Rick Riley's X-Country Camp

Good thing I brought run gear. I took the morning off to head up to Spokane and meet with Rick Riley at his annual running camp. Due to the multitude of highway repairs, I managed to arrive only five minutes early. I'd been hoping for thirty minutes.

The kids were already assembled, tweaking shoes and sunglasses as they got prepped for the day's session. Unlike a lot of camps, Rick runs a day camp with the sessions going about 2 hours officially. Since everyone (except me) arrives early, it is closer to 2.5 hours.

The other point that jumped at me were the ages. Most of the running camps I'm familiar with cater to the high school athlete. The Rick Riley X-Country Camp encourages all ages to attend. I think the youngest this year was Katie, age eight. I didn't get Ryan's age but he's right around there as well. A couple of other were nine. Rick has a pretty fair number of his St. George's squad helping out as coaches for the youngsters, along with TJ, a former Spokane Falls decathlete.

I asked Rick about how young a runner he'll allow. "first-grade on up," he said, "and we'll figure out how to make it work for them." Very different from most camps, indeed.

On the other end of the spectrum were the high school kids. These headed out for a 45 minute easy run just after I got there. Pacing them on the boys side were Nathan Vanos and Emrek Danielson for the guys. The ladies were led by Marika Morelan and Madie Ward. Madie was on a bike for the week as she heals up from a lower leg issue. Coach Riley was hoping that she'd be back on the run in a week or so.

On a side note, it was my first exposure to these runners on a non-race day. Lots of cheerfulness and smiles. It's easy to forget that the race day face the kids wear is only a small glimpse of them.

The rest of us took a warm-up lap around Audubon Park, where the North Central team holds its home meets. Once around, and then the teaching started, first with the coaches leading the group through a stretching routine. Rick followed up with the philosophy behind the stretching, just enough to get their attention.

Then it was out for some easy running. I managed to land on a recovery day, which was helpful. When the youth coaches asked the kids how they were doing, a variety of aches and pains were reported, mostly calves and quads. When Rick asked five minutes later, all those miraculously healed and everyone reported, "Fine!"

Off we went on an easy run. The coaches bounced up and down the group, providing feedback and encouragement. Lots of encouragement, actually, which is awfully nice to hear. I hung out with the little kids, both because I wanted to chat to TJ and also because it's been a lot of years since I've run with kids that only come up to my waist. The shorter girl wasn't even that tall. Pretty much they're all Chatty-Cathy's, so I just listened in. When a couple dropped off pace, TJ dropped back with them and I ran with the rest.

Next came speedwork, disguised as a game. Rick picked the littlest kids to be the team captains and then ran a relay. Again, a lot of smiles, though the team captains looked a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility at first.

As the kids cooled down from that, Rick had them settle in for a short lecture. Today, he covered goal-setting. He gave them a ton of ideas on how to go about setting goals, had Nathan and Madie talked about their goals from the previous year, and talked about his experience when he set the National Outdoor record. 

Then he hit them with the kicker: you got to do the work.

If you're interested in Rick's camp for next year, you can click here for the info.