Every year in mid-July a group of over 30 teenagers make their annual pilgrimage to Mammoth Lakes, California for the Fall Creek Running Club’s high altitude training camp. From s’mores around the campfire to movie nights and hot springs, these kids enjoy the best that nature can offer while training for their upcoming cross country and track season.

This year’s camp was held at the Shady Rest Campground from July 18 to 24 and hosted 34 teens and 12 parents.

I’d have to say getting to experience different trails and new places to train was really cool,” says first year camper Sophia Zachau, “Being able to do other things like going to the hot springs and June Lake while we were there was also nice; that way we were able to take a break from training constantly.”

Brendan Fitzgerald, another camper, described his experience by saying, “Mammoth is a beautiful place with sun and flat land, a great town, lakes, hot springs, and many more things to do.”

Rob Collins, coach of the Fall Creek Running Club and SLV track team, has been going on the trip since 1999. “A lot of the parents actually run it, I just show up and enjoy myself,” says Collins.

The Fall Creek Track Club is not the only training group to have fallen in love with this location and all it has to offer. The Mammoth Lakes area is also the favorite training grounds of many of the nation’s top Olympic marathoners like Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan, and as many as two dozen other high school and college teams from across California.

SLV alumni Anna Maxwell, one of the many returning runners, said “From dealing with the bears every night, to ghost stories and jokes around the campfire, to listening to the stories from battered and hairy Pacific Crest Trail hikers in the local volcanic hot springs; it’s all part of the experience. It’s a great place to get quality summer training in, but it is also a place that brings kids together and helps foster the team mentality that has lead the legacy of successful runners Coach Collins has produced.“

Some of the campers are not even runners. Collins says, “We’ve had other kids from other sports — you don’t have to be a distance runner to do this; it’s just kind of a camping trip.”

More information about the Fall Creek Running Club can be found at www.fallcreekrunningclub.org.

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