Running Camp and the Passion Paradox

Stowe Blog Pic

Greetings! This is camp director Fran Cusick. The spring season is upon us and I want to wish everyone reading—parents, prospective campers, friends of the camp, enemies of the camp perhaps—the best of luck this outdoor season. If you’re reading this, you are most likely from the northeast region of the country, and if so I hope you are enjoying manageable weather.

On to the blog post (does anyone actually use the word blog anymore? It it outdated? Am I getting old?) at hand. The fact that we are in mid-spring season means that summer vacation is peaking around the corner. Before we know it, the school day grind we all know and love will be replaced with…whatever it is you people do over the summer. Presumably vacations, trips to overcrowded beaches, scalding hot car seats that burn your leg when you sit on them, gutting through a 10:30 long run because you decided to sleep in, etc.. It is a glorious time of year where possibility and promise are as common as sweat and awkward tan lines. For me, the feather in the cap of the summer season for the last eight years has been Stowe Running Camp. I’m hoping that after reading this post, I can explain why and motivate you to sign up for a week long trip to Vermont that could make a significantly better runner and person.

One of the best books I’ve read this year is called The Passion Paradox by Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg. I HIGHLY recommend you check it out, as it completely remade the way I think about the concept passion. In the book, Brad and Steve talk about both the positive and negative aspects of this oft-used word. Going all in on something you love, spending most of your time obsessing over it, working hard, are generally considered positive attributes. But clearly there is a dark side to this, a point where enjoying an activity crosses that thin line into obsession, where love for the activity turns into love for the results that spring from said activity. This line is wildly apparent in the running world. For a light hearted take on what happens when a passion becomes an obsession, check out our video “Don’t Be A MIleage Maniac” on what happens when GPS watch usefulness turns into a nightmarish hellscape of Garmin-induced paranoia.

There are plenty of other examples of this. I’ve seen athletes throw temper tantrums when they don’t PR, despite running great tactical races. I’ve seen coaches berating kids for not executing their race plan and costing the team a few points. I’ve seen and heard parents yelling at coaches for not running their athlete in a certain event or not training them properly. All of these things spring from what is fundamentally a positive place: the desire to perform well. However, it can be a dangerous path.

Running camps have a tendency to exacerbate this problem. For kids who really care about running, being placed at a camp where, ostensibly at least, their sole purpose is to run can lead to some issues. It’s not a shocker that many double or triple their average weekly mileage while at camp, or that recovery and shakeout run turn into epic hammer fests with each kid trying to “win.”  At Stowe Running Camp, we are very aware of the problems associated with this mindset and we do absolutely everything we can to foster the exact opposite of that. We want to grow athletes’ passions, but in a healthy, positive way, one that leaves the athlete with a more positive view of the running community than the often cutthroat one that can be engendered. We have found that one of the best ways to create life-long runners is by fostering a community of like-minded individuals. Because ultimately, when you look at back at your running career, it is unlikely you will remember what pace you ran for your tempo run on August 7th or how long your long run was or how many miles you averaged in your senior year of cross country. What you will remember is the people that helped you, the teammates you endured with you, and the friendships you made along the way. At Stowe, you will leave the camp a better runner and with a better network of people to draw support from, so when you cross paths with a Stowe alum on the trails or  tracks of this region, you’ll know that they  will be rooting you on.

Thanks for reading, please visit our website here to sign up for Stowe Running Camp on August 4th to 9th. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to contact me at

Happy running.

-Camp Director Fran Cusick

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