Running camp, and camps in general, are something of an odd experience. You come into a place with a group of people that you don’t know at all and then spend a week straight living with them…and then you don’t see them again, possibly for another year. Most college teams and some high school teams as well will often take a preseason trip where they will spend a week or a few days together to become a more tight-knit group or what-have you. But running camp isn’t like that either per-se; that group of people isn’t collectively building to anything outside of the one week at camp. When the week is over, we’ll all take a picture together, say some tearful goodbyes, and then everyone goes their separate ways. You’ll see some people from camp here and there at various meets over the course of the year and stop to chat with them, but the every-day connection can only exist within that one magical week. And that’s one of the things that I enjoy so much about Stowe Running Camp: before your eyes you see a group of people come together, do some great things, and then in the blink of an eye it’s all over.
One of the things I love most about running camp is seeing different, unique people come together as one. Typically, the first day of camp is a little bit awkward. People huddle in little groups and it’s a bit quieter as people are feeling out their surroundings and coming to grips with the fact that, yes, this place is going to be their home for the next six days. As the days go on, the awkwardness starts to lift and people start to get out of their comfort zone, and by the last day the people at camp become a sort of surrogate family. No matter how many times I see it, that part of camp never gets old.
Buddhist monks create these intricate sand paintings called mandalas. They spend hours, days, even weeks building them. Then, after it has been completed, they ritualistically dismantle the entire thing, pack it up, and throw the sand into a river. To them, it symbolizes the ephemeral and transitory nature of life in general. To me, running camp is a lot like those mandalas: the experience itself is very intricate and amazing and you meet all these new people…and then, seemingly before you knew it, the week is over. But…you know that, for however brief a period of time, you were part of something special.