher McDougall, leads you along the trails surrounding Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Orton uses the altitude and varied terrain to help runners focus on form, technique and running strength. That way, they begin to develop muscle memory, and “they start to feel what it’s like to run well,” says Orton. “My goal is for runners to walk away with that awareness so they can run better back home.” Orton likes to keep the camps between eight to 10 people so that he can provide individualized attention to each attendee.