'Testing the Resiliency of the Runner'

Nike's new running camp in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

My start and finish lines remain in Georgia, though my heart scattered everywhere when I heard that many summer running camps have been canceled. No, I can't say I become more of a man at camp, but instead reconnect with who I was as a child, which makes the aging more enjoyable, to begin with.

It has been written that Jim Thorpe -- one of the greatest athletes of all time -- was locked in a room with a 3-year-old and was asked to imitate the child's movements. Within the hour, even he was exhausted.

Running camp is like that. Personally, I've converged to Asheville since 2004 -- around 250 kids from across the land do as well - many of them from Atlanta. Most runners are routine souls -- the Sheldon Cooper character in the Big Bang Theory has nothing on us.

True, the races for me are here, but it is my 'warm-up' that is in Asheville - the Berkeley of the South, where locals, hippies, and tourists converge and somehow it all works. I will miss this 'warm-up' because it is at camp where I've learned to "embrace the suck," that it's perhaps counterproductive to have 10 smoothies at lunch, where I've warned kids about leaving a gap where they won't trip over roots, only to trip and fall myself.

Camps are staying up late, getting up early. 'Sometimes you have to play hurt,' I was taught, or maybe I was the one who taught it. Meetings, lectures, both giving and receiving, morning runs in the woods, soaking in FREEZING water afterward, taking the greatest five-star drool-infested naps later. 

My heart will miss the boundless energy during that week. You may not regain your physical youth while at camp, but you'll recall what it's like. You'll find yourself standing off to the side, just watching. You'll feel something inside, and you won't quite be sure what to do with it. 

My advice to the runner is to do what it is that you do -- run through it. They say not to cry because it's over but to be glad it happened in the first place -- and it'll happen again. Still, the journalist in me always gets goosebumps when I think of late-night conversations in Mills Hall, Room 301; even later nights in the staff hospitality rooms.

Do you want to write books about running? Spend some time in those rooms. Don't talk, just listen. True, some things in there should remain in there, I get it. Still, hearts and souls and stories spill out in there, trials and tribulations, stories of trail-diving, winning, losing, and heartbreaks and the mending that takes place in our very souls. 

In moving on, I always judge things by the lump in my throat and that feeling in my gut when I have to leave, or when I know I can't attend this summer in the first place. If it's not there, I'm in the wrong profession. 

Still, I smile as I close this essay because I know, appreciate and respect not only our youth, but the resiliency of the runner. When one trail is closed, another is found -- or created. They say God doesn't close a door without opening a window. 

Here's to the runners of the world who don't even wait for the window, but instead, lace up their shoes, head out the door, and find somewhere else to go simply because we can, it's who we are, and it's what we will always do.